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Quincy schools respond to isolation room ban

With the controversial isolation room banned in the state of Illinois by Governor J.B. Pritzker Wednesday after reports of misuse, schools in Quincy have made adjustments already.

Officials at Chaddock School said their isolation room was designed to help deescalate potentially dangerous conflict with students. When that order was passed down by the State Board of Education, local educators said they fell in line.

“When we utilized the isolation room it was the absolute last resort when the student or others are at risk for a safety concern,” said Chaddock High School Assistant Principal Katelyn Kegaly.

She said having a student go into the room to be monitored and talked with was rare.

By design, the lock requires someone to be there, part of the strict protocol for the room’s use.

“It’s not something you could lock and walk away, you absolutely had to be there engaging with our students,” said Kegaly.

Chaddock School Director of Education Cory Powell said bans like this were already something on their radar, and when the order came down they moved quickly.

“We’re a trauma informed school so we’ve known this was coming, and in fact we have lots of students from across the country who come to us from states where this has already been banned,” said Powell, adding that within 10 minutes of getting the email, he sent the order to teachers.

He said while he hopes legislators take the matter seriously, he doesn’t expect to see the ban go away.

“So we’ll have to come up with some new strategies to work with those students and we’re ready to do that,” said Powell.

Kegaly said instead of using the room, other deescalation techniques, like unlocked relaxation rooms, or sensory rooms that provide positive stimulation can be used

“So our support has always begun in the classroom setting and how we can support those, so we’ve got our trained special education teachers and our para professionals as well as our behavior managers,” said Kegaly, “so essentially we’re going to start there, if not that is where we use therapeutic intervention.”

Chaddock School officials said most of the time, the isolation room wasn’t ever used as an isolation room, but instead as a place some students would go to willingly to be left alone while they cool down.

It was a similar story from Quincy Public School officials who said they too stopped any and all use right away after the order Wednesday.

School administrators said all of the new elementary schools have two isolation rooms attached to the special education rooms.

QPS Superintendent Roy Webb said until now they also used these rooms to deescalate students in situations where safety was at risk, he said there’s no record of these rooms being misused, and hopes the state carefully considers the situation.

“Hopefully they reconsider,” said Webb, “if it’s used safely if it has certain parameters, which we have, ours were brand new, built properly and we followed all procedures.”

Webb said those procedures included making sure students weren’t left alone in the room, and the proper professionals and parents were involved.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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