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Illinois: Debate continues over use of restraint in school; teacher receive training

Dec 20, 2019, MSN: Schools Aren’t Supposed to Forcibly Restrain Children as Punishment. In Illinois, It Happened Repeatedly The adults gathered in a hotel ballroom in Peoria school employees, caregivers, health care workers — fell silent as their instructor, a muscled and tattooed mixed martial arts fighter, stared at them to demand attention. Over five days of training, the participants would learn how to physically control children who pose a danger to themselves or others. But first, Zac Barry focused on what he views as the most important lesson…. “We do not do it to force compliance,” he told the class. “We’re not doing it to inflict pain or harm. We’re definitely not using it as punishment or discipline in any way, shape or form.” But a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois investigation shows that message often is lost. An analysis of more than 15,000 physical restraints in 100 Illinois school districts from August 2017 to early December 2018 found that about a quarter of the interventions began without any documented safety reason. Instead, they often happened after a student was disrespectful, profane or not following rules. These instances violate a 20-year-old state law that allows children to be restrained at school only for safety reasons. Records show that most of the children restrained had behavioral or intellectual disabilities…. In 50,000 pages of school records reviewed by reporters, aides and teachers documented numerous injuries to the children they had restrained: Cuts on the students’ hands, scratches on necks and noses. Collarbones that hurt to touch. Knots on their heads and split lips. Sore ankles and wrists. In at least two dozen incidents, schools called an ambulance for a child. School employees got hurt, too, as they wrestled with flailing children who sometimes bit, hit or kicked while trying to get free. On Nov. 19, ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune published “The Quiet Rooms,” an investigation into the practice of secluding students in small spaces.The next day, the Illinois State Board of Education took emergency action to prohibit the locked “isolated timeouts” previously allowed under state law. Reporters also had begun to tell state officials about their findings on restraint, which schools often use in tandem with seclusion. Among those findings: Schools across the state were using prone restraints, in which students are held facedown on the floor, and some districts used them frequently…. The 100 school districts and special-education cooperatives included in the analysis were selected because they previously reported using seclusion to the federal government or because they exclusively served students with disabilities. Many more districts — more than 280 — reported to the U.S. Department of Education that they had used physical restraint in the 2015-16 school year, the most recent data available. Even that number is likely an undercount, as the federal database relies on self-reporting from districts and is known to omit information…. Records also documented numerous incidents when school employees used physical restraint to address a serious safety concern: to stop children from harming themselves, keep them from running into busy parking lots or prevent them from punching classmates during an argument. School workers restrained one boy who tried to bite an employee; he then tried to choke another worker with her own sweatshirt strings during the restraint. In interviews and records, aides, teachers and workers noted their multiple attempts to calm students and avoid restraint…. About three dozen districts examined for this investigation had restrained children at least 100 times between August 2017 and December 2018. For some, it was many more…. The new rules would ban the use of prone restraint entirely and strictly limit the use of supine restraint, in which the student is restrained faceup. Superintendent Ayala and other top state education officials said prone restraint was too dangerous to continue to use in schools in part because of the impulse to “pin” kids to the floor…. In its five-day training course in Peoria, Therapeutic Crisis Intervention didn’t teach restraint until day three. For two full days, attendees practiced what to say to angry students, how to give them space instead of moving closer, how to demonstrate calm and support without placing a hand on the child…. Current Illinois law requires that school workers who use physical restraint be trained at least once every two years; it also mandates that they be taught alternatives to restraint, including de-escalation techniques. The proposed new rules would require at least eight hours of training each year. They also would expand the training to include trauma-informed and restorative practices, behavior management and ways to spot students in distress during a restraint or timeout. Most schools send delegates to formal training; these workers then return to teach the material to their colleagues…. For years, Jacob Lopez’s family worried that his school was restraining him too often, instead of trying other ways to manage his behavior. Jacob, who has autism and ADHD, had transferred as a first grader to a special education program run by SPEED Special Education Joint Agreement District 802 in Chicago Heights, south of Chicago. For the next five years, Jacob was repeatedly restrained by workers in different SPEED programs, according to records provided by his family…. Most of the new rules, including a ban on secluding students alone in locked rooms and restrictions on the use of restraints, are already in effect on an emergency basis. Though the board is moving to prohibit prone, or facedown, restraint, schools may still use it in limited circumstances while transitioning to alternative methods…. The General Assembly also plans to debate measures that have been introduced since the publication of “The Quiet Rooms,” including proposals to ban seclusion and limit physical restraint. Lawmakers have scheduled a hearing for Jan. 7 to hear from parents and educators.


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