SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Education Association (IEA) said Wednesday the practice of using seclusion rooms – where students are placed alone in a room and observed from the outside by an adult – should no longer be used. Instead, a workgroup should be formed to look at alternative, long-term solutions that value safety and restorative practices.
“We know that safety is priority number one with our students, especially those who have traumatic pasts and who have special needs,” said Kathi Griffin, IEA president. “Seclusion takes safety out of the mix and adds fear and torment. Calm rooms, or reflection rooms, should provide caring adults, helping to support students and to teach them strategies for self-regulation.”
The IEA has been working for nearly five years to bring these concepts to its 135,000 members across the state of Illinois. It has partnered with the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine and many other community partners to educate teachers and support staff on restorative practices since 2014 in order to prevent situations exactly like those outlined in the reporting done by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica.
“Plywood and cement walls are a ‘cell’, not a room meant to provide safety and support. We applaud the Illinois State Board of Education for coming up with emergency rules to try to provide immediate relief to this situation, but we’d also ask that a workgroup or taskforce be formed that includes all stakeholders – including parents – that helps determine how schools can wrap safety and support around struggling students, keep all students safe and determine how all of this work can be funded,” Griffin said.
“There is nothing more important to this state than its children. It speaks to who we are as a people how we are going to handle this crisis going forward. It’s imperative it’s handled the right way.”
Nineteen other states have banned the practice of seclusion rooms.
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.