Legislation to curb use of isolation, restraint in public schools put on hold

  • Jonathan Carroll

    Jonathan Carroll

 
 
Updated 3/3/2021 7:31 PM

Proposed legislation that would curb the use of restraint and isolation as a form of punishment in Illinois public schools has been delayed after some lawmakers on a heavily suburban-influenced House education committee raised concerns.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, a Democrat from Northbrook who sponsored the legislation, agreed to delay discussion for at least a week to try to address critics who said a total ban of prone restraint -- in which a person is held facedown on the ground with pressure applied to the back -- would go too far in a small number of cases.

 

Some lawmakers, such as Woodstock Republican Steve Reick, said for small percentage of parents and students, prone restraint is sometimes the only option to keep students from harming themselves or others. Reick otherwise supports the legislation.

The legislation also includes the creation of a grant program designed to support schools and special education cooperatives in their transition from the old methods of restraint and isolation and into more "culturally sensitive" and "trauma-informed" methods of de-escalation. It also calls for the State Board of Education to set up a monitoring system to make sure schools abide by the new rules. Mechanical and chemical restraint also would be banned.

Carroll began working on House Bill 219 17 months ago after an article from ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune made public shocking details about the uses of restraint and seclusion as means of punishment. The article highlighted the use of "quiet rooms" in which children as young as 5, many with special needs, were left in isolation, screaming, crying out and sometimes self-harming while calling for help from unresponsive educators. ProPublica and the Tribune analyzed 20,000 incidents of these rooms being used on children from the 2017-18 school year.

The legislation was co-sponsored by state Sen. Ann Gillespie of Arlington Heights, Rep. Michelle Mussman of Schaumburg, Rep. Anne Stava-Murray of Naperville, Rep. Stephanie Kifowit of Oswego, and Rep. Kathleen Willis of Addison, all Democrats. Willis and Mussman heard the legislation Wednesday as part of Caroll's testimony to the Elementary and Secondary Education: School Curriculum and Policies Committee, which Mussman chairs.

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Other suburban lawmakers also voiced support for the bill Wednesday but hesitated to send it through committee until further agreements could be made with opponents of the bill. Rep. Deb Conroy, a Democrat from Elmhurst, said during the committee meeting "we do need to get this done" to protect the "99% of children who should never be prone restrained" but added there needs to an amendment to the bill that addresses the other 1%.

Reick echoed that concern, saying some students, usually those with advanced special needs, have the use of prone restraint built into their parent and teacher-approved individual education plans.

"What's wrong with using an (individual education plan) as the vehicle for which you can make those kinds of exceptions, where the IEP is constantly being revised and reviewed to make sure that it fits into the needs of the child," Reick said.

Carroll agreed to continue working on the possibility of adding an IEP amendment into the bill. He hopes to reintroduce the bill to committee next week.

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