CHICAGO – Members of the joint bipartisan Illinois Senate and House Education Committees met Tuesday to examine the abuse of seclusion rooms in public schools.

Members of the joint bipartisan Illinois Senate and House Education Committee

State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights) introduced Senate Bill 2315 to ban the use of these rooms as a punitive measure.

“We must end the abusive practice of de facto solitary confinement and improper use of restraints,” Gillespie said. “At the same time we must meet the unique needs of students, honor their dignity and ensure a safe environment for all. This is the needle we must thread with our legislation, and I look forward to working closely with all the stakeholders to achieve immediate and sustainable changes to the culture and practices in our schools.”

Senate Chairperson Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) convened the committee to hear testimony from a number of key education stakeholders, including the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Association of Social Workers, Equip for Equality and Illinois Education Association, along with many others.

“The alarming number of reported violations of the use of isolation rooms in our schools is absurd,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “The goal of our committee is to keep our students safe and ensure the needs of the school population are met. While we cannot simply ignore safety protocols, we need to certify our educators are well-trained in techniques and procedures, and are supported by proper staffing numbers. Our children deserve the best opportunities to be successful, and that can’t happen while this misconduct occurs.”

A report released by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois found that school officials disciplined misbehaving children by locking them in seclusion rooms alone, sometimes for hours. The practice has been found to be harmful to children’s well-being.

The governor’s office has issued an emergency ban on the practice. Gillespie, Bertino-Tarrant and other members of the General Assembly are working to ensure the proper steps are taken to keep children safe in classrooms across the state.

Senate Bill 2315 will be reviewed by the House and Senate Education Committees during the upcoming legislative session.