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Bloomington, IL: "Increasing number of students with emotional and behavior issues"

Feb 22, 2020, Bloomington (IL) Pantagraph: Central Illinois schools adjust to emergency rules for 'time-out' rooms Emergency rules put in place after reports of children being placed in isolation rooms or improperly restrained were intended to enhance student safety, but school officials are concerned that the new rules could put more students and staff at risk of harm. “If we can’t utilize our calming spaces the way we need to, which would be with an adult outside the room, I see us having to potentially look at placements for students out of the district because we would get to a point where as a public school district we can’t meet their needs," said Michelle Lamboley, executive director of special services at McLean County Unit 5, based in Normal. "That would become unsafe for them and our staff regularly and we wouldn’t be able to meet their needs.” On Tuesday, the Illinois State Board of Education voted to make the emergency rules permanent, but that action still needs approval from the state's Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The emergency rules will be in effect until April 17. The emergency rules, among other things, prohibit use of locked, isolated seclusion rooms and prohibit certain physical restraints, including “child control positions” in which one or more trained staff physically hold a child who is standing, seated or on the floor. The emergency rules and proposed permanent rules ban face-down floor restraints but permit face-up restraints. Under prior practice, a student who was considered a danger to himself or others could be placed alone in a room — called an “isolated time-out” — but had to remain under constant observation. The room was required to meet certain specifications, such as having no electrical outlets, exposed wiring or other objects that could be used to cause harm…. With the emergency rules, a staff member has to be in the room with the child — and being that close to a student who has been deemed a danger to themselves or others is one of the things that sparks concern. “When a student is frustrated, they will lash out. They could hurt themselves or staff,” said Leslie Hanson, Bloomington District 87’s director of special education. “It’s a tight space when someone is escalating … and someone is standing there.” District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said, “I’m worried about kids and staff members getting hurt.” "I feel strongly that there’s a risk for staff injury and student injury because you’ve now put a person in a room that was meant for a student to be able to regulate themselves and you’ve put them in their space," Lamboley said. "They’re no longer able to calm themselves the way they're used to." At The Baby Fold’s Hammitt School, a therapeutic day school for students with complex emotional and mental health issues, academics director Rhonda Howard said, “We saw an uptick in staff injury” since the rule change…. The emergency rules were issued by the Illinois State Board of Education in November in response to an investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois that found many children were placed in isolation for reasons that violated the law. … Practices such as time-out rooms and use of physical restraints almost exclusively involve students with emotional or mental health problems who are eligible for special education services and have Individualized Education Plans and a behavioral intervention plan…. Schultz said the increasing number of students with emotional and behavior issues is something that has been “building up for years” and “the solution to this really goes beyond ISBE and the school systems.” She said students frequently come from families impacted by trauma. Some have limited or no access to behavioral services and mental health support, which places an undue burden on schools, said Schultz.

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