Illinois schools don't just lock special ed kids in solitary, they also restrain them

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/12/20/pinned-unable-to-breathe.html

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This makes my blood boil. If “enhanced restraining” was used on my kid I’d put the teacher in the hospital and take the jail time.

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My sister is one such a teacher in IL.

Never heard of the quiet rooms, and certainly restraint techniques do not involve anything resembling tackling (her kids love her to demo at family gatherings). Restraint techniques are used when kids become a danger to themselves or others, but, yes, the techniques could be abused and even used properly a child might be pinned for 30 minutes if they continue to behave violently.

Sent her this for her take. Will update when I hear back.

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Isn’t illegal for a parent to do this? Wouldn’t that get child protective services called? If so, that should be the minimum thresh hold for dealing with kids, don’t do anything their parents can’t do! Easy!

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I see a number of problems here. Yes, prone restraint is very dangerous as it can cause positional asphyxia, especially when you are talking about an adult restraining a child.
But the problem that I think is the core of the issue is that the average teacher doesn’t have adequate training to deal with special needs kids. They don’t know how to de-escalate a situation and don’t understand that using force to compel compliance is usually going to backfire.

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Until recently I was a middle school paraeducator (teacher’s aide) in a program for diploma bound students with an array of special needs-- autism, Aspergers, Tourettes, adhd, and emotional disability. The last one, as far as I can tell, means a student that throws violent tantrums. This is problematic with a 1st grader, but a much different problem with a 250 lb 8th grader. We had one kid flip over a desk/chair unit with another student still seated in it. Generally, when a student erupts, we would clear the room and if need be, let the student act out their anger on objects, not people. But sometimes, we had to restrain a student before he could injure himself or others. In my county, I had many hours of training about this issue. Alternatives to restraint were heavily emphasized. Various techniques for de-escalation were demonstrated and practiced. Training also emphasized that ALL restraints put students (and myself) at risk of injury. Prone restraints were banned by policy and state law. If a student flopped on the floor, we were required to back off. Whenever a restraint was used, strict reporting requirements dictated documentation and communication with the parents or guardians. We had a “Student Support Center” where a student would be placed if they couldn’t stop endangering others. It was an empty room, a cell, if you will, with a door. There was no lock on the door- many times I would have to stand at the door, holding it closed while observing the student through the glass. The student would be told things like, sit quietly for two minutes and you can come out of “SSC.” The whole point was to teach the student self control. But if the student was peeing on the floor, spitting at the window and hauling on the doorknob, and screaming, of course we couldn’t let the student out. And yet, even then there was a time limit. After 30 minutes, we HAD to let the kid out.

After any restraint, the school health tech had to come and observe the student’s breathing. Usually the student would yell something at the health tech like “Fuck off and die.” She would then note that the student was breathing normally.

Most of my time in that job was helping students learn math. I liked that part of it. But I really hated those times when I went home with a bloody shin, questioning whether traditional school was really what that kid needed, and wondering if my family was now vulnerable to a lawsuit for a job that paid less than $20/hour.

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I am not sure about all the teachers at all the IL special ed schools, but my sister and the friend I know with a similar job go through a ton of training.

It is my understanding that a regular teacher does not generally just get hired for special ed without all of that additional training to become a Special Ed Teacher.

I did get a reply from my sister, which seemed to be along the lines of the state of IL having basically fine standards and practices but all of a sudden the state of IL started getting bad press and using the same language as the CPI (crisis prevention institute?), and retraining to use mysteriously similar practices. There may be more to the story. She had nothing to say about quiet rooms.

ETA: Whatever CPI is is apparently buying off the governor which is the genesis of these stories and new regs.

By the way, if you have a few extra bucks this holiday season, ProPublica is a fine organization and is doing what our traditional news media increasingly don’t do. I am a donor to them.

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I’m a high school social studies teacher in a rural community. I have a tiny, windowless room and six classes that vary in size from 27 to 31 students. I have one class of 30 students, of which seven are special needs (that doesn’t include the students who have 504 plans). It is only I in the classroom. It’s a nightmare class. It’s not an exaggeration to state that 90% of my time is spent on the seven special needs kids, most of whom were born to meth- or opioid-addicted parents. I spend an inordinate amount of time yelling because that is all that gets their attention. I’m sure there are theoretical techniques that some pedagogical expert has developed to create an environment of understanding and open communication with these kids, but I can tell them where to stick it. It’s simply unfair to have these kids in a mainstream classroom.

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are we really surprised @doctorow?

tech savvy at risk youth, rise up against your oppressors. it does not get better unless you speak out.

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do any of these kids have IEPS? if so “i’m just going to scream at them” isn’t just ill advised, it’s a violation of their rights.

but hey, they’re just poor children of addicts, they don’t know you can get lawyers on contingency, and we live in a society that responds to incentives, not laws

[insert shrug emoji here]

the problem is that definition gets twisted. tell a student to leave the room and they refuse? they’re not following directions, so they’re out of control, so they’re a danger. there’s all sorts of loopholes that folks invent, just like outside schools police will gin up fake PC knowing most folks don’t know their rights (or have the resources to sue if they do know them).

In many states corporal punishment is legal, and the police will not invervene if the child has no marks on their body. Conversely if you fight back against a parent and they get a single scratch you will be thrown into the juvenile “justice” system.

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i’m curious what year/state this was, i know folks who had severe injuries during prone restraints

I am an educator who works in an education system. The education system must function for the community. Education is a local/state matter. If people at the local/state level don’t wish to fund an education system that can accommodate these behaviors, then those behaviors must be removed so the system can function. That’s life. And, also, good luck convincing any court system raising one’s voice to a non-compliant student is a violation of their rights. Good luck with that.

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federal law conflicts with your emotional beliefs

if you scream at a child instead of following their IEP, yes, the court will side with the child. And a lawyer may even take the case on contingency aka basically free - happy to help!

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There is reality and there is theory. I deal with reality every day in the classroom. My administrators deal with reality. The reality is how many of these parents actually attend the annual 504 or IEP meetings? Most of the time, we literally have to call the parent on their mobile phone and conduct the meeting in 10 minutes because we can’t get the parent to come in. So, you wanna guess what percentage of parents actually care what’s in the IEP? Close to zero because it has nothing to do with drugs. Am I sorry we have all these kids born as they are? Sure. Do we have the resources to be their surrogate parents? No, we do not. We are an education system. We are there to educate. If they prevent us from achieving that mission to the community, that’s that.

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Sounds like the system is failing these kids and it’s failing you. You’re clearly not getting the support you need to make the class safe and effective learning environment for all of your students.

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What’s failed these kids is: 1. Their families and 2. Society. The blame gets placed on education systems, but that’s because the families and society have tried to push these responsibilities onto the education system. It’s not going to work.

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The education system does not fall outside of society, though. It’s a product of it, much like these families. Most likely, the parents of these kids were likewise failed by the educational system, which is a product of our society. These are ongoing cycles that continue to produce poor outcomes for working class communities, especially working class communities of color. Because there are lower levels of home ownership, there are less resources to pour into these schools, and the families themselves often have less time to devote to being supportive of their children’s education. Plus, they’ve most likely never felt like these institutions cared about them or their communities, so why take it seriously in the first place?

And yes, if you’re not getting the support you need for running your classroom effectively, you are being failed as well.

That doesn’t mean the educational system doesn’t have it’s own problems, shaped by the society in which it exists. The education system exists in part to replicate the society in which it exists.

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If a child has cancer, would you send the child to a General Practitioner or run-of-the-mill pediatrician? You’d start there, but ultimately, no. You’d send them to a specialist. I’m the educational equivalent of a GP. These kids have serious problems. I am one of the adults who spends the most time with them. I can ‘diagnose’ that. Do they need more help than I can offer them? Yes. Would more money thrown at their situation improve their lot. Yes. Is that going to happen? No. I’m telling you: the education system, except in the wealthiest of districts, is entirely unequipped to do what you’re ideals are promoting. The problem isn’t educational or rooted in education.

Yes, I realize that. It’s what I’m saying.

It is, in so much as our education system was created in our society. It was developed over decades in a mass society, that assumes that there is a “normal person” that everyone should fit, that is also classist and racist as hell. There is no getting around that fact.

I get what you’re saying about theory vs. reality, especially as you’re on the front lines of these issues. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the root of the problems you’re facing. I understand that we need practical solutions to these problems, and that it’s entirely unfair that you’re being asked to do what you’re doing (which is why I’m saying the system has failed you too). But we can’t solve the problems if we don’t understand why they are problems in the first place.

So, yes, because our educational system was created in our society, it has many of the same problems of our society (including not serving the those with the least resources already). Maybe making positive changes to the educational system will help us transform our society, though.

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