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  • NASW-IL Staff

NASW-IL Advocacy at Work: Governor Signs HB219, Making Safer Learning Environments for Students

Thank you to Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, State Senator Ann Gillespie, and State Representative Jonathan Carroll and the support of NASW-Illinois Chapter members—their collective effort resulted in the signing of House Bill 219 (HB219) into law today, thus ending the use of physical restraints to discipline students in Illinois schools. The legislation, on which the NASW-Illinois Chapter was a lead coalition member, aims to eliminate solitary time out and other restrictive interventions within three years, expanding training and accountability in schools as it relates to these practices. The law goes into effect immediately.

The support of our members and 2021 Advocacy Day attendees who contacted their state legislators to get this bill passed was essential in getting HB219 to the governor's desk today. If you want to continue seeing bills like these pass which greatly impact the social work profession, please consider adding strength to our legislative voice by becoming a member today. Find out more about joining NASW here or click here to join.

Learn More about HB219:

"Our students deserve a safe and quality education, no matter their zip code, background, or learning ability," said Governor JB Pritzker. "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 bans prone restraint—a method of behavioral intervention where pressure is applied to hold an individual's face down. To allow for a phase out of the practice, prone restraint may only be permitted as an emergency measure until the end of the 2021-22 school year. The bill also prohibits the use of medical and chemical restraint.

"Illinois continues to take action to strengthen protections for student safety at school," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. "Improper use of time out and restraint can have devastating consequences for students and has no place in Illinois schools. We are committed to ensuring schools have all the support they need to implement safe and appropriate behavioral interventions in crisis situations."

The legislation ensures that timeouts, isolated timeouts and other forms of physical restraint may only be used if a student's behavior is an imminent danger to the individual student or to others, and the school staff member applying the invention tactic must be trained in its safe application.

To ensure lasting change, the measure will institute stronger requirements for staff training and greater accountability, transparency and reporting requirements for these practices moving forward. Furthermore, the bill directs the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to develop a plan to significantly reduce the use of such practices by 2024. ISBE will also create a grant program, subject to appropriations, for school districts to implement culturally sensitive, trauma-informed interventions, and restorative practices within a multi-tiered system of support. School districts that develop plans more quickly are eligible for priority grant funding for staff training.

"This law makes a commitment to our most vulnerable students that their school will be a safe learning environment," said State Senator Ann Gillespie (D-Arlington Heights). "No child should be subject to abuse at school."

"As a child who experienced the evils of isolated time out and restraint, and now a legislator who's able to help end these horrific practices, I can say that today is my proudest day as a public servant. No child should ever have to feel that way again," said State Representative Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook). "I want to thank ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune for raising awareness of this issue and holding us accountable. I also want to thank Senator Gillespie for her tireless work on this journey. Finally, I'd like to thank Governor Pritzker for signing this into law."

HB 219 is effective immediately.

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