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ILLINOIS: Restraint/seclusion practices used on kids with "behavioral/intellectual disabilities"

Dec 24, 2019, Rockford (IL) Register Star: 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. “Choosing to use a restraint should be an extremely difficult decision,” he told the class. “Kids die in restraints.” To Barry, a social worker who teaches a system called Therapeutic Crisis Intervention, the message is clear: Physically restraining a child is a deadly serious matter. It should be used in an emergency and at no other time. “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…. 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 board, which put emergency restrictions in place on all restraints in the wake of “The Quiet Rooms,” is moving to ban prone restraints permanently. “Under my watch, I cannot — I will not — allow it to continue,” state schools Superintendent Carmen Ayala said in an interview. Ayala, appointed in February, said she was “taken aback” to learn about the behavioral interventions schools were using, including seclusion and prone restraint. New rules require schools to report their use of seclusion or restraint within two days…. The schools examined as part of this investigation likely represent a fraction of the number that actually used physical restraint in Illinois…. The same boy was restrained three times that day in November 2018, the last time so forcefully that school employees documented his cries of pain and noted that they gave him ice packs and used a wheelchair to take him to the bathroom because his knee was injured during the incident. Students sometimes lash out — swearing, spitting, head-butting — during the encounters. One student at the A.E.R.O. Special Education Cooperative in Burbank, southwest of Chicago, was restrained last year after he dropped to the floor and began flailing his legs while being escorted to a timeout room…. 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…. The new rules also say restraint must end immediately when the emergency ends or when students indicate they cannot breathe. Reporters found at least 30 incidents in which students said they could not breathe yet the restraint continued. Of the 15,000 restraints analyzed by reporters, roughly 1,300 lasted 15 minutes or longer. About 260 went on for more than 30 minutes — with more than a quarter of those involving children being held faceup or facedown on the floor…. Restraints that can obstruct breathing, including prone restraints, are prohibited in 31 states for all children and in a handful more just for students with disabilities. Last month, three California school workers were charged with involuntary manslaughter after the death of a student with autism who had been restrained prone…. Reporters’ analysis of school records found that “floor restraints” — both prone and supine — were used in about two dozen of the 100 districts analyzed. Together, districts used these restraints nearly 1,800 times in the 15-month period examined. Thirteen-hundred of those floor restraints were in the prone position, and three districts accounted for the majority of those incidents. A.E.R.O. used prone restraint 530 times in 15 months; the Southwest Cook County Cooperative Association for Special Education, more than 300 times. Plainfield Community Consolidated School District 202 logged more than 200 prone restraints…. Training Lessons Lost 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. … At the Special Education District of Lake County, records show, staff members initially get eight hours of training from the Crisis Prevention Institute, or CPI. Refresher training in subsequent years lasts four hours. In describing the training, a teacher at one of the SEDOL schools, Gages Lake, told a reporter that “more is focused on how to hold a kid and less about de-escalation.”…
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