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*** UPDATED x1 *** “Please, please, please open the door”

Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

* The latest ProPublica/Tribune story about schools locking kids in “quiet rooms” is a very difficult read

* From the piece

For this investigation, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune obtained and analyzed thousands of detailed records that state law requires schools to create whenever they use seclusion. The resulting database documents more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.

Of those, about 12,000 included enough detail to determine what prompted the timeout. In more than a third of these incidents, school workers documented no safety reason for the seclusion. […]

But disability advocates, special-education experts and administrators in school systems that have banned seclusion argue that the practice has no therapeutic or educational value, that it can traumatize children — and that there are better alternatives. […]

Nineteen states prohibit secluding children in locked rooms; four of them ban any type of seclusion. But Illinois continues to rely on the practice. The last time the U.S. Department of Education calculated state-level seclusion totals, in 2013-14, Illinois ranked No. 1.

Although state law requires schools to file a detailed report each time they use seclusion, no one is required to read these accounts.

Several school district officials said they had not reviewed seclusion reports from their schools until reporters requested them. The Illinois State Board of Education does not collect any data on schools’ use of isolated timeout and has not updated guidelines since issuing them 20 years ago.

Go read it all, but prepare to be disgusted, saddened and enraged.

*** UPDATE *** Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook) says he is “filing a bill to end this practice,” adding “It’s in LRB as we speak.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    IDJJ was banned from using solitary confinement and the Federal courts took over through consent decree…these schools should face similar lawsuits.

    One instance of this happening is enough to scar a child for life. After repeated use of solitary, that child faces an uphill climb for emotional stability…

  2. - Pot calling kettle - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:05 am:

    Words cannot convey my shock and disgust. Really? Are we actually doing this to children? I served for 16 years on a school board. This was not even on our list of possible things to do with misbehaving children. I had no idea…I cannot imagine what would lead anyone, especially an education professional, to think this was ever appropriate.

  3. - Montrose - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:10 am:

    I can’t read the story. I just can’t. I cannot believe this is legal and utilized in any state, let alone Illinois.

  4. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    Solitary confinement is torture…Why are kids in need of medical intervention being tortured?…is a terrible question that must be answered.

  5. - BrassRail - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    This is absolutely shocking. I’m ashamed that I had no idea this was going on in Illinois schools. Something needs to be done about this now. Totally apalling and offensive.

  6. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:17 am:

    I read as much as I could stomach, and lost it at the first picture of a child.

    Please, ILGA and Gov. Pritzker, make banning this a top priority in the spring session.

    And toss teachers and administrators who violated existing law in jail. What have we become?

  7. - Back to the Future - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:24 am:

    I did read the whole story. It is well written and very well documented.
    These cases should be sent over to the local States Attorneys and the people responsible for these abuses, if found guilty, should jailed.

  8. - Crispy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:27 am:

    This is unbearable. This is child abuse. At a minimum, it needs to be outlawed, and the victims provided counseling.

  9. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:31 am:

    This is disturbing, especially when used for students not exhibiting violent behavior. I would prefer to see it outlawed.

    That said, I have a relative that works in elementary special education. She routinely exhibits scratch and bite marks she receives from profoundly troubled students. Her district does not isolate students as described in this piece but I sometimes wonder if they are doing enough to protect their staff. I don’t know what the answer is to balance staff and student safety.

  10. - M.B. - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:35 am:

    I see so much that is disturbing on the internet… This just hurt my heart in such a way. I have a 3rd grader, that is very well mannered and behaved. If a teacher, aide, assistant, principal ever put my child under those conditions…. I just may loose my freedom, and have my own padded cell. that’s what these rooms are. An early jail cell

  11. - Squeegee - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    Great work by Nickeas and ProPub.

  12. - Yiddishcowboy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    I’m sick to my stomach…and I didn’t even read the entire story…couldn’t, truth be told.

    And M.B., re the last part of your comment…I really hear ya. I’d hope my civil side would prevail, as I love my freedom to be with my wife and kids.

  13. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:46 am:

    Dear Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Senator Steans -

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends timeout exceed no more than one minute for each year of age of the child.

    What’s reported here is torture in the guise of therapy. The legislature should step in to set time limits and require an onsite social worker or psychologist to authorize, And existing cases should be reviewed by DCFS, ISBE and prosecutors with those overseeing the practice prosecuted to the fullest extent and stripped of their school administrator license.



  14. - FormerParatrooper - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    Who in their right mind would do this to a child? Who thought this was ok to do? Which of these adults will be terminated?

  15. - Jocko - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 11:56 am:

    Stories like this should remind everyone what a valuable resource print journalism is.

    Like RB was saying, there should be a safe place for acting out students, but the most troubled child is still (at their core) a child…and, for heaven’s sake, it should never be treated like solitary confinement.

  16. - The Way I See It - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:03 pm:

    How many of these kids are or should be special ed students? Can’t imagine that there is an IEP out there that provides for this.

  17. - Perrid - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:13 pm:

    IL law is already too permissive, and many of these school districts can’t even meet THAT burden, meaning only using the isolation rooms for “safety” reasons.

    Honest question, if a school district uses the isolation room in a not permitted way, meaning an illegal way, what is the criminal charge that would be associated with breaking that law?

  18. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:16 pm:

    I don’t know what the answer is to balance staff and student safety. - Ron Burgundy

    Hiring qualified and compassionate professionals would be the proper place to begin.

    As for violence… and per the ProPublica article…some of these kids are put in solitary confinement for “raising their voice”.

    Words alone do not represent a “safety issue”.

    Whoever could listen to a kid ask for help 108 times…is a person who should never be left alone with vulnerable children.

  19. - Ron Burgundy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:35 pm:

    -Hiring qualified and compassionate professionals would be the proper place to begin.-

    We have lots of those, including my relative, but she still gets physically hurt routinely doing her job. I’m all for doing away with these rooms and firing those that have misused them, however.

  20. - Bourbon Street - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:35 pm:

    Sickening. I hope to see a bill next year outlawing this practice. Other states have done so, and it’s time the GA made sure that Illinois students are not subject to such inhumane treatment.

  21. - Dotnonymous - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 12:45 pm:

    We have lots of those, including my relative, but she still gets physically hurt routinely doing her job. - Ron Burgandy

    I’m sorry…I recognize it is a difficult profession…with potential for injury…That’s why hiring people capable of handling difficult children (using proper restraint) are critical to safety.

  22. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 2:38 pm:

    Significant other is a teacher who regularly gets hit and kicked by students. These students are also very violent towards other students. Sometimes isolation is necessary.

  23. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 2:40 pm:

    ===Sometimes isolation is necessary===

    Maybe it’s time to rethink this and look for alternatives. Forced isolation of adults is considered torture. For children, that would be infinitely worse.

  24. - Commisar Gritty - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 3:16 pm:

    Props to Rep Carroll for already working on the bill.

  25. - Former state employee - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 3:17 pm:

    Thanks Rich. Omg. What century is this? This is criminal behavior.

  26. - Chicagonk - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 3:28 pm:

    If there is a better alternative, I definitely think it should be instituted. The problem is laws get made and no one proposes realistic alternatives. Teachers and administrators should be consulted before a law is quickly put into place.

  27. - Oakparkmom - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 4:04 pm:

    My gifted and autistic daughter could tell you all about how scarred she is from this in her oak park elementary school. They didn’t have a padded cell but did lock her up a bunch of times when she was upset. They said they were protecting the kindergarteners from hearing the f word. Now she is at a therapeutic school that does not do seclusion. I specifically looked for a school that didn’t use the practice. She is thriving - so happy and cared for. Her MAP scores are in the 98-99th percentile and she isn’t dysregulated anymore. Her school - the Orthogenic School has plenty of challenging children but they manage without seclusion. It can be done with appropriate training and gets much better results.

  28. - dbk - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 4:13 pm:

    Let us hope that the practice will be outlawed in the near future - as many states and some districts in IL have already done.

    There are alternatives that work (solitary confinement does harm), and some of these are described in the actual article.

    Tragic. I felt ashamed that Illinois still employs this (discredited) practice, and ashamed of the teachers who implement it.

  29. - Nick Name - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 4:45 pm:

    To the update: Good on Rep. Carroll.

  30. - FormerParatrooper - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 5:07 pm:

    “Sometimes isolation is necessary.”

    I have been to the Berlin-Hohenschonhausen Memorial. The Stasi felt isolation like the rooms shown in the linked article as necessary too. Walking in that place I could feel the evil.

    For the issues of children acting violently, isolating them in these rooms will do one of two things, make them more violent or they will have their spirit broken and suffer mentally.

    We have to have better ways to deal with children who act violently and forced isolation is not the answer. How we were treated as children helped make us the adults we are now. Abuse begets abuse, we can do better.

  31. - Froganon - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 7:41 pm:

    Unbelievable, solitary confinement for a child who ripped a paper. My son deals with abused children in shelters. Staffing is at 4 to 5 children per trained adult and lower if necessary. When children misbehave, they run laps or dig holes until they have calmed down (not until they collapse). There are ways to deal with children who need help that actually help them get better. It requires adequate staffing and kind but firm supervision. Physical activity helps these kids. Locking them in a room for hours is utterly grotesque.

  32. - Southsider - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 7:42 pm:

    The way we treat “challenging” kids in schools is absolutely disgusting. This is a product of letting school boards dictate policy without actual education and refusing to spend money on social workers and mental health professionals.

  33. - Anon - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 7:49 pm:

    Keep in mind, this is not the practice of taking a disruptive student into a separate office or classroom to work with them on their behavior away from the rest of the class. This is taking that kid (often special ed) and locking them alone in a small room for hours as punishment. Barbaric.

  34. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Nov 19, 19 @ 7:51 pm:

    First, thank you Rep. Carroll.

    To the post,

    I struggled today with this. It’s quite one thing to think about instances like this, it’s another to have visuals and a recounting of what is happening to a child be so vivid.

    I wanted to be angry, I was. I wanted to be upset, i was that too. As both tempered away, my sadness lingered and emotionally I couldn’t shake the pain.

    The damage done, being done, it changes lives, it’s another obstacle to be overcome, another scar to heal, but it may never fully heal, and the hurt I feel will stay as these images, powerful.

    It’s all I can say.

  35. - Something to Consider - Wednesday, Nov 20, 19 @ 10:15 am:

    I’ve worked in schools with quiet rooms for over 10 years. These rooms aren’t designed for punishment, they are designed for safety. They are a last resort method of keeping the student and staff safe. The student may be alone in the room but it is protocol to always have a staff member outside the door in constant communication with and in sight of the child.

    It’s very easy to sit here and cast judgement on this if you have no frame of reference for what we deal with on a daily basis. I have been punched, kicked, bit, stabbed with a pencil, had chairs, desks, staplers etc…thrown at me. Sometimes the “what these kids need is love” approach does not work.

    In saying that, yes, there are times when this practice gets abused, where staff use it as an easy way to not have to deal with a student. The problem here lies with training and hiring practices. Many paraprofessionals (teachers aides) do not have the education necessary for the situations they are thrown into.

    There isn’t an easy answer to this, but I suggest maybe channeling your anger and frustrations into learning more about the at-risk populations of these schools to understand why the rooms are there in the first place.

  36. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Nov 20, 19 @ 10:21 am:

    ===but I suggest maybe channeling your anger and frustrations into learning more about the at-risk populations of these schools===

    Stop. What some of these schools are doing is out and out torture. If you can’t see that, then I can’t help you.

  37. - crazybleedingheart - Wednesday, Nov 20, 19 @ 1:28 pm:

    What all of these schools are doing is torture.

    People who torture always have a reason they think is a very good reason.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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