Advocacy in Action: Emergency Action on Isolated Seclusion and Restraint of Students

By Alison Maley posted 15 days ago

  
Following reporting by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune on reports of unlawful isolated seclusion of students in Illinois school districts and special education providers, the Illinois State Board of Education will take emergency action to end the use of isolated seclusion, expand data collection on instances of time-out and physical restraint, and investigate cases of seclusion.

Statement from Dr. Jason Leahy, Executive Director, Illinois Principals Association:

“The Illinois Principals Association supports the Illinois State Board of Education and Governor’s office as they address reports of unlawful isolated seclusion. This practice is unacceptable. Moving forward, we encourage a solution that will protect all children and provide a safe and appropriate place for students in situations where they pose an imminent threat of harm to themselves and others. We stand ready to participate in developing thoughtful ways to address this issue and ensure a safe and productive learning environment for all students and staff.”

Please see the following press release from the Illinois State Board of Education outlining the planned emergency actions which include filing emergency rules (view proposed rules here) to ban all isolated seclusion practices, requiring education entities to report to ISBE within 48 hours of any instance of physical restraint or time-out, adding physical inspections of time-out spaces by Regional Offices of Education, and updated guidance to the field on the appropriate uses of time-out and physical restraint.

For Immediate Release: November 20, 2019

STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION TO TAKE EMERGENCY ACTION TO END THE USE OF ISOLATED SECLUSION IN ILLINOIS SCHOOLS

ISBE TO BEGIN IMMEDIATE REVIEW OF ALL INSTANCES OF ISOLATED SECLUSION IN SCHOOLS FOR THREE YEARS

ADDITIONAL EMERGENCY ACTIONS INCLUDE MANDATED REPORTING TO INCREASE ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) announced today that it will take emergency action to end the use of isolated seclusion in Illinois schools. ISBE also will take steps to improve data collection on all instances of time-out and physical restraint in schools, as well as immediately begin investigating known cases of isolated seclusion to take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action.

“Isolated seclusion will end now; it traumatizes children, does lasting damage to the most vulnerable and violates the most deeply held values of my administration and the State of Illinois. The use of this unacceptable practice in districts around the state for several years is appalling, and I am demanding complete and immediate accountability,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “I have directed ISBE to take immediate action to ban isolated seclusion in Illinois schools, investigate any case where isolated seclusion was used illegally in the past, and mandate strict reporting on any form of time-out moving forward. I also pledge to work closely with the General Assembly to take additional steps to codify these emergency rules and take any additional steps to protect all the children of this state.”

The emergency action follows the publication of an investigation into the misuse of isolated time-out and physical restraint in Illinois schools.

“The data and stories from students and parents are appalling, inexcusable, and deeply saddening,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “The practices of time out and physical restraint have been misused and overused to a shocking extent; this must stop today. ISBE condemns the unlawful use of isolated seclusion, and we will take immediate steps to ensure the traumatic treatment described in the investigation never happens to another Illinois student.”

ISBE will ban the use of isolated seclusion in any educational entity serving public school students in Illinois. ISBE also will institute a new data collection to increase accountability and transparency for all instances of time-out and physical restraint, among other changes detailed below.

Unlawful use of time-out and restraint includes using these practices as a form of punishment. Time-out and restraint are lawful only when used to protect the safety of students and staff in certain rare crisis situations. ISBE will take action against any educational entity serving public school students that is violating these regulations.

“As educators, we work hard to make our schools trauma-responsive – but first and foremost, our schools must be trauma-free,” continued Ayala. “Our schools must be places where all students feel and are safe. We welcome additional feedback and dialogue as we work together to address this urgent problem and implement stronger protections statewide for students’ mental, physical, and social-emotional health.”

The Illinois Education Association (IEA), which represents more than 135,000 members, supports ISBE’s emergency actions.

“The IEA supports ISBE’s swift and decisive response to the reports of unlawful and egregious misuse of time-out and physical restraint in Illinois schools,” said IEA President Kathi Griffin. “The IEA supports banning the practice of isolated seclusion; this practice inflicts trauma upon children and has no place in Illinois schools. The IEA is committed to fully engaging in the rulemaking and legislative processes to institute the necessary protections for all students’ physical, mental, and social-emotional health.”

ISBE will take the following steps impacting all public schools, cooperatives, private special education facilities, and other educational entities serving public school students:
  • File emergency rules today to:
  • Ban all isolated seclusion practices;
  • Allow time-out with a trained adult in the room and with an unlocked door, but only for therapeutic reasons or protecting the safety of students and staff;
  • Ban physical restraints that could impair a student’s ability to breathe or speak normally, and institute strict parameters on when physical restraint is allowed;
  • Require all educational entities to submit data to ISBE on all instances of physical restraint or time-out used during the current (2019-20) and past two school years (2018-19 and 2017-18);
  • Require all educational entities to submit data to ISBE within 48 hours of any instance of physical restraint or time-out;
  • Eliminate the option for parents or guardians to waive notification of instances of physical restraint or time-out.
  • Issue an advisory notice today to school districts, superintendents, and special education cooperatives reiterating the emergency rules and guidance.
  • Create a required State form for school districts to use to document and to provide thorough information to parents and guardians when time-out or physical restraint is used.
  • Add a physical inspection of time-out spaces to the monitoring conducted by Regional Offices of Education.
  • Issue updated guidance and provide technical assistance to the field on appropriate uses of time-out and physical restraint.

Additionally, the Governor’s Office will file a complaint on behalf of all known cases of isolated seclusion to expedite the investigative process and require a report to be returned within 60 days of the notification. ISBE will make determinations whether the educational entity violated federal or state special education requirements.

ISBE will work with lawmakers and stakeholders on legislative action and will issue further communication as these steps are taken.
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