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School seclusion and restraint bill derailed after opposition

Friday, May 29, 2020

* Jennifer Smith Richards of the Chicago Tribune and Jodi S. Cohen of ProPublica Illinois

After months of debate about schools’ use of seclusion and face-down restraints on children, Illinois lawmakers did not act last week on a measure that would have banned the controversial practices immediately, instead delaying the decision until the fall at the earliest.

Although Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state schools Superintendent Carmen Ayala have vowed to stop the practices of putting children alone in locked rooms and holding them down on the floor, the bill faced opposition from school groups that viewed oversight requirements as too burdensome.

Months of meetings among lawmakers, school lobbyists and advocates ended with broad agreement that schools should reduce their reliance on the physical interventions, used most often on students with disabilities, according to meeting participants. But a last-minute push from the school groups tabled the matter this session; they thought the bill asked too much of school workers, who would be required to hold debriefing meetings with parents or guardians every time a student is put in time out or is restrained.

A Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation last year, “The Quiet Rooms,” revealed widespread misuse of both practices in the state’s public schools.

New state rules adopted in April already significantly limit those practices and require state oversight for the first time, but advocates and lawmakers continued to push for a state law that would have superseded the rules and increased restrictions and oversight.

The most recent draft of the legislation would have made it illegal to put students alone in a locked room or in a room with the door blocked, and would have required that students placed in seclusion have access to food, medication and the bathroom. The bill also would have required school workers to meet with students and parents within two school days of each instance of time out or restraint and ordered the Illinois State Board of Education to develop plans within 90 days to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in any form within three years.

“We’ve had all these meetings, all these meetings, and then at the eleventh hour, they come in and kill the bill,” Rep. Jonathan Carroll, a Democrat from Northbrook, said of the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of the state’s public school principals and administrators, school finance officials and school boards. Carroll, who has spoken about being secluded as a child and the harm it caused, sponsored the House version of the bill. […]

Phil Milsk, a legislative adviser for the Illinois Association of School Social Workers, said the organization opposed the legislation because it was not clear that it applied to all schools, including private schools and special education cooperatives. He said requiring two debriefing meetings after each time out or restraint was “excessive” and would be “a huge burden on staff” and families. […]

Kyle Hillman, director of legislative affairs for the National Association of Social Workers, which supported the measure, said he was disappointed that opposition derailed the bill after months of negotiations.

“We have said from the beginning that … ultimately the bad actors in this state are not willingly going to end this abusive practice,” he wrote in a statement. “We continue to hold out hope our elected officials step up and end this practice now before this becomes another Illinois tragedy story.”

* From Rep. Carroll…

I’m very disappointed that special interests put the protection of its members over what’s best for our most vulnerable children. I’m not surprised that the School Management Alliance did this because it’s what they always do, but I’m disappointed that other organizations would join in these efforts. Senator Gillespie and I are committed to ending these brutal practices and will continue pushing forth this legislation.

According to Carroll, the groups opposing the bill included the Statewide School Management Alliance, the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, the Illinois Association of Private Special Education Centers, ED-RED, the Illinois Association of School Social Workers, LEND and SCOPE.

…Adding… Equip for Equality…

We are extremely disappointed that the legislature didn’t act on this critical issue. The sponsors spent months working with a stakeholder group primarily comprised of school associations and adopted many changes at their request. Despite this process, in the end, the school industry united and stopped the legislature’s reform effort.

It felt like déjà vu. Twenty years ago, after a television news expose by Dave Savini, we were able to pass a temporary law banning these practices, while ISBE developed rules to stop the abuses by schools. ISBE allowed school groups to dominate the stakeholder membership; our voice for student and parent rights was largely ignored. Schools continued to ignore the weak law, as this year’s exposé demonstrated.

It is shameful that Illinois statutes provide life-saving limitations on the use of restraint and seclusion on adults with developmental disabilities and mental illness, but not on vulnerable students with disabilities.

Unlike other states that are seeking to reduce and eliminate the use of these practices, and some states that have banned them altogether, Illinois’ school industry continues to be steadfast in its opposition to reform. The legislature has been all too willing to bend to their preferences. The schools blocked meaningful reform 20 years ago, and again last week. The legislature needs to stop giving in to the schools and take a more balanced approach that takes into account student safety.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

12 Comments
  1. - Roman - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 1:00 pm:

    == The legislature needs to stop giving in to the schools ==

    Not a statement you see very often, if ever.


  2. - Friendly Bob Adams - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 1:02 pm:

    Phil Milsk is a really good guy, and anyone who categorizes him as a “bad actor” is simply not credible.


  3. - JS Mill - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 1:32 pm:

    Rep. Carroll, who has been in the ILGA since 2017 sounds like a real classy guy. His bill doesn’t pass so he throws a tantrum and (on Twitter) attacks school administrators pensions and compensation.

    “I’m not surprised that the School Management Alliance did this because it’s what they always do”

    I have never heard of this guy before, but he needs to apologize for his exaggerations. The School Management Alliance works with many legislators for good legislation.


  4. - Wire Tap - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 2:02 pm:

    JS Mill,

    Stop the presses! You haven’t heard of Rep Carroll. Do you live in a cave? The guy passed a lot of legislation in his short time in he house and has been out ahead of this seclusion/time-out issue since day one. Good for Rep Carroll. He’s been an advocate for children since day one. Keep up the excellent work!


  5. - Ashland Adam - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 2:14 pm:

    Seven school groups had trouble with this bill. Maybe there’s more to this story than is reported here?

    Perhaps these groups - who represent workers in the schools - have legitimate concerns?

    The bill wasn’t ready.


  6. - Phil Milsk - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 3:20 pm:

    I really appreciate the kind words. Let me point out a few things about my client’s opposition to the most recent draft of the bill: (1) We are not opposed to legislation passing on this subject matter; (2) We will not support a bill that does not clearly identify the educational entities to which the bill applies, and does not cover charter schools, special education cooperatives and State-approved private schools for children with disabilities; (3) the bill fails to protect the confidentiality of students by requiring each district plan to ensure a review of student information that is protected by State and federal privacy laws; (4) the two review meetings after each incident requirement does not take into consideration or even reference review procedures that are already in place for children with disabilities with IEPs or 504 plans. Furthermore, the State Board of Education has permanent rules in place as of April, 2019, that essentially provide the same protections to students as the legislation offers, except the legislation would eliminate the use of prone restraints, and the rules would have disallowed prone restraints except JCAR intervene and the rules were revised to allow them. The proposed legislation also proposes a 3 year goal of eliminating these behavioral interventions instead of just flat out prohibiting them after a date certain. We have shared these concerns orally and in writing to no avail. We are happy to continue to work with the sponsors and stakeholders to improve this legislation.


  7. - Phil Milsk - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 3:22 pm:

    Sorry, the ISBE rules we’re adopted in April 2020, not 2019.


  8. - Simple Quiz - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 4:06 pm:

    Phil,

    Answer one simple question…do you believe that the practice of using isolation time outs and restraints should stop?

    Thank you and I will hang up and listen to your response…


  9. - Anne Marie Murphy - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 4:25 pm:

    I am soo disappointed to see this effort derailed. My daughter suffered terribly in elementary school when her regular public school locked her up several times and on each occasion it was terrifying to her. On several occasions she then eloped from the school and then automatically the police had to be called. It was so frightening to have my child of color, emotionally dysregulated and then with the police involved. When I looked for a therapeutic school for her, I very specifically looked for one without the padded cells. Every time I visited Rush Day, they were dragging some poor child off to the padded cell. At Laureate I think they told me they had 4 of these “quiet rooms.” At the Orthogenic school where she is now, there are no such rooms. They have these lovely calming hallways with alcoves where the kids can calm down. They are incredibly loving there and my daughter has had a wonderful experience. She still cries thinking of elementary school even though she is going into 8th grade now. Padded cells are not a place to teach a child a lesson. They should be banned completely. I hope we can get a bill passed soon to outlaw them here in Illinois. They are banned in several other states. Children with special needs, need special care not padded cells.


  10. - Kelly Cassidy - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 4:31 pm:

    Rep. Carroll is a passionate advocate for his constituents, just about the kindest person in the chamber, and unafraid to speak his mind. And honestly, the School Management Alliance does have a bit of a reputation as being resistant to change. They opposed anti-bullying legislation for years, demanding repeated changes that would have rendered the law useless. Simple things like expecting bullying data reporting to the state were declared too burdensome. On this issue, folks need to stop with the because we’ve always done it this way and work together to get it right. Lives depend on it. Thank you to Rep. Carroll and Sen. Gillespie for standing up for these kids and families.


  11. - JS Mill - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 4:39 pm:

    =Do you live in a cave? =

    Oh heavens to betsy and clutched pearls, I didn’t know one of the myriad legislators that does not represent me or clearly have any respect for educators (administrators are educators as well) and when he doesn’t get his way. his tantrum includes tweeting cheap shots at us.

    I know who he is now and attempted to contact him or his staff but they are not taking calls and my email has not been answered so far.
    And, as another poster pointed out, seven school based organizations had concerns with the legislation as written. Seven. How dare they act on their concerns./s


  12. - Rep Carroll - Friday, May 29, 20 @ 4:47 pm:

    JS Mill,

    I’m a certified Special Education teacher.

    Jonathan


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