New rules in Illinois ban schools’ use of isolated seclusion

Under emergency rules established this fall, the Illinois Board of Education banned the use of isolated seclusion by schools, and new legislation to codify the ban is expected in 2020. The state actions are the result of an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica that documented more than 20,000 incidents of isolated seclusion over the past 15 months. Under existing state law, this practice is only permitted if a student poses a safety threat. But according to the Chicago Tribune’s investigation, in many cases, students were getting “isolated timeouts” for disobedience or refusing to do schoolwork.

The use of “timeouts” by schools — separating a student from classmates with a trained adult in the classroom — is still permitted. It must be done for therapeutic reasons or to protect the safety of students and staff. Under the new rules, too, schools only can use physical restraints “in severe crisis situations.”

Compared to their peers, students with disabilities are much more likely to be physically restrained or secluded by schools, according to a February 2019 report of the U.S. Government Accountability Office. For example, nationwide, more than 75 percent of the students physically restrained during the 2013-’14 school year had a disability of some kind.
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Stateline Midwest: December 20192.33 MB