PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – A bill headed to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s desk could significantly reduce the use of physical restraint and seclusion techniques in Illinois schools.
Since July 2020, the Illinois State Board of Education reports physical restraint, like time-outs, which have been used in schools 2,434 times, with about 90% of cases involving a student with a disability.
Locally, educators said the situation looks quite different.
“It is the absolute last resort, and so there are many schools who just don’t have the student population that has that need,” said Lora Haas, Director at Special Education Association in Peoria County.
Recently, the Illinois General Assembly passed House Bill 219 to phase out physical restraints and seclusion in most cases over the next three years.
“It’s really not a huge surprise. Actually, I would say we’re happy that it’s happening [because] it falls in line with our vision,” said Ann Bond, Director of Special Education for Peoria Public Schools (PPS).
Bond said at PPS, incidents where a physical intervention is needed is rare, and instead staff are utilizing different options.
“[It’s] few and far between that we’re having to engage in those kinds of practices because we do prioritize de-escalation techniques,” she said.
Haas explained that for districts her organization serves, they will continue to improve on best practices through training.
“You never know when a student might be in crisis and you want to be able to do it in the correct way. So, we’re doing trainings over the summer,” Haas said.
At District 150, educators said planning will play a big part in meeting the state’s requirements while fitting students’ needs.
“We need to do the best we can to come together as a team and really plan out for every single child what that will look like for them,” Bond said.
House Bill 219 also has language that reads that districts and schools that show progress towards eliminating physical interventions and time-outs in isolation over the next three years will be prioritized to receive funding for staff training.
“The full value of an education can only come when a child is safe, secure, fed, and nurtured. I want to thank bill sponsors Representative Jonathan Carroll and Senator Ann Gillespie, as well as an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the General Assembly and a coalition of passionate advocates, for working alongside the Illinois State Board of Education to ensure Illinois law supports that value for all students. House Bill 219 codifies existing rules and establishes a statutory framework that will better protect students, particularly our youngest, disabled, and most vulnerable children. I also want to recognize the work of journalists whose work helped to expedite this progress.”– Dr. Carmen Ayala, Illinois State Superintendent of Education