Additional Changes to Isolated Timeout, Timeout, and Physical Restraint Practices Pass Both Houses and Await the Governor’s Signature

On May 30, 2021, both the Senate and the House passed House Bill 219 (“HB 219”), amending the Illinois School Code regarding the use of isolated timeout, timeout, and physical restraint interventions in public schools, special education cooperatives, and special education non-public facilities (also known as therapeutic day schools). While the new legislation codifies several provisions of the ISBE’s permanent rules promulgated on April 9, 2020, it also adds new requirements, including establishment of goals for schools to reduce and eliminate the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint within three years; oversight at the State level to ensure school-based compliance; additional complaint procedures; progressive enforcement actions for documentation and notification requirements; and limited continued use of prone restraint. On June 15, 2021, HB 219 was sent to Governor Pritzker and will take effect immediately if/when the Governor signs the legislation into law.

The most significant changes under HB 219 compared to ISBE’s April 2020 permanent rules include the following:

  • ISBE must establish goals, with specific benchmarks, within 90 days after the effective date of this legislation for schools to systemically reduce the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint within three years.
  • In addition, each school board must create a time out and physical restraint oversight team, consisting of teachers, paraprofessionals, school service personnel, and administrators, to develop and implement a school-specific plan for reducing and eventually eliminating the use of these interventions in accordance with the goals and benchmarks established by ISBE.
  • School districts must submit an annual report to ISBE for three years after the effective date of this Act regarding progress made toward achieving the goals and benchmarks established by ISBE. A school is exempt from this annual reporting requirement if the school can demonstrate within the previous three years that it has never engaged in the use of these interventions and adopted and enforced a written policy that prohibits the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint.
  • Schools may continue to use prone restraints during the 2021-2022 school year, but only where a student’s behavior plan (“BIP”), drafted prior to January 1, 2021, specifically allowed for the use of prone restraint, and only after other de-escalation techniques in the BIP were documented to be ineffective.
  • Following an incident of isolated time out, time out, or physical restraint, but no later than two school days after the incident, the principal or another designated administrator must notify the student’s parent/guardian that s/he may request a meeting, separate and apart from the IEP process, with appropriate school personnel to discuss the incident, including the student, staff involved in the incident, and an appropriate staff member not involved in the incident. The school must also convene this meeting within two school days after the request and provide a written summary and any agreements/conclusions reached during the meeting to the parent and maintain a copy in the student’s school records.
  • Schools must adhere to additional documentation/reporting requirements and provide additional parental notices regarding standards for when isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint may be used, parental rights, and the complaint process.
  • ISBE must create a complaint procedure for suspected violations of its rules, including sanctions for schools failing to comply and timely report incidents to parents and ISBE, and, subject to funding, create a grant program to implement culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed practices, including positive behavioral supports and restorative practices.
  • ISBE may contract with a third-party vendor to oversee and monitor the use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraints by school districts.

Please note ISBE’s April 2020 permanent rules (see previous HLERK article here), remain in effect until Governor Pritzker signs HB 219 into law. Once effective, although HB 219 allows for the continued use of isolated time out, time out, and physical restraint, school districts and schools must work proactively now to train staff in alternative de-escalation techniques to reduce and eliminate the use of such interventions within the next three years.

We will continue to monitor the status of HB 219 and any subsequent ISBE rules. For more information regarding the use of isolated timeout, timeout, and physical restraint interventions, staff training, and/or required documentation and reports, please contact Jessica Nguyen, Aimee LeBlanc, or any attorney in our Students/Special Education practice group.

 

Source: H.B. 219