Sometimes students with disabilities are emotionally and physically harmed by the very people responsible for their care. In 2019, a ProPublica-Chicago Tribune investigation reported that school employees in Illinois were allowed to put students in “time-out” in small, locked rooms and restrain students facedown or on their backs (which can lead to injury).
In recent months, 90% of students subjected to seclusion and restraint had disabilities. (The fact that some of the schools that continued in-person instruction during the pandemic were schools for children with disabilities may have affected this statistic.)
The 2019 investigation found that in some cases, “Children were sent to isolation after refusing to do classwork, for swearing, for spilling milk, for throwing Legos.” In one case, a child in a seclusion room said, “Please someone respond to me. … I’m sorry I ripped the paper. I overreacted. … Please just let me out. Is anyone out there?”
After lengthy debate, the Illinois state congress recently passed a bill (that the governor has stated he will sign), which plans to put an end to seclusion and restraint within the next three years, with some exceptions. Seclusion and restraint will be illegal except in cases of “imminent danger of physical harm,” but facedown restraint and time-outs in locked rooms will be outright banned. Advocates hope that Illinois students with disabilities will be safer as a result of this new law.