The Chicago Tribune released a disturbing report that shows Illinois public schools lead the nation in isolating children as young as five.

The majority of students sent to these “quiet rooms” have disabilities. Teachers place them in the rooms due to little infractions like tearing paper to more severe ones like biting.

Illinois allows “school employees to seclude students in a separate space” if they believe the “students pose a safety threat to themselves or others.”

The Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois analyzed “more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-18 school year and through early December 2018.”

Only 12,000 incidents included the violation committed by the student. School employees did not document the infraction in over a third of the incidents:

Some districts declined to provide records or gave incomplete information. Others wouldn’t answer even basic questions, saying the law did not require them to. Of more than 20 districts reporters asked to visit, only three said yes.

“Is this something that we’re ashamed of? It’s not our finest,” said Christan Schrader, director of the Black Hawk Area Special Education District in East Moline, which documented about 850 seclusions in the time period examined.

Schrader said she thinks her staff generally uses seclusion appropriately but acknowledged room for improvement. She met with reporters at the district’s administration building but wouldn’t let them see the seclusion rooms in the school across the parking lot.

“Nobody wants to talk about those things because it doesn’t reflect well,” she said.

The schools have to provide thorough details if they isolate a student.

Here is one incident when a teacher at Kansas TLC isolated a 9-year-old autistic boy after he tore up a math worksheet and tried to leave school:

About 20 minutes after he was put in one of his school’s Quiet Rooms — a 5-foot-square space made of plywood and cinder block — 9-year-old Jace Gill wet his pants.

An aide, watching from the doorway, wrote that down in a log, noting it was 10:53 a.m. on Feb. 1, 2018.

School aides had already taken away Jace’s shoes and both of his shirts. Jace then stripped off his wet pants, wiped them in the urine on the floor and sat down in the corner.

“I’m naked!” Jace yelled at 10:56 a.m.

Staff did not respond, the log shows, except to close the door “for privacy.”

By 11 a.m., Jace had also defecated and was smearing feces on the wall. No adults intervened, according to the log. They watched and took notes.

“Dancing in feces. Doing the twist,” staff wrote at 11:14 a.m., noting that the boy then started pacing back and forth.

“I need more clothes,” he called out.

“We know,” an aide answered.

Jace banged on the walls and tried to pry open the door. He sat against the wall, crying for his mom.

11:42 a.m.: “Let me out of here. I’m crying alone.”

Jace’s mom claimed the school reassured her “he would never be shut inside alone.”

In the 2017-18 school year, the teachers placed Jace in that room at least 28 times.

Another school in a special-education classroom had a box “3 feet wide, 3 feet deep and 7 feet tall.” The school used it to isolate students, including a non-verbal 16-year-old boy named Ted. The Chicago Tribune wrote he “was routinely shut inside.”

Teachers should rarely use the room, but the investigation found most do not use it as a last resort:

Seclusion is supposed to be rare, a last resort. But at Bridges, part of the Kaskaskia Special Education District in southern Illinois, and at many other schools, it is often the default response.

Bridges used seclusion 1,288 times in the 15 months of school that reporters examined. The school has about 65 students.

According to the Tribune/ProPublica Illinois analysis of Bridges records, 72% of the seclusions were not prompted by a safety issue, as the law requires.

This has caused students to fear school. One mom said her child, only aged 9, “sees himself as such a bad child that he believes he belongs in seclusion.”

[Featured image via Facebook]

 
 
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