The re­volv­ing door

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAN­D -

By 8:35 a.m. on Dec. 19, 2017, all five of the time­out “booths” at Bridges Learn­ing Cen­ter near Cen­tralia were al­ready full. School had been in ses­sion for five min­utes.

Each booth is about 6 by 8 feet, with a steel door. That day, one held a boy who had hung on a bas­ket­ball rim and swore at staff when they told him to stop. In an­other, a boy who had used “raised voice tones.”

Two boys were be­ing held be­cause they hadn’t fin­ished class­work. In­side the fifth room was a boy who had tried to “pro­voke” other stu­dents when he got off a bus. Staff told him he’d be back again “to serve 15 min­utes ev­ery morn­ing due to his ir­ra­tional be­hav­ior.”

None of those rea­sons for seclu­sion is per­mit­ted un­der Illi­nois law.

Yet, over the course of that one day, the rooms stayed busy, with two turn­ing over like ta­bles in a restau­rant, emp­ty­ing and re­fill­ing four times. The other three were oc­cu­pied for longer pe­ri­ods, as long as five hours for the boy who hung off the bas­ket­ball rim. In all, Bridges staff iso­lated stu­dents 20 times.

Seclu­sion is sup­posed to be rare, a last re­sort. But at Bridges, part of the Kaskaskia Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion Dis­trict in south­ern Illi­nois, and at many other schools, it was of­ten the de­fault re­sponse.

Bridges used seclu­sion 1,288 times in the 15 months of school that re­porters ex­am­ined. The school has about 65 stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to the Tribune/ProPublica Illi­nois anal­y­sis of Bridges records, 72% of the seclu­sions were not prompted by a safety is­sue, as the law re­quires.

“There were kids there ev­ery day,” said Bran­don Sk­ib­in­ski, who worked as a para­pro­fes­sional at Bridges for part of the 2018-19 school year. “I didn’t think that was the best prac­tice. I don’t know what the best prac­tices are, though.”

Cassie Clark, who heads the Kaskaskia Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion Dis­trict, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment about the dis­trict’s prac­tices.

In nearly 6,000 of the in­ci­dents re­porters an­a­lyzed from schools across the state, stu­dents were se­cluded only be­cause they were dis­rup­tive, dis­re­spect­ful, not fol­low­ing di­rec­tions, not par­tic­i­pat­ing in class or a com­bi­na­tion of those rea­sons.

“That is clearly not good prac­tice,” said Kevin Ruben­stein, pres­i­dent of the Illi­nois Al­liance of Ad­min­is­tra­tors of Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion, which rep­re­sents 1,200 pub­lic and pri­vate spe­cial-ed­u­ca­tion ad­min­is­tra­tors in

The Belleville Area Spe­cial Ser­vices Co­op­er­a­tive, near St. Louis, has two time­out rooms. Scratch marks are vis­i­ble in the pad­ding and on the ob­ser­va­tion win­dow.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.