District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said the Illinois State Board of Education made a political, knee jerk reaction when it banned isolated seclusion for disruptive students.
The emergency rule came in response to a report which showed thousands of children across the state, many of them with special needs, felt terrorized by these so-called “quiet” rooms.
Reilly said on WGLT's Sound Ideas the ISBE should have simply punished schools that went to extremes to discipline students rather than enacting the emergency rule. It requires an adult be present with a student when they are placed in seclusion.
“I’ve had incidents of teachers that have obtained injuries just in the last couple weeks (following the emergency rule),” Reilly said. “So we’re actually pretty furious about this change.”
District 87 previously isolated those students in an unlocked room where a teacher could watch them through a window. He said that form of isolation was usually effective in de-escalating a student's behavior.
Reilly said he's worried that requiring an educator be present with an unruly student poses a safety risk that will drive away teachers, particularly in special education.
“(If) you are putting yourself in physical harm’s way, you are probably going to see less people get into that in the first place or see people leave the profession. That’s my concern.”
Reilly added the rule could lead to more suspensions if a student is deemed a safety risk. He said he’s heard from educators in other school districts where that has happened.
District 87 has approved an e-learning program that enables students to essentially go to school while at home.
Reilly said e-learning worked well as a pilot project last year when bad weather otherwise would have prompted school to be canceled.
“The experience was very positive,” Reilly said. “There were some things we learned that we could incorporate into the planning for when we might have to use this down the road. I think we are much more well prepared for it now.”
Reilly says the district is working to better communicate plans with parents and make evergreen lesson plans available that might be suitable for students who lack online access when they are staying with a relative or in child care.
“That’s part of what we did in the planning process, because we learned that in the feedback from the parents in the previous go-round,” Reilly said. “So we’ll make accommodations for that. In other words, we’ll have some flexibililty, some grace."
Reilly said the district will still only use e-learning days in case of emergency.
He said he could still close school during bad weather if there are widespread power outages.
The District 87 school board on Wednesday approved a nearly $44.5 million levy that projects a slight drop in the tax rate.
The school district is estimating a 1% growth in taxable land values based on a review from the McLean County Supervisor of Assessment's office. Under that scenario, the current rate of $5.15 per $100 Equalized Assessed Valuation would fall to $5.14 per $100 EAV.
That would mean a $15 drop in the property tax bill for the owner of a $150,000 home.
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