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Pritzker Promises Prompt Response to Reports of Student Isolation Abuse

Governor J-B Pritzker says he's "appalled" by reports of forced student isolation in Illinois schools and promised immediate action.

A ProPublica Illinois and Chicago Tribune investigation published Tuesday revealed schools across the state are placing students in "isolated timeouts" for unlawful reasons. The law allows employees to seclude students only if they pose a safety threat to themselves or others.

The story documents incidents where school employees illegally secluded students to punish them for swearing, spilling milk, or refusing to do classwork.

"We shouldn't go another 24 hours without getting a good handle on what we need to do to protect these children across the state," said Pritzker.

The governor said he's directing the Illinois State Board of Education to craft emergency rules to end the practice.

Illinois State Superintendent Carmen Alaya said in her weekly message Tuesday that "all students need to feel safe" and learn in "trauma-free" environments.

"ISBE condemns the unlawful use of time-out and restraint, which includes using these practices as punishment. ISBE will take action against any school district that is violating the law," she wrote. "The Illinois State Board of Education will take immediate steps to address this urgent problem and implement stronger protections for students’ mental, physical, and social-emotional health."

ProPublica Illinois and the Tribune examined thousands of records detailing more than 20,000 isolation incidents in the 2017-18 school year and through December 2018.

Pritzker spoke to reporters Wednesday in Chicago. 

Copyright 2019 WCBU

Tim Shelley is the Assignment Editor and Digital Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.