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Advancing the Human & Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois


The Quiet Rooms – Ending Unlawful “Isolated Timeout” on Students

The widespread, punitive and abusive treatment of children and youth by schools across Illinois has created a State of Emergency and Governor Pritzker has acted.  Despite the emotional trauma such violent interventions cause and the physical danger for students and school personnel alike, every day public schools and private therapeutic day and residential schools have turned to physical restraints and seclusion (isolated time out) as their go-to response to students’ failure to do their homework, tuck in their shirttail, talk back to teachers or other common offenses.   Even when situations begin to develop where there is a concern for student safety, schools fail to employ methods to de-escalate the situation that would prevent use of these practices.

Illinois must strengthen student protections, empower parents and expand school accountability; there must be a consequence for schools that fail to comply, otherwise federal and state oversight will be impossible – and place students at extreme risk of trauma and serious physical harm and keep parents and the public in the dark.

The heart wrenching series on isolated time out and restraint use in Illinois schools by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica not only permit readers to witness the trauma experienced by students, but demonstrates that allowing schools to be self-policing has led to the current crisis.

As the nonprofit designated as the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy System to safeguard the rights of children and adults with disabilities in Illinois, one of Equip for Equality’s priorities is individual safety.  Over the years, we have provided students with legal representation, reviewed hundreds of restraint and seclusion records of children and adults with disabilities living in the community and in public and facilities, including schools.  We collaborated with national medical experts to review the clinical records of 61 children and adults in 12 states who died as a result of physical restraints.  Findings included that prone and supine restraints were especially dangerous and that common health conditions, such as the epidemic of obesity in children, make its use medically contraindicated for many students.

Equip for Equality urges Governor JB Pritzker, his Administration, and the state legislature to maintain and expand protections for students and empower parents to advocate for their students:

  • Maintain prohibition on isolated time out and prone restraint, and ban supine restraint
  • For forms of restraint permitted, limit use to short periods and only allow in rare, emergency situations, meaning that the student or others are at imminent risk of serious physical harm and ensure parental notification
  • Ensure school personnel are re-trained, with a focus on de-escalation techniques, ways to make these practices safer and a debriefing process that includes parents and students
  • Require ISBE to take a leadership role by promoting a culture change in schools to reduce and ultimately eliminate the use of these violent interventions and require all schools to do an annual plan with measurable objectives to reduce such practices over time
  • Ensure all parents receive information about their rights and establish an independent statewide advocacy resource they can call with questions about their rights, including assistance in filing a complaint with ISBE themselves or that will file a complaint for them so they may remain anonymous
  • The State’s action plan should include a provision for independent monitoring of schools, targeting those with more serious compliance issues

Equip for Equality urges the State to remain steadfast and take bold action — Illinois schools are out of control.  Children and youth are routinely experiencing profound trauma and risk of serious physical harm, including death.  The State must step in now.

Here is a collection of articles and statements published in response to the original piece. As the situation develops, this page will be updated.

Chicago Tribune – April 13, 2020
These schools did away with seclusion and restraint. They say Illinois can too.

Chicago Tribune – April 6, 2020
Illinois officials promised to ban prone restraint in schools. Then, they changed their minds.

Chicago Tribune – January 6, 2020
Secluding students in small rooms should be illegal in Illinois, educators and advocates tell lawmakers

Chicago Tribune – March 31, 2020
A former aide for students with disabilities was charged with battery. He’s the second worker at Gages Lake to be arrested this school year.

ProPublica – March 16, 2020
ProPublica Illinois and Chicago Tribune Series “The Quiet Rooms” Wins Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics

CBS – March 10, 2020
Illinois restricts how students are secluded and restrained

ABC News – January 6, 2020
Lawmakers call for change to isolation rooms in schools

Chicago Tribune – December 20, 2019
The Takedown

Chicago Tribune – December 20, 2019
How we reported this story: Thousands of records on Illinois schools’ use of physical restraints

Chicago Tribune – December 20, 2019
These are the new proposed rules for seclusion, restraint in Illinois schools

Chicago Tribune – December 12, 2019
‘A Mean Place’

ProPublica Illinois – December 5, 2019
Illinois Will Allow Prone, Supine Restraints on Children While Schools Learn to Phase Them Out

Illinois State Board of Education – December 4, 2019
Notice of Proposed Amendments
Restraint rules 12-4-19

WCBU – December 4, 2019
ISBE Rolls Back Restraint Rules

Chicago Tribune – December 4, 2019
Illinois amends emergency rules, will temporarily allow prone, supine restraints in schools

WBEZ – November 25, 2019
Investigation: There’s A Ban On Isolated Timeouts In Illinois Schools

Illinois Public Media – November 23, 2019
ISBE Asks Families To Report Seclusion, Restraint

ProPublica Illinois – November 22, 2019
Readers Choked Back Tears. Some Struggled to Keep Reading. We Understand.

Chicago Tribune – November 22, 2019
Editorial: Stop the ‘quiet room’ abuse of Illinois schoolchildren

Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities – November 22, 2019
Institute Statement on Seclusion Practices

Chicago Tribune – November 22, 2019
District 112 explains use of isolated time outs, restraints after investigation prompts emergency action

Chicago Tribune – November 21, 2019
Illinois to take emergency action to halt isolated timeouts in schools

Northern Public Radio – November 21, 2019
Pritzker Promises Prompt Response to Reports of Student Isolation Abuse

Representative Jonathan Carroll – November 20, 2019
Thoughts on Quiet Rooms

Washington Post – November 20, 2019
After report, Illinois officials vow to stop punishing students with solitary confinement

Illinois School Board of Education – November 20, 2019
State Board of Education to take emergency action to end the use of isolated seclusion in Illinois schools

Chicago Tribune – November 19, 2019
The Quiet Rooms


Last updated: December 10, 2021

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