Illinois school personnel can now temporarily use a type of previously-banned physical restraint on students if necessary. A few state lawmakers Monday said they’re “disappointed” in that decision to roll back the ban.
The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, or JCAR, quietly met and approved rolling back a ban on what’s called prone restraint -- where staff force a student to the ground and pin them lying face-down. The Illinois State Board of Education began limiting restraints several months ago, after media reports exposed they were often being used without cause.
State Senator Ann Gillespie, a Democrat from Arlington Heights, says even though a majority of schools remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing prone restraints could put students in danger when they return.
“Eventually the schools are going to open back up again,” Gillespie said. “We don’t know if it’ll be this term or not, but eventually they’re going to open back up again and we need to do what we can to prevent the abuses that were occurring from happening when school is back in session.”
Gillespie is one of the state lawmakers carrying a measure to ban or severely limit restraining techniques altogether. That measure would also require the Illinois State Board of Education to more closely monitor their limited use.
Prone restraints, she argued, are particularly bad.
"There’s a consensus in the medical community that prone restraints are very unsafe, to the point where they’re not being used in psychiatric facilities, to a large degree,” she said.
State Rep. Jonathan Carroll, a Democrat from Northbrook, is sponsoring a similar measure in the Illinois House.
"We've been working in good faith with all stakeholders to ensure that students are protected, and this decision [to allow prone restraint] undermines all that work," Carroll said in a statement Monday.
Schools will only be able to use those restraints for one more school year under the new rules. ISBE spokesperson Jackie Matthews said staff must stop restraining any student once “the threat of imminent serious physical harm ends.”
Only those who are trained in prone restraint can perform the move, and they must be monitored by another person who's trained. The restraint can't be used on anyone who's medical condition would prohibit it.
“ISBE absolutely will revisit the use of prone restraint either through legislation or future rule-making before the one-year extension expires,” Matthews said.