As the Illinois General Assembly weighs legislation regulating the use of isolation rooms within the state’s school systems, one local school district may be affected by the legislature’s decision.
Grayville CUSD #1 had employed the use of an isolated timeout room for students who could pose a risk the themselves or others since the 2018-19 school year, and into the beginning of the 2019-20 cycle. A recent joint-report by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica exposed several cases of such rooms being abused by school districts throughout the state.
The Illinois State Board of Education has since issued an emergency ban on the use of isolation in “any educational entity serving public school students in Illinois in November,” as it conducts research in an effort to increase accountability and transparency with their usage.
“Isolated seclusion will end now,” Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said in a statement when the initially ordered restrictions on the use of isolation in schools. “It traumatizes children, does lasting damage to the most vulnerable and violates the most deeply held values of my administration and the state of Illinois.”
The ISBE is reviewing data it collected from districts which has led to nine pending investigations for potential violations of Illinois school isolation laws, according to a Capitol News report. Sanctions which could result from those investigations could include licensure suspensions, professional development requirements or criminal charges for individuals and a change in recognition status for the districts themselves, which would have an effect on funding from the state.
Grayville Superintendent Sarah Emery stated that her school district was not among the districts to violate the law with their usage of their isolated timeout room.
“If a student had a behavior intervention plan, which was created and approved by parents, and parents had given consent to use the room, when applicable,” said Emery of the circumstances for which the room was used. “The room should never be used as a disciplinary measure.”
Rather, the intention of the room was to prevent a violent student from hurting themselves or others, according to Emery.
“The purpose of an isolation room is to provide a controlled, safe environment, which prevents or minimizes harm to students and staff when a student is in an escalated state,” she said. “The isolated timeout room was only to be utilized when a student escalated to the point they were posing an immediate threat or harm to themselves or someone else, (such as) hitting or stabbing (themselves), staff or other students or throwing objects (such as) desks, chairs or books toward themselves or others.”
How long students remained in isolation depended upon the length of time it took for them to calm down, according to the superintendent.
“There was no time limit (for each use),” noted Emery. “Length of time varied depending on how long it took for a student to deescalate.”
The Grayville Superintendent also laid out the eight-step procedure through which the isolation room was to be used:
*Call for assistance.
•Remove any potentially dangerous objects from students.
*Contact office and parents.
*Monitor student in isolation timeout at all times and document all behaviors while in the isolated timeout room on a behavior log every three to five minutes, or more frequently if needed.
*Do not interact with students during placement in timeout. The only communication between staff and student should be clear and concise redirection.
*Complete a restrictive intervention form for parents and documentation purposes.
*After a student has been in the isolated timeout room, the student will be checked by the school nurse and then the staff member will “debrief” with the student. Debriefing includes discussing what lead up to placement in the isolated timeout room, as well as identifying other strategies which can be used in the future to prevent or deescalate situations.
*Send documentation to parents and school officials.
Parents or guardians of students placed in isolation are entitled to copies of the behavior logs kept on their child during their time in the isolation room, if that documentation is not included in the notice a school district sends informing them of the isolation.
For the rest of the story, check out this week's Navigator.