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Bill That Would Have Protected Children From Seclusion and Dangerous Restraints in Illinois Schools Gets Defeated by School Groups

STATEMENT FROM EQUIP FOR EQUALITY

CHICAGO – Even though the widespread and punitive use of physical restraint and seclusion by Illinois schools is very dangerous, demeaning, and traumatic for students, last week the legislature failed to end these abuses by passing urgently needed reform legislation.

Representative Carroll and Senator Gillespie worked to create a bill that was a compromise. It took into account the concerns of schools, while at the same time establishing a statutory ban on the most lethal form of restraint and providing basic protections for students with disabilities while schools make changes to reduce reliance on these dangerous techniques over time.

We are extremely disappointed that the legislature didn’t act on this critical issue. The sponsors spent months working with a stakeholder group primarily comprised of school associations and adopted many changes at their request. Despite this process, in the end, the school industry united and stopped the legislature’s reform effort.

It felt like déjà vu. Twenty years ago, after a television news expose by Dave Savini, we were able to pass a temporary law banning these practices, while ISBE developed rules to stop the abuses by schools. ISBE allowed school groups to dominate the stakeholder membership; our voice for student and parent rights was largely ignored. Schools continued to ignore the weak law, as this year’s exposé demonstrated.

It is shameful that Illinois statutes provide life-saving limitations on the use of restraint and seclusion on adults with developmental disabilities and mental illness, but not on vulnerable students with disabilities.

Unlike other states that are seeking to reduce and eliminate the use of these practices, and some states that have banned them altogether, Illinois’ school industry continues to be steadfast in its opposition to reform. The legislature has been all too willing to bend to their preferences. The schools blocked meaningful reform 20 years ago, and again last week. The legislature needs to stop giving in to the schools and take a more balanced approach that takes into account student safety.

Equip for Equality urges Governor Pritzker to put the power of his office behind this critical compromise reform legislation, as written, in the November override session. It is time to put a stop to this widespread abuse of students with disabilities by their schools.

 

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Last updated: June 09, 2020

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