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Illinois: SPED teachers challenge state ban on locked isolation rooms

Mar 2, 2020, Chicago Daily Herald: Constable: Teachers say ban on 'timeout rooms' one reason injuries increased A special-education teacher for 24 years, Kerry Doctor knows there can be dangerous moments working in a classroom with adult-size people who have behavioral issues. But Doctor says a change in the school's enrollment and the state's recent crackdown on use of locked timeout rooms designed to alleviate tense situations have increased the risk for injury this year. "I'm not so naive to believe that I won't get some bumps and bruises working with my kids," Doctor says. "I've gotten bit. I've gotten kicked. I've gotten scratched." But what happened to the 49-year-old teacher on Dec. 16 during an incident with a student at Kirk School in Palatine still has her recuperating at home in Arlington Heights, waiting for her concussion symptoms to stop and her confidence to return. "I am scared to go to work," says Doctor, saying one fellow teacher has missed work on three occasions this year because of head and shoulder injuries after encounters with students. … While Kirk staff members had no days missed due to injuries in January 2019 and 32 missed days in January 2020, most of that is the result of Doctor's concussion. The number of staff members treated by a Kirk nurse increased from two in November 2018 to 10 in November 2019, a number that could also reflect a change in student population at Kirk…. "We've got 300-pound students who get frustrated like 2-year-olds," says Rabin. During a school board meeting in December, the nurse warned, "You are one event away from a catastrophic event of permanent injury or death." Doctor says, "I'm not exaggerating when I say it's only a matter of time before someone dies." While it wouldn't have prevented her concussion, Doctor says the state's prohibition against timeout rooms took away a valuable safety tool…. Last month, the state education board, responding to feedback from some special-education educators, backed off slightly by issuing an emergency amendment allowing timeout rooms, but banned any locked doors and required that a staff member be in the room with a student. Last week, the state board modified the mandates again with a second emergency amendment, allowing staffers to leave a student alone in an unlocked room as long as the staff member stays within two feet of the door. Hackett has testified at hearings in Springfield. "Has it had a broad sweep in terms of applications for all of us? Certainly," says Hackett. The bipartisan legislative Joint Committee on Administrative Rules might settle on permanent rules at its March 18 meeting. Kirk offers sleeves, to protect staff members against bites, and a variety of headgear -- from stylish padded stocking caps to recently added sturdier hard-shell caps -- to protect against head injuries. But they are optional, and Doctor wasn't wearing one when her injury occurred while she was with a student during lunch break in the Zen Den, a relaxation room with beanbag chairs, yoga mats and a white-noise machine. The student leaned against her left shoulder while watching a handheld device…. This winter, three of the four staff members on the Kirk safety committee were on workers' comp because of concussions or other injuries gotten at school. Teacher Tom Jaslikowski, one of the three, says leaving a student inside the padded timeout room while a teacher watched through a window and held a button to keep the door locked was the best way to keep the student, the teacher and others safe…. "We want flexibility. We want training. We want support," says Hackett, who was in Springfield last week educating legislators about the complexity of students. "We feel very good about the work we're doing."…


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