Testimony in Support of Illinois SB2296

Good afternoon. My name is Guy Stephens. I am the executive director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint, a community of over 12,000 parents, teachers, school administrators, and others who are working together to influence change to better support children while eliminating restraint and seclusion practices. I know firsthand how the use of restraint and seclusion affects children and their families. I ask you today to support SB2296.   

Restraint and seclusion are intended as crisis management interventions. While meant as measures of last resort in situations that involve a high likelihood of imminent serious physical harm (a life or death injury), these interventions are commonly used for non-compliance, disrespect, and minor behaviors as was seen in the Chicago Tribune/ProPublica investigation. The use of these interventions can lead to significant trauma and injuries to students, teachers, and staff. Tragically many children have even died due to the use of restraint in schools designed to support them.  

The most dangerous form of restraint is the prone restraint. Prone restraint is a face-down restraint that can cause positional asphyxia. We have seen some private schools in Illinois state that prone restraint is safe and therapeutic. This is simply not true. Let me say this clearly, restraint is NEVER without risks, regardless of training or experience. When an individual is restrained they will enter into a fight or flight mode, and struggle for survival which poses substantial risks to all involved. Even the companies that provide training in the use of restraint acknowledge the risks. The Crisis Prevention Institute state in their documentation that it is important that staff fully understand the adverse impact physical interventions, including:

  • Psychosocial Injury
  • Soft-Tissue Injury
  • Bony Injury
  • Respiratory Restriction
  • Cardiovascular Compromise

You may wonder if prone restraint is dangerous what might lead some parents to advocate against a ban on prone restraint. Many of these parents have been led to believe that prone restraint is necessary and safe. A number of schools in Illinois have informed parents that if they are unable to use prone restraint that they will not be able to serve their children and suggested that they will need to call the police or send their children home if challenging behaviors occur. Parents are led to believe that these schools are their only hope and that prone restraint is necessary.    

Prone restraint is not the only option, there are far better ways to support children and avoid the need for crisis management. Programs such as Collaborative and Proactive Solutions, Ukeru, and The Neurosequential Model can be used to reduce and eliminate restraint and seclusion practices.  

In Illinois, one might look at The Soaring Eagle Academy in Lombard. Soaring Eagles serves a similar population of children to other schools that insist that they need prone restraint, yet prone restraint is not used. What is different at the Soaring Eagles Academy? It begins with a difference in philosophy and culture. At the Soaring Eagles Academy, they utilize The Developmental, Individual Difference, Relationship-based Model to build healthy social, emotional, and intellectual capacities.  

Change is hard, and some schools are resistant to change because they can not imagine doing things differently. However, we know it is possible. Thirty-one states now ban the use of prone restraint. We must ban it now without exceptions.

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