The Illinois State Board of Education has changed statewide policy on the use of isolated seclusion in public schools after a scathing report by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica. The report used extensive Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain records about the use of “quiet rooms” in schools and uncovered a legitimized form of isolation and what some are calling torture. The investigation also revealed that the “quiet rooms” are only incidentally used in the interests of safety — rather, they are a disciplinary tool, used to punish children who are disruptive and disobedient.
The current Illinois law only required that an adult be stationed outside the room and log the actions and speech of the child while in the room. The report uncovered thousands of pages of logs of incidents throughout the state. Other forms about notifying parents and reporting to the federal government appeared to be incomplete or failed to be reported at all. Illinois currently ranks number one in the country for the usage of the isolation chambers.
ISBE announced today in lieu of the report that it will end the usage of isolated seclusion. ISBE has also said it will take steps to improve data collection on all instances of time out and physical restraint , as well as immediately begin investigating known cases of isolated seclusion to take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action. Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered the actions be taken immediately and said he would work with the General Assembly to further codify any additional steps in the case of isolation use in public schools. The governor’s office is also going to begin investigating some of the misuse that the report published this week.
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