On Tuesday last week, ProPublica Illinois and the Chicago Tribune released an eye opening report with their investigation on the use of isolation rooms in Illinois schools.
The investigation looked at more than 20,000 documented uses of isolation rooms at schools across the state from the fall of 2017 through December 2018. They also interviewed 120 students and their parents about their experiences.
While it is legal in the State of Illinois to isolate students if they pose a safety threat to themselves or others, the investigation found that many times children were put into isolation illegally and for extended periods of time.
Some of the noted illegal reasons children were sent to isolation included for refusing to do work, swearing, spilling milk and throwing Legos.
The investigation noted that the median length of a session for students in isolated time out was 22 minutes, but many spent more than an hour. One case showed a student was in isolation for 10 hours. Students are only supposed to be in isolation while they are considered a danger.
Also in the course of the investigation, it was found that while schools document the use of isolation, it often goes unread. They also noted that the Illinois State Board of Education does not collect any data on schools’ use of isolated time outs, nor have they updated guidelines for the use of isolation in over 20 years.
For more on this story, please see this week’s print edition.