I had the opportunity to provide testimony to the education committee of the Illinois State Senate on May 18th, 2021. Below is the testimony.
Hello, my name is Guy Stephens. I am the founder and executive director of the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint. I started the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint two and a half years ago, because my autistic son was traumatized through the use of restraint and seclusion at school. Today the Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint is a community of over 13,000 parents, self-advocates, teachers, administrators, attorneys, and others working to reduce the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. We supported the original legislation however we are opposed to the legislation HB 219 as amended.
We all want safer schools for students, teachers, and staff. No one wants to see a student, teacher, or staff member injured or worse. We recognize that people choose to work in education because they want to help children. No one wants to restrain or seclude a child. Why then does it continue to happen? Change is hard, even for schools, but sometimes it is necessary. However, sometimes schools are resistant to change. Such is the case with some schools and the use of prone restraint.
Prone restraint is dangerous. It can lead to severe trauma and significant injuries in students, teachers, and staff. While school staff sometimes report that they need to use restraint to keep everyone safe, the data tells a different story. Students, teachers, and staff are much more likely to be injured when restraint techniques are used. Prone restraint has also led to the death of many children including Cornelius Frederick, Max Benson, Michael Renner-Lewis III, Angelika Arndt, Corey Foster, and others. To date over thirty states have prohibited the use of prone restraint in schools because it is dangerous.
In January the Director of Educational Services at the Marklund Day School in Geneva, Illinois submitted a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune in which she suggested that prone restraint is safe and therapeutic. In front of the house committee testimony was submitted suggesting that some children had benefited from the use of prone restraint. These are both ridiculous statements. Prone restraint is a high-risk crisis management approach not a therapeutic or beneficial practice. Change is hard but sometimes necessary. There are far better things that schools can begin doing today. Prone restraint is not necessary.
Simply put prone restraint is deadly force. Do you believe that we should continue to allow schools to utilize deadly force on our most at-risk children – children with a trauma history, disabled children, and Black and Brown children. No, we can and must do better. Schools will still have tools to ensure safety in crisis situations without using prone restraint. It is time to stop fighting progress and time to support better ways of working with children. Over 18 months have passed since investigative journalists brought attention to this issue. The schools that are fighting the ban, what have they done to find better ways to support the children in their care.
Change is hard, but it is necessary, we must ban prone restraint immediately.