Illinois lawmakers and education advocates met yesterday in Chicago to discuss the overuse of physical restraint and forced isolation of students in Illinois schools, particularly those serving students with special needs. After reports by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune brought attention to the practice of time out rooms, the State Board of Education enacted emergency guidelines for schools to stop the misuse and abuse of restraint and isolation. The Illinois Association of School Social Workers Tom Tebbe called for more training of school staff. Some lawmakers are calling for a ban on isolation rooms entirely.
Decatur Representative Sue Scherer, a former school teacher of 30 years, says that teacher training sets the situation up for failure for both students and staff. She said during her teacher training, she received only 1 class on special education requirements and students but had a large number of students with special education requirements in her classrooms.
District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek says that Jacksonville doesn’t utilize the time out rooms that other districts do in the state. He says that the rooms that are in place are mainly for special education students with an Individual Educational Protocol. He says that autism classrooms in the district are used by students and staff to calm down or to be in low sensory environments. He says that the district has no padded rooms in the district like other districts have around the state.
Many have called for the uses of side rooms like what District 117 has in place for a means of de-escalation and not as a form of punishment.