Jennifer Smith Richards

“I Can’t Breathe.” It Happens at Schools, Too.

Students in Illinois schools said “I can’t breathe” while being restrained at least 30 times over the time period we investigated, according to our analysis of the records. The practice of face-down restraint is still legal in Illinois.

Bill to Ban Seclusion and Face-Down Restraints in Illinois Schools Gets Sidelined After Pushback From Administrators

After months of debate, lawmakers did not vote on a bill that would have banned the use of seclusion and restraint in Illinois schools. Administrators argued meeting with families for each incident burdens school workers.

More Than 1 in 5 Illinoisans Living in State Homes for Adults With Disabilities Have Tested Positive for the Coronavirus

In Illinois, at least 355 people who live in state-run homes for adults with disabilities have tested positive for the coronavirus. “They don’t know why their family has stopped coming to visit,” a relative said.

Families of Special Needs Students Fear They’ll Lose School Services in Coronavirus Shutdown

In letters to parents of special education students, some Illinois school districts are asking them to accept scaled-back remote learning plans or waive their rights to “free appropriate public education.”

This Rural School District Has Been Asking for Wi-Fi for Years. Now It’s Finally Getting It.

An anonymous individual donated a dozen internet hotspots. A school district near Chicago is sending Chromebooks. And a superintendent in rural Illinois is stunned by the support to keep his students learning.

How Often Do Schools Use Seclusion and Restraint? The Federal Government Isn’t Properly Tracking the Data, According to a New Report

A new report from the Government Accountability Office found the U.S. Department of Education’s attempts to determine how often schools use seclusion and restraint were “largely ineffective or do not exist.” That could put children at risk.

Most Illinois School Districts Did Not Have Approved E-learning Plans Before the Pandemic

Despite encouragement from Illinois education officials to have remote e-learning plans, many school districts scrambled to design them before the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to close.

How a School Stopped Relying on Restraining and Isolating Students — and What Others Can Learn From It

Some Illinois schools say they need to keep using dangerous forms of physical restraint and student isolation. Here’s how one school system in Virginia successfully shifted its entire approach to safety — from face-down holds to bubble baths.

Lawmakers Vow to Push for a Statewide Ban on Face-Down Restraint of Children in Illinois Schools, Despite Reversal

After a group of schools pressured the Illinois State Board of Education to reverse its ban on a dangerous form of physical restraint of students, lawmakers say they’ll seek to permanently ban the practice.

Illinois Quietly Reversed Its Ban on a Dangerous Physical Restraint for Students

After a ProPublica Illinois and Chicago Tribune investigation sparked a statewide ban on some forms of seclusion and restraint of students, a small group of schools lobbied against the measure. And it worked.

An Employee at an Illinois School We Reported On Has Been Charged With Battering a 7-Year-Old Boy

A ProPublica and Chicago Tribune investigation found that schools throughout the state misused seclusion and restraint tactics against Illinois children. The criminal case is the second in the last year of an employee charged with mistreating a child.

Not All Schools Can #KeepLearning

While educators promote online learning as coronavirus spreads, some Illinois students aren’t equipped with the broadband to even notice.

Illinois Adopts Stricter Rules Against Secluding and Physically Restraining Students in Schools

The state board of education stopped short of a complete ban on seclusion after a small number of special education schools asked for more leeway in dealing with students.

School Employees Have Used Isolated Timeouts Illegally, State Investigations Find

In six of eight districts investigators examined, they found that workers broke the law by improperly secluding students. Parents say the investigations, which were prompted by a Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois story, have not gone far enough.

Illinois Lawmakers Are Calling for a Nationwide Ban on Isolated Timeouts of Students

Four states currently ban the practice of secluding students at school. Illinois lawmakers want Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to make it 50. “This shouldn’t be controversial,” said U.S. Rep. Sean Casten.

Educators Push to Ban Seclusion of Students and Shift School Culture

Educators who testified before Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday agreed: Shutting students inside closet-sized rooms as punishment is never OK.

Inside a Training Course Where School Workers Learn How to Physically Restrain Students

While reporting on the use of physical restraint in schools, I wanted to understand if school workers properly used their training in the classroom. They often did not.

Schools Aren’t Supposed to Forcibly Restrain Children as Punishment. In Illinois, It Happened Repeatedly.

As Illinois moves to restrict the use of physical restraint in schools, records show the practice was often misused, leaving students and staff injured.

How We Reported This Story

We created the first-ever database of thousands of incidents of restraint and seclusion in Illinois.

A 7-Year-Old Complained About a Scary Office at School. This Is the Video His Parents Saw — a Month Later.

“I want accountability,” the boy’s father said. The video prompted one of 21 investigations into abuse at an Illinois school that secluded students more than 1,700 times last school year.

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