Gigi's Law Signing

Front, from left, state Del. John Bell (D), Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and state Del. David Reid (D) celebrate the signing of "Gigi's Law," which aims to restrict the use of seclusion and restraint tactics in public elementary and secondary schools.

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has signed into law a bill that is being named after Loudoun County student Gigi Daniel-Zagorites, a nonverbal child with special needs who was photographed in an alarming makeshift isolation corner in her middle school.

Northam and two Loudoun County state lawmakers gathered for a ceremonial bill signing of the measure, Virginia House Bill No. 2599, which aims to restrict the use of seclusion and restraint tactics in public elementary and secondary schools, on May 30. The law will go into effect July 1.

The legislation amends Section 22.1-279.1:1 of the Code of Virginia to state, “The {Virginia} Board {of Education} shall specifically … identify and prohibit the use of any method of restraint or seclusion that it determines poses a significant danger to the student and … establish safety standards for seclusion.”

The measure is being called Gigi’s Law after Lansdowne resident Daniel-Zagorites, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Chromosome 22 Ring, which has rendered her nonverbal and causes her to behave similarly to a person with autism.

A photograph in which Gigi is shown constrained within a makeshift seclusion chamber in her special needs classroom at Belmont Ridge Middle School was first reported by the Times-Mirror in February 2018, sparking a community-wide discussion on Loudoun County Public Schools’ use of seclusion and restraint.

Isolation room

This photo of a child with special needs being secluded at Belmont Ridge Middle School in Lansdowne, taken by another child with special needs and obtained by the Times-Mirror, and an accompanying report led to a community-wide dialogue on how Loudoun County Public Schools utilizes seclusion and restraint policies.

The seclusion chamber shown in the photograph comprised several large pieces of furniture including a drawer and a cabinet, which Gigi’s mother Alexa Zagorites Barker believed could have put her daughter’s safety at risk.

“She could have pulled it over,” Zagorites told the Times-Mirror in 2018, referring to the furniture used to seclude her daughter.

The picture was taken by another student with special needs.

Gigi was moved to specialized Aurora School in Leesburg following the incident.

LCPS is not the only Virginia public school system whose seclusion and restraint methods have come to public attention. According to a WAMU report, Fairfax County Public Schools officials reported 1,679 incidents in the 2017-2018 school year alone.

After the Times-Mirror published the report and photograph of Gigi with her mother's permission, Virginia state Dels. John Bell (D-87th) and David Reid (D-32nd) worked with Gigi’s family to draft the legislation eventually signed into law. Bell and Reid are credited as chief co-patrons, while the bill’s other patrons include local Dels. Karrie Delaney (D-67th), Wendy Gooditis (D-10th) and Kathleen Murphy (D-34th).

The bill passed unanimously in both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate.

“Gigi’s Law is a great example of the good that can happen when citizens and legislators work together,” Reid said in a prepared statement.

Both Bell and Reid were present for the bill signing in Richmond, as were several supporters, including Zagorites Barker and Gigi’s sister and grandmother.

“Gigi’s Law is the reason why I serve,” Bell said in a prepared statement. “When I saw the picture of Gigi confined in a makeshift and unsafe seclusion area, I was angry and determined to take action to make sure no other child is ever placed in that situation again. I’m thankful for the courage of Gigi’s family and so many others who worked to ensure our children are protected from this unsafe and humiliating practice.”

(36) comments

Nordixva

Great work!, however, All the legislation in the world doesn't force VDOE or each autonomous classroom, school, and or district to make the right, dignified and lawful choice or action. STILL waiting on reg implementation from last legislation we got passed. Accountability and real consequences need to be had. Unfortunately 1st hand experience with this.

amerigirl

Yep, isn't accountability and real consequences a demand put on the students but not the administrators?

NvolvedParent

Accountability and real consequences have never been had at every level. Not at IDEA, not in Richmond, and not in LCPS and I have experiences at all these levels as well. So, where to start first and where do you think we will get the best results fast enough?

Nordixva

Great work!, however, All the legislation in the world doesn't force VDOE or each autonomous classroom, school, and or district to make the right, dignified and lawful choice or action. STILL waiting on reg implementation from last legislation we got passed. Accountability and real consequences need to be had. Unfortunately 1st hand experience with this.

Guvnor

Well, someone was disciplined at least. The director of Special Education, Suzanne Jimenez, "retired" on April 12th. Seems a bit odd for someone to "retire" during the school year, eh? Strange that the Times hasn't reported on this yet.

Interested Observer I

I"m torn over this story. 1. We live in a world where you have to legislate how children should be treated. Pity us all. AND 2. Thank goodness there are still people who speak up to advocate for voiceless children, aka known as victims in Loudoun County Schools.

amerigirl

Ace, you are the only one saying anything about victims. You are the only one taking it that way and I would really like to know why. Calling out is one thing but being degrading is another. Your “nonsense” is your opinion, which you ae entitled to just as everyone else is entitled to theirs. Maybe you should find another place to post since you hardly ever post without being nasty, after all it says right at the bottom of the page that they rules are Don't Threaten, Be Truthful, Be Nice, and Be Proactive. And you have a very hard time abiding by the rules. You are just nasty, plain and simple. If you are so worried about baby killing why haven’t you said a thing about trumps immigration policy that is killing children? Is it because they are immigrants? If you are a Christian, do you think that makes them not God’s children?

NvolvedParent

How is any of this post relevant to LCPS or special needs students in LCPS at all?

amerigirl

Just a reply to another post

NvolvedParent

It is never “OK†for any student in LCPS to throw objects or have emotional outbursts that routinely disrupt classroom education and no child in any classroom is a winner when it does happen. When it happens, it is proof that both the student and the teacher are inadequately prepared to be in that classroom at all. Who is at fault? Everybody. Students, parents, teachers have all failed in their collective duties that every child receive a Free & Appropriate Public Education. Unfortunately, incidence like this are Standard Operating Procedure in a majority of LCPS. It isn’t just their fault though, the state of Virginia is just as incompetent as the schools are when it comes to the health and well being of special needs individuals and their families and support services for decades. How do I know this? My child was one of the first students to attend Aurora and will most likely be the longest attending student the school will ever have, and the problems addressed by this law were happening decades ago and most likely it will take years for this law to even put a dent in the atrocities that happen in LCPS and every other school system in the Commonwealth. Were any teachers or administrators in my child’s 4 years in LCPS ever fired or disciplined? No. Both newcomer delegates just want to check the box to make their constituents happy and to have a horse and pony show for this legislation to show that they care. Neither has any real clue what is going on in classrooms across the state.

amerigirl

I don’t think this was a normal classroom, I’m pretty sure they said in a previous article that it was a special needs class. So sorry to hear about your child’s treatment, I think some of the schools have caring people and others are just fulfilling an obligation.

NvolvedParent

This happened in a classroom, in Belmont Ridge Middle School, which is part of Loudoun County Public Schools. Every public-school teacher is expected to meet minimum guidelines for educating students to be productive once they are done with their public education. Many teachers and administrators are failing to meet minimum standards for a “Free and Appropriate Public Education” and yet they are not removed from their workplace. That choice is made by LCPS and the negative effects of “groupthink” in the educational administration continue to show up in articles in the Loudoun Times-Mirror.

Loudoun4Trump

I didn't see Trump in the picture, but if that is what you see Duncan, you may want to seek treatment...

Duncan Idaho

I don’t see Northam under that hood, but if that’s what you see, maybe you can find a side gig looking through walls. And since you call yourself Loudoun4Trump, you open yourself up to having your hero criticized.

CindyLou

Wow who are you horrible people?? The comments here are disgusting. What if this was your child? Oh wait, is it a democrat child or a republican child? Oh wait, did the Governor do a good thing here? Good thing it wasn't an immigrant child right? The comments here are more scary than what Governor Northam might have done 40 years ago in a school that allowed THE RACISIT PHOTO. Kids will be kids, but what school doesn't look at their year book photo's that are going to be published? We have the KKK here running around handing out flyers and none of you care about that do you? We have a #ussy grabbing, crooked, terrorist President and no one cares about that. So we have a man who wants to stop this treatment of children with disabilities and you mock him, belittle him and joke about a child being treated like an animal. Shame on all of you.

ace10

How many straw men can one person pack into a paragraph?

amerigirl

Entitled to her opinion, like it or not. If you have something to say about her view than say it, don't attack her personally. This isn't your private bully pulpit.

ace10

Wait, what? Now you're trying to assign victim status on others, too? If someone posts a bunch of nonsense, it's going to get called out. If you think that's too harsh, then perhaps take some time off from the keyboard.

Ald-Nova

Good bill. A society is judged by how it cares for it's most vulnerable members. Special needs schools should have better remedies than what was pictured.

David Dickinson

"Gigi was moved to specialized Aurora School in Leesburg following the incident." And who was fired? Were the ladies to the right of the photo disciplined in any way? Government schools are crap. LCPS is a danger to society.

Nordixva

Great work!, however, All the legislation in the world doesn't force VDOE or each autonomous classroom, school, and or district to make the right, dignified and lawful choice or action. STILL waiting on reg implementation from last legislation we got passed. Accountability and real consequences need to be had. Unfortunately 1st hand experience with this.

Thebroof

Its ok to throw chairs and prevent others from learning. No child left behind, everyones a winner!

amerigirl

But don't you think there is a better way than building a mini-prison for as child with disabilities?

ace10

Who would know more about an "alarming photo" than Governor Coonman, the racist baby killer?

amerigirl

Lies lies lies, can't you ever tell the truth? Why can't you educate yourself on the facts?

ace10

If the keys on your device are being tapped, it's surely to post a lie. Nonstop with you. It's disgusting. You posted 20 something times in that other story, and over half contained lies or untruths. If you want to defend this loser, by all means please do go ahead, but it's on your conscience. His words are well documented. He supports killing babies and is a racist.

amerigirl

Ace, you have no room to call anyone a liar. I have given you the laws with the corresponding numbers so you could see them, yet you still lie about killing babies. I have given you fact checking site that you could view it on, still you lie. His words are the same as the Virginia law that has been around for decades but you just can’t bring yourself to look at the truth. Why are you in such denial? You haven’t shown one fact that proves your point. What is even more disgusting that your perpetrating your lies is the context you use to do it. OK we know you don’t like Northam but why do you have to make so many false accusations against him? Do you think it will make other people feel the same as you? If so, that is a sad situation and I feel sorry for you. If you really read his words as you claim you would know he is not a racist. Give me 1, just 1, example of him saying something racist. You like to call him coonman, something that you seem to get pleasure out of, but it was the upper-class students that called him that. He doesn’t know why because his peers called him “goose”. You are so blinded by your hate that you can’t even face the truth. I gave you proof of what I have said and instead of offering any proof of you continue to lie, show some proof.

Concerned

And if they break the law?

Loudoun4Trump

Every time I see Northam I picture him in his yearbook....with the white hat....and there is my delegate smiling and thinking everything is all in the past.....sorry, Ralph, come clean with the people instead of continue to perpetuate your big fat lie....

Duncan Idaho

Every time I see Trump, I think about how he cheated on all three of his wives but expects us to trust him with the nuclear codes.. And about how he embraces white nationalism while destroying a Republican Party I once called home. And about how he's duped countless Christians into thinking he's one of them, when in reality it's just a ploy for their votes. About how he mocks other people for being slow or dim witted, yet refuses to produce his high school or college transcripts. Sorry, Donnie. You haven't changed from your tabloid days, when you were navigating the 1980s New York social scene you called your personal Vietnam.

workhardgetahead

Ok, go vote for a Democrat. When 70% of your check goes to the government then maybe you'll think Donnie wasn't so bad afterall.

Duncan Idaho

I don't vote Democrat.

amerigirl

His personal Vietnam, not only did old bone spurs dodge the draft he had a prenup written up that said that if his kid entered the armed forces or peace corp they would lose child support.

Concerned

Every time I see Sup Higgins I think about him delivering wheelbarrows of ToT cash to the Waterford Gentrification Foundation to "repair their finances," having failed to extract the $200,000 from the G.A. budget. Then I think about his staff's email looking for a work-around to deliver the funds from the County coffers to the Waterford Gentrification Foundation. Then I think about him delivering $42,000 to Loudoun Mutual to cover re-zoning applications fees to commercial use, in a historic district (so much for preservation). Then I think about him changing the zoning to build the mega gas station at Point of Rocks bridge. Then I think about Minchew, giggling as he continues to have his marionette puppet dance along to the next vault with another wheelbarrow. Then I take a breath, have some coffee, and remember how important it is to vote the swamp out of office.

amerigirl

And you know that's him how?

amerigirl

[spam][offtopic]

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.