Governor J.B. Pritzker has ordered severe restrictions on public schools’ use of isolation rooms for troubled children.
The Democrat said Wednesday he directed the Illinois State Board of Education to issue emergency rules governing so-called timeout rooms.
The rules stipulate that a ‘trained adult’ must accompany children in unlocked rooms. The rooms must only be used for therapeutic reasons or to protect students’ and staff members’ safety. The Governor says he will pursue a state law on the issue.
The order came a day after the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica published a report based on thousands of records showing schoolchildren were regularly isolated for reasons that often violate the law. The Kaskaskia Special Education District that serves Marion, Clinton, and Washington Counties were among those cited for what appeared to be violations.
Records kept by schools often showed no safety reason for using timeout and recorded frightened, weeping and shouting students’ reactions.
At the Kaskaskia Special Education District, the report said on one day, December 19th, 2017, Bridges learning center isolated students 20 times. Reporters say none of the reasons for seclusion is permitted under Illinois law.
The report said one boy went to the timeout room for hanging on a basketball rim and swearing at staff when they told him to stop. Another used ‘raised voice tones’. Two were reportedly held for not finishing classwork. Another boy had tried to ‘provoke’ other students when he got off a bus. Staff told him he’d be back again ‘to serve 15 minutes every morning due to his irrational behavior.’
In all the report said Bridges used seclusion 1,288 times in 15 months on a student population estimated at 65 students.
In a response, Kaskaskia Special Education Director Cassey Clark denied any misuse of the timeout rooms or violations of the law.