Illinois is allowing a controversial protocol in schools that was once prohibited.
According to Fox32, schools will be able to restrain challenging students by “physically holding them face-down on the floor” during the next academic year. The policy was decided upon in a deal with the State Board of Education and a legislative rule-making committee called The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
Initially, what was called prone restraints was banned after a joint Chicago Tribune and ProPubilca Illinois investigation on the use of seclusion and restraint in schools. However, the ban is set to expire this month.
Some small schools didn’t support the ban, arguing that the use of prone restraints can help challenging students to settle down. The debate over the issue occurred between the State Board of Education and The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which is a bipartisan panel of 12 lawmakers that reviews new and existing rules proposed by state agencies. The two entities reached an agreement that allows prone restraints during the next academic year with the goal of phasing it out by July 2021.
“ISBE absolutely will revisit the use of prone restraint either through legislation or future rulemaking before the one year-extension expires,” State Board of Education spokeswoman Jackie Matthews explained in an email to the Chicago Tribune. The practice could still be banned in the future due to pending legislation and this would override the joint committee’s decision.
The investigation by The ProPublica Illinois-Tribune reported more than 35,000 seclusion and restraint incidents involving students in 100 school districts over a 15-month period. Although state law allowed restraint and seclusion when students were a danger to themselves or others, the investigation discovered that one out of every three incidents didn’t cite a safety reason.
The Board of Education notified school officials in an email that they should “actively pursue” alternatives to prone restraints.
Heather Calomese, the agency’s executive director of programs, said prone restraint is too dangerous to use and a safety risk to both staff and students. She said that staff members “could potentially block an airway.”
“They could put pressure on a part of a body that would restrict airflow,” she continued.
In places like New York, police have disproportionately arrested and restrained students of color at public schools even as the crime rates at the school started to decline. The reports prove more chilling considering this was the same state where Eric Garner suffocated and died when restrained by NYPD officers. His pleas of “I can’t breathe” became one rallying call for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Chicago public schools have also made headlines for in-school officers handling students with excessive force or outright violence. According to a March 2018 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Black students, boys, and students with disabilities were disproportionately disciplined (e.g., suspensions and expulsions) in K-12 public schools,” according to national civil rights date for the 2013-2014 school year.
“These disparities were widespread and persisted regardless of the type of disciplinary action, level of school poverty, or type of public school attended,” the report continued. “For example, Black students accounted for 15.5 percent of all public school students, but represented about 39 percent of students suspended from school—an overrepresentation of about 23 percentage points (see figure).”
Clearly, when it comes to topics of discipline or restraint, racial data must be taken into consideration so that the most vulnerable don’t face dire consequences.