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Illinois lawmaker, put in isolation rooms as a student, files bill banning ‘barbaric’ practice in public schools


As a boy, Jonathan Carroll was put in isolation rooms at school, now as a 45-year-old Illinois lawmaker, he’s filed legislation to ban what he called a “barbaric” practice.

The Northbrook Democrat – a former special education teacher – learned this week from Chicago Tribune-ProPublica report that the practice was not only still being used, but commonplace in some of the state’s public schools. 

“I didn’t realize the extent that it was still being used and abused,” he said. 

Investigative reporters pored over thousands of records from schools in every corner of Illinois, finding that schools would send children as young as 5 into these secluded rooms for hours at a time, something Carroll said was similar to solitary confinement in prisons. 

“That’s what we use for people who are the worst criminals, isolation,” he said. “And, we’re going to apply that to kids that are in a bad place? It’s so harsh.” 

Many schools didn’t keep accurate records of the events or sent children to isolation rooms for reasons not allowed under state law, according to the investigation.

Carroll’s legislation would ban the practice. On Wednesday, the Illinois State Board of Education announced an emergency rule to stop the practice. Carroll said he expects to see some resistance to his legislation from administrators. 

In a personal post, Carrol wrote that, diagnosed with ADHD as a child, he was one of the children put into isolation rooms at school.

“I am 45 years old and still have nightmares because of this treatment,” he wrote in the blog post.

“In response to my challenges, I would be locked into a small room,” he said. “I can recall every detail from the smell, lighting and texture of the carpeted walls. There was a small window on the door.”

Sixteen other lawmakers signed on in support of Carroll’s bill the first day it was filed.