Testimony heard Tuesday after investigation into state ‘time out rooms’ at public schools

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CHICAGO — The practice of isolation and restraint in Illinois public schools is controversial and has been around for years.

After an explosive investigation by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica, some lawmakers said it’s the “time out rooms” that need to be sent away.

State lawmakers held a hearing Tuesday on a bill that would ban the use of solitary confinement rooms in public schools as a form of punishment.

45-year-old State Representative Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook) disclosed that he had been confined in a “quiet room” when he was a student.

“Being touched was very difficult, being alone was very hard, and it took me a very long time to figure that out,” Carroll said. “And the reason why is I was put in isolation timeout as a child. I was physically restrained as a child.”

The Chicago Tribune’s and ProPublica’s investigation found that the practice of locking students in seclusion rooms, sometimes for hours at a time, happened 20,000 times in Illinois public schools in less than two years.

State law says schools can only seclude for safety reasons, but there’s been almost no oversight.

22-year-old Joey Magyar detailed a restraint incident he said he suffered through four years ago at his special education school in the northwest suburbs.

“I wasn’t following orders and they were holding me against the wall,” Magyar said. “I just remember wanting to run, wanting to leave and wanting to get away from it all.”

Education experts questioned whether seclusion is an effective way to manage challenging behavior, especially those with special needs.

State Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur), who is a former teacher, wants to ensure that teachers’ actions aren’t criminalized if they’re dealing with out-of-control children posing physical threats to themselves or others.

“We have to protect everyone,” Scherer said. “The teacher, the student, all students that are involved.”

19 states prohibit some form of seclusion at school. Four states ban the seclusion rooms altogether.

Testimony at Tuesday’s hearing will help shape a bill that will eventually be voted on.

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