Proposed school rules would ban secluded timeouts in Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education submitted its proposed rules Tuesday for how schools can restrain students who exhibit dangerous behavior, aiming to protect children and faculty from outbursts but banning the use of prone restraints and the practice of locking such students in timeout rooms all by themselves.

The proposed rules, which will be open to public comment until Feb. 4, were drafted in response to a report last month by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica that found that public schools were misusing timeout rooms. In more than a third of the documented cases in which a student was placed in a timeout room, there was no justifiable reason given. The documents also revealed students’ reactions: crying, begging for release, slamming their heads on padded walls and trying to pry open locked doors.

“Our schools and students are now safer as a result of this collaboration and swift action,” state schools Superintendent Carmen Ayala said of the rule-making process. “Students should not have had to go through the horrific trauma they experienced for Illinois to implement safer policies to protect them.”

The rules, which have been in effect on an emergency basis since Nov. 20, made Illinois the fifth state to ban secluding students. The rules require that timeout rooms remain unlocked and that a trained adult be in the room. The supervisor must assess every 15 minutes whether the student has stopped showing dangerous behavior.

Under the new rules, prone restraints, in which a student is restrained face-down, would be banned. But schools could still use supine restraints, in which a student is face-up, when other types of restraints have failed. An adult not involved in the restraint would have to be present to observe and the restraint could not impair the student’s ability to breathe or communicate normally.

This story was first published on Dec. 10, 2019. It was updated on Dec. 11, 2019, to correct that the Illinois Board of Education’s proposed new rules regarding the use of timeout rooms and restraints in schools would not allow the use of prone, or face-down, restraints but would allow the use of supine, or face-up, restraints as a last resort.