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“We’re going to stop this for future generations”: Illinois lawmakers discuss banning school seclusion rooms

SPRINGFIELD, IL - State lawmakers are discussing proposals to prohibit seclusion rooms in schools after scathing reports found abuse of those spaces last fall.

The investigative work by ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune found 20,000 instances where students were locked in seclusion rooms.

Schools haven't been allowed to use the rooms since Gov. JB Pritzker took executive action to ban the practice shortly after the report was published in November. Now lawmakers want to make sure students don't go through that abuse again.

Social work advocates believe there are benefits to rooms for de-stressing and helping students therapeutically, but they say no student should be locked in a room alone.

"We're going to stop this for future generations. The kids that are going through this right now, it will not continue," said Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D) Illinois 57th District. "You will not be punitively punished or restrained for the things that you do and the things that you cannot control."

The bills also cover rules for physical restraints that were discussed after the seclusion rooms were banned. Schools are only allowed to restrain students if there is a crisis situation that threatens safety for other students and staff.

Seclusion rooms are used in many schools across the state as an option for students who may need a space to cool off before they go back to a classroom. Advocates hope discussions with lawmakers will lead to better structure and guidance for schools previously isolating students.

"Even when physical harm is not apparent in the child, that child exposed to exclusion rooms and restraints remains severely traumatized and may experience PTSD," said Kyle Hillman, National Association of Social Workers Legislative Affairs Director.

The proposals (Senate Bill 2315 and House Bill 3975) already have bipartisan support with sponsors from both parties.

Lawmakers will continue their discussions when they return to Springfield to start session at the end of the month.

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Mike Miletich

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