Bill passes to end prone restraint and solitary time outs in public schools

(The Center Square) – The Illinois legislature has put an end to the practice of isolating children in “quiet rooms” and the usage of prone physical restraint.

State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, D- Northbrook, said the practice traumatizes children.

“When you take a child who is on the autism spectrum, and that child is having some sort of an episode, you don’t lock that child in a room by themself. That is what we do to our worst criminals,” Carroll said.

In 2019, after reading a joint investigative report by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune, Carroll became determined to put an end to the practice in Illinois schools. Solitary time-outs are used too readily as a discipline measure, Carroll said.

The authors of the Tribune-ProPublica articles reported on instances where children as young as five were left alone in small rooms for hours at a time.

“We are failing these children,” Carroll said. “There are different pathways that we can go with these kids.”

After 18 months of work, House Bill 219, received bipartisan support and passed unanimously out of the House on May 30. Gov. J.B. Pritzker told Carroll that he intends to sign the legislation when it gets to his desk. The goal of the law is to eliminate solitary time out and prone restraint within three years.

Carroll said crisis intervention training will help educators use more humane methods to resolve situations with children who are acting out.

“Prone restraint” is the term used when a child is secured by two adults who hold a student face down on the floor. Carroll said it is a violent practice that should be eliminated.

“Physical intervention should only be used as a last resort,” Carroll said.

He said there are misconceptions about the children who are being restrained and secluded at school.

“People have said to me, ‘What are we supposed to do with these tough, bigger children who are discipline problems?’ First of all, this is not what it was being used for at all,” Carroll said.

Calming children down and de-escalating the crisis is the better path, he says.

Carroll credits state Rep. Keith Wheeler, R-North Aurora, for his help in getting HB 219 passed.

“The Republican leader’s concern was staffing and resources,” Carroll said. “Through the state Board of Education, we made sure that there will be resources available for training and things along those lines. Teachers that I have talked to want better methods to work with.”

Carroll has spoken with a number of parents who were “livid” when they found out their children were being isolated in small rooms and physically restrained. They told him that they had no idea the schools were doing this.

“Our No. 1 goal, obviously, should be keeping children safe,” he said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill.

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