These schools did away with seclusion and restraint. They say Illinois can too.

April 13, 2020

*This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

When the student burst out of the school and bolted through the parking lot, workers followed closely but did not try to grab him.

Clutching his teddy bear, the 18-year-old scrambled to the top of a brick pillar at the school gate. He spit in the adults’ faces, yelling that he was going to hurt himself.

The commotion drew neighbors and police to the entrance of the school, employees later recalled about the incident, which occurred earlier this year. Even then, they didn’t pull the teenager off the pillar, order him down or threaten to punish him.

Instead, they asked how they could help. After a few minutes, he came down on his own. He had wanted to call his mother, the workers later learned, but got upset and ran off when he couldn’t express that.

Back inside the school, the teenager returned to class. He was not locked in a room alone as punishment or to prevent him from attempting to leave again. Nor did anyone try to physically restrain him at any point in the process.

Secluding and restraining students was once standard procedure at the Ruth Birch School, much as it is now at many schools across Illinois. And just as Illinois currently finds itself in turmoil over the use of these practices, Ruth Birch grappled with the same dilemma 17 years ago. But the nonprofit organization that runs this private school and two others, as well as other residential and psychiatric facilities in Virginia, did what Illinois has not yet chosen to do: stopped using seclusion and restraint.

Read the full article here.