by Frank Conklin, The Chicago Times

August 15, 2021

SPRINGFIELD — Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 219 into law on Friday to foster safe and inclusive classrooms. The bill seeks to end the use of physical restraints to discipline students in public schools.  The legislation, which has received widespread bipartisan support, aims to eliminate solitary confinement and other restrictive interventions within three years, while also expanding school-based training and accountability for these practices.

According to Pritzker “Our students deserve a safe and quality education, no matter their zip code, background, or learning ability . . . The use of dangerous, physically restrictive discipline on our students runs entirely counter to that mission. It is appalling and entirely unacceptable – and it must be brought to an end in Illinois. This legislation ensures that our schools are meeting the needs of all students as we uphold our obligation to educate and protect all of Illinois’ children.”

The bill prohibits prone restraint, a type of behavioral intervention in which pressure is applied to hold an individual’s face down.  To allow for a gradual phase-out, prone restraint may be permitted only as an emergency measure until the end of the 2021-22 school year.

The use of medical and chemical restraint is also prohibited by the bill.

The legislation requires that timeouts, isolated timeouts, and other forms of physical restraint be used only if a student’s behavior poses an immediate danger to the individual student or others, and that the school staff member using the invention tactic be trained in its safe application.

To ensure long-term change, the measure will impose stricter staff training requirements as well as increased accountability, transparency, and reporting requirements for these practices in the future.

The bill directs the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to develop a plan by 2024 to significantly reduce the use of such practices. ISBE will also establish, subject to appropriations, a grant program for school districts to implement culturally sensitive, trauma-informed interventions, and restorative practices within a multi-tiered support system.  Priority grant funding for staff training is available to school districts that develop plans more quickly.