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Governor orders restrictions on schools’ ‘timeout’ rooms     

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.

Kaskaskia Special Ed District logo

Kaskaskia Special Education District responds to allegations made in statewide investigation of “timeout” rooms

The Director of the Kaskaskia Special Education District has issued a response to allegations made against the district in a statewide investigation of the use of “timeout” rooms.

Cassie Clark says she cannot comment on matters pertaining to individual students, but says KSED strongly believes in the guidance and principles articulated by the Federal Department of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education regulations, which make clear that restraint or seclusion should never be used except in situations where a child’s behavior poses an imminent danger of serious
physical harm to self or others, and restraint and seclusion should be avoided to the greatest extent possible without endangering the safety of students and staff.

Clark adds the use of isolated time-out and restraint are behavioral interventions that can be legal, safe, and appropriate as specifically recognized by the Department of Education, the Illinois State Board of Education and various court decisions on the matter. She says those interventions are necessary in order to meet their obligations to maintain the safety of students and staff when there is a behavioral crisis.

Clark says their staff has and continues to go above and beyond to develop positive relationships with all of their students and to create a positive learning environment. She says those positives that are not openly portrayed in social media, and are being actively overlooked in the current news cycle is vilifying the KSED staff unjustly.

Clark says all staff are trained on the safe and appropriate use of restraint or timeout. She says the staff is to never use restraint and/or timeout as a form of discipline, but once again only in times of safety. Clark reports KSED provides communication and documentation to parents in these situations consistent with the law, often on the same day.

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State Representative Charlie Meier talks about Route 161, Murray Center, and Kaskaskia Workshop

State Representative Charlie Meier says the State Route 161 bridge over Crooked Creek west of Centralia will reopen on time December 1st. Meier had talked to the Illinois Department of Transportation just before his talk to the monthly meeting of the Centralia Chamber of Commerce.

“We took that from being a 23-month project down to an 11-month project to get 161 open.  And who would think it with the wet year we had that the bridge is going to be open on December 1st.  We are all going to be thankful for that.  By working with them we can do things.”

Route 161 was closed for the $12-million project on January 2nd causing disruption for those wanting to travel west of Centralia or come into the community.

Meier also provided an update on the Murray Developmental Center.

“There are many repairs being done to Murray Center that haven’t been done for 8 years.  A huge list of things happening.  And as we stand here today we have 241 residents at Murray Center.  We haven’t been that high since the announcement to close Murray Center, and we were well, well below it.”

Meier says while some still want to close large facilities like Murray, he says the center provides a home for those too severely handicapped to live in small group homes.

Meier reports the fight is continuing to block legislation that would require sheltered workshops like the Kaskaskia Workshop to pay a $15 minimum wage to participants.

“But those groups are out there still wanting those places closed.  And we had a committee last week in Springfield just talking about workshops and they said we aren’t talking about a bill, but they are laying the groundwork to try to run that bill again.  We’ve been able to stop it in the past.”

Meier says a $15 wage would effectively force the workshops to close. He notes the workshops provides employment to those who otherwise could not obtain a job and as well as provides a good atmosphere for the developmentally disabled. In some cases, Meier says it also frees up their parents and guardians to have time to get jobs of their own.

In response to Meier’s comments, Kaskaskia Workshop Director, Stephanie Hamilton, said after the meeting the discontinuation of 14(c) would certainly impact their employment programs and could cause the agency operations to look different than it does today. However, Hamilton does not foresee the closure of the agency.  They plan to continue to work with legislators to insure people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities have choice and access to a robust system of employment supports.

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Daffy Dill Garden Club selects winners in downtown Planter Decoration Contest

The first place planter box was designed by Twin Willows Nursing Home.  Left to right:  Cathy Marble, Jerry Marble, and Mona Owens.   Photo by Christian Boyles.

The Daffy Dill Garden Club has selected a planter box decorated by Twin Willows Nursing Home as the first place winner in the first annual Christmas decorating contest.

The Activity Director at Twin Willows Deirdre Franklin says their winning entry is called “Back to the Good Ole Days”.

“There’s a time square in there and its all from back in the time from where our residents in our nursing home can relate to.  Those were the simpler times in life for them.”

Franklin says everyone at the nursing home became involved, with the display placed on a bed frame for all the residents to see. She said one sang Christmas Carols as the display was being completed. Franklin says everything was made of recycled materials. The $500 first-place prize will go into the nursing home’s activity fund to benefit the residents.

The 2nd place prize of $300 went to the Mama Antonia’s planter box. Design on Mane won the third place $200 prize with a hairstyle theme to Winter Wonderland.

Garden Club President Sharon Blair is pleased with how many became involved in the first-year project.

“There are 25 planter boxes in the downtown Salem area and they were snatched up within a couple of days.  And if you go around and look at these boxes it truly is a tribute to the talent and the creativity of these businesses and organizations and we should be so proud.”

Blair hopes everyone will enjoy the planter boxes during the Holiday Season. She says the contest will be repeated next year.

A closer look at the winning entry from Twin Willows Nursing Home. Photo by Christian Boyles.
2nd place winner Moma Antonia’s. Left to right: Brendan Lally and owner Sara Moskal.
Third place winner Designs on Mane. Left to right: Tracy Crouch and Abby Hanks. Photo by Christian Boyles.
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State Senator Jason Plummer and State Rep Blaine Wilhour express frustrations with State Government

State Senator Jason Plummer (left) and State Representative Blaine Wilhour (right) field questions from the audience at the Centralia Chamber Luncheon.  Photo by Bruce Kropp.

Freshmen Republican State Senator Jason Plummer and Republican State Representative Blaine Wilhour both expressed frustration with state government when providing a legislative update at the Centralia Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon on Wednesday.

Wilhour says he has found no desire by the majority legislative leaders to push big reforms that would bring business back to the state.

“It just means that our local communities, municipalities, chambers, all of these organizations have to be much more intentional at what they are driving at.  What are our core competencies in these areas?  What are the things that we can build on?  Whats our regional development plan not just for the next year but for the next 5, 10 or 15 years.”

Wilhour says he is still passionate about reforms. He feels with changes that would just put the state in the middle of the pack for workers comp could bring back businesses.

Plummer says Illinois is not doing as well as it could because of bad public policy during the last 16 to 18 years.

“There are 59 State Senators, and we’ve got one under investigation, one under indictment and one wearing a wire and probably more to come.  And I don’t say that to be funny I say that to point out that we live in a very dysfunctional state.  And the people that broke the state are the people that are running it right now.  I firmly believe we cannot have the people that have burgled Illinois for the last 15 years put in the alarm system.”

Plummer plans to introduce several bills this week aimed at ethics reform. He feels it is important that those elected to Springfield are there to work for the betterment of the state and not themselves. Plummer also sees the need for reforms that would improve the state’s business climate and take advantage of the Illinois natural resources.

Penny Tax

1-cent sales tax for schools has enough support to get on March ballot

It appears the one-cent sales tax to support Marion County schools has now been approved by enough school boards to get on the March primary ballot.

The Sandoval School Board joined Salem High School in approving the ballot question at Monday night meetings.

Salem High School Superintendent Dr. Brad Detering, who has been keeping track of the votes, says school districts representing more than 51-percent of the students have now approved the issue going to the voters.

Sandoval School Superintendent Rob Miller says if the issue is approved by voters they anticipate receiving $168,000 a year. He anticipates they would utilize the money initially to help pay down debt on building projects and could also make funds available for future building needs. However, Miller says having the ability to use the funding for school resource officers or mental health counselors is also huge.

Miller says the district remains in limbo about a state grant they were promised about five years ago that would pay for a large share of building a new grade school building. The local share of the money has already been approved by voters.   Miller was on a conference call on Tuesday where a new 13 person state task force was announced that was going to explore the future of promised state funding for new schools.

In other action, the board approved its annual tax levy. It asks for 4.9-percent more money than what was received this year.

The board agreed to replace missing entrance and exit doors to the junior/senior high boys locker rooms.

Sandoval is currently looking for two full-time paraprofessionals to work at the elementary school after accepting the resignations of two paraprofessionals at Monday night’s meeting.

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