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dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.38; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;">After a report that exposed the widespread practice of putting public school students in isolation rooms, the Illinois State Board of Education put a stop to the practice. After hearing from schools, the board is now allowing specific practices to be used in certain crisis situations.
The Illinois State Board of Education reacted after the Nov. 19 release of a joint report from ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune that documented 20,000 instances when school officials put students, mostly special education students, into isolation rooms during the 2017-18 school year. The practice involved putting students alone in locked rooms, sometimes for hours, and physically restraining them to the point that they could not move or had trouble breathing.
The report also found lax record-keeping and no prior requirement to report isolation room use to authorities, or even parents.
Of the 20,000 cases reviewed in the report, about 12,000 included a reason for the actions against the student and, of those, 4,000 were not based on safety issues.
The day after the report, the Board of Education drafted emergency regulations that were distributed to schools the following day.
“The practices of timeout and physical restraint have been misused and overused to a shocking extent; and we filed emergency rules to ensure that this practice stops,” State Superintendent Carmen Ayala said at the board's Nov. 22 meeting. “Isolation and seclusion harm students’ mental, physical, and social-emotional health. These practices have no therapeutic or educational value and cause children lasting trauma.”
The initial emergency rules banned isolation, restraints that impair body functions, locked timeout rooms and other practices. In addition, the emergency rules mandated training for adults who supervise time-out or apply physical restraint, reporting of all incidents within 24 hours and other rules. Parents may no longer waive reporting requirements.
On Wednesday, the Board of Education announced it was amending the emergency rules “after receiving significant feedback from schools and advocates across the state.”
“The amendment temporarily allows prone and supine physical restraints in narrow circumstances and only for severe crisis situations to protect the safety of students and staff,” the announcement said. “The amendment will give schools time to transition to the use of alternate interventions without causing students to be disenrolled. The amendment mandates that other less restrictive and intrusive interventions have been tried first and have not succeeded in stopping the danger.”
“The Governor’s Office has also filed state complaints on behalf of the students whose cases we are aware of,” Ayala said. “We welcome any other reports of cases where this abuse has occurred. We encourage any parents, guardians, students, educators, or any other individuals who have knowledge of abuses of time out and physical restraint in any educational entity to come forward. Please email email@example.com.”