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State school superintendent warns CPS for fourth time over illegal student restraint

Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* In 2021, an Illinois law was enacted to limit use of restraints in schools. ProPublica

The House voted unanimously to pass legislation barring school workers from locking children alone in seclusion spaces and limiting the use of any type of isolated timeout or physical restraint to when there’s “imminent danger of physical harm.” The legislation requires schools that receive state funding to make a plan to reduce — and eventually eliminate — the practices over the next three years. Schools that develop plans more quickly can receive priority for new grant funding for staff training.

A main feature of the legislation — and the element that proved most contentious among lawmakers over the past 18 months — is an immediate ban on schools’ use of prone, or face-down, restraint for most students. Restraining a student that way would be permitted only for children whose special-education plans specifically allow it as an emergency measure and only until the end of the 2021-22 school year, granting schools more time to phase out the practice than some legislators and advocates sought. […]

Illinois legislators began working to ban seclusion and restraint after a Tribune-ProPublica investigation in late 2019 revealed that some schools routinely locked children in closet-like seclusion rooms to force them to complete schoolwork, for being disrespectful to employees or for behavioral infractions as minor as spilling milk. Inside the small spaces, children sometimes cried for their parents, tore at the walls or urinated when they were denied use of the bathroom.

* Today from the Tribune

Shedding new light on Chicago Public Schools’ recent disclosure that the district violated state laws in its use of physical restraint and isolation of students, a letter from the state education superintendent delves further into CPS’ “systemic” failures.

The letter, written by state Superintendent Tony Sanders to CPS CEO Pedro Martinez in April, was ISBE’s fourth directive ordering CPS to comply with state law. Violations alleged by the state agency range from CPS allowing untrained staff members to restrain students unnecessarily — sometimes for more than hour or through the use of prohibited methods — to the district’s failure to notify parents and review and report all incidents to the Illinois State Board of Education. […]

Among restraint, timeout and isolation incidents CPS reported to ISBE in the 2021-22 school year, 71 instances involving 41 students occurred unnecessarily, according to the April letter. […]

In ISBE’s review of 24 forms of alternative documentation, the agency found 22 incidents involved the physical restraint of a student — by at least one untrained staff member in more than half of the incidents. The number of incidents involving no trained staff members is redacted in Sanders’ April letter.

“Multiple physical restraint incidents lasted one hour or more,” the letter states, and in 10 instances, parents weren’t notified within the required time frame. State policy requires schools to attempt to notify parents and guardians of incidents on the same day and to provide a written explanation within one day.


The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on Wednesday called for the ouster of CPS’ Chief of the Office of Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS), Stephanie Jones, for her dismal failures to protect the district’s most vulnerable students, continued violation of special education laws and the creation of a toxic workplace that has left the department in shambles and unable to fulfill its legally-required mandate to support students with disabilities.

The CTU House of Delegates, the union’s democratically elected governing body, took a no confidence vote Wednesday evening and called for Jones to resign or for CPS CEO Pedro Martinez to fire her.

The vote comes just days after it was revealed that in November, the state found the district continues to violate state law by imposing physical restraints on students despite a directive to halt the practice until staff are adequately and appropriately trained in its use. In a letter to Martinez, the Illinois State Board of Education said, “CPS’ complete disregard for the health and safety of its students and blatant violation of state law is unconscionable.”

At the HOD meeting, numerous special education teachers, clinicians and service providers detailed Jones’ flagrant mishandling of the special education department, including failing to provide recovery services to students who suffered an education gap during the pandemic and deficient staff training in restraint practices, among other lapses.

CTU President Stacy Davis Gates said.

    “Tonight our members said, enough. Enough with the lack of services and support, enough with ignoring the needs of our students, and enough with violating state law.”

CPS’ special education department continues to be overseen by a state monitor, imposed after the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) found CPS deliberately denied and delayed services to students for the years 2016 – 2018.

“Clinicians in CPS have been faced with a consistent lack of managerial support because our managers have essentially been run out by the chief of ODLSS,” Alyssa Rodriquez, a citywide social worker, said. “We face extended wait times to get support in crisis situations, extreme turnover and inadequate training, which trickles down to our ability to serve our students.”


  1. - Frida's Boss - Tuesday, Jun 6, 23 @ 3:13 pm:

    So CTU is blaming the administration for kids being restrained? Who’s doing the restraining?
    Not teachers? Teachers aren’t the ones getting security officers, if they have them since CTU and progressives wanted to get rid of them, to grab the kids and put them in restraints? It seems teachers are right there at the front of it? If they aren’t the ones restraining or calling the security officer to restrain the child who is?

    Is the school administration walking in, in spite of teachers’ objections and restraining the kids?

    If it’s anything but the last scenario then this is a great deflection from CTU to say even though they’re the ones on the ground doing the restraining it’s not their fault.

  2. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jun 6, 23 @ 3:26 pm:

    ===If it’s anything but ===

    Try finding some facts before forming an opinion.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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