Illinois PTA Supports Governor’s End to Seclusion

Illinois PTA strongly supports Governor JB Pritzker’s decision to end seclusion of students by schools. The move comes following a ProPublica Illinois investigation in conjunction with the Chicago Tribune into the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois public schools. The investigation documented more than 20,000 incidents from the 2017-2018 school year and through early December 2018, a significant fraction of which did not meet the legal requirement of a student posing a safety threat to themselves or others.

Illinois PTA has advocated for limiting the use of restraint and seclusion in accordance with the 2015 National PTA resolution on the issue. Restraint and seclusion are most often used on students with special needs, and as documented by ProPublica Illinois, are often used in situations where student safety is not a concern (e.g., spilling milk, swearing, or refusing to do classwork). Parents are often told little or nothing about what has happened to their child.

The trauma associated with the use of restraint and seclusion can have lasting effects on children. In 2012, the US Department of Education noted that secluding students was dangerous and that there was no evidence showing it was effective in reducing problematic behaviors. Far too often, restraint and seclusion are illegally used as disciplinary tools, not for student safety. In some instances, improper use of restraint and seclusion has resulted in the death of a student.

In accordance with the governor’s directive, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has announced emergency action to immediately end the use of restraint and seclusion in Illinois schools. Illinois PTA supports this emergency action and is prepared to work with ISBE, the governor’s office, and the General Assembly to education families on this issue and support legislation to end the practice of restraint and seclusion.

Celebrating Legislative Successes in 2018—Education Issues

As we approach Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on February 6, 2019, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on the substantial legislative gains Illinois PTA made on issues affecting our children and youth in the areas of health, including mental health, safety, gun control, social and emotional learning, and special education. Today’s article looks back at new laws covering education issues, including special education and social and emotional learning.

IEP Parent Notification

Many parents and students may be unaware of the special services available and, as a result, may not receive the early and effective interventions needed. PA 100-0993, Individualized Education Program(SB454) amends the Children with Disabilities article of the School Code to provide that at a child’s initial Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting and at each annual IEP review meeting, the IEP team will provide written notice to the child’s parent or guardian advising as to whether the child requires assistive technology in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

Section 504 Parent Information

Another statute, PA 100-1112, amends the Children with Disabilities Article of the School Code in connection with Mental Health Services (HB5770) to provide that a school board will provide notice through its student handbook, newsletter, and/or website that students who do not qualify for an individualized education program, may, however, qualify for services under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if the child has or is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment, beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.

Social and Emotional Learning

The Illinois PTA supports social emotional learning (SEL) programs in schools pursuant to our continuing position on this issue. SEL programs have been shown to have immediate improvements in mental health, social skills, and academic development. Incorporating non-violent conflict resolution and positive interactions with others—important components of social and emotional learning—may be an effective means of preventing further suspensions and needs for disciplinary action in the near future and many years from now. A 2017 meta-analysis from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University, the University of British Columbia, and Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) determined that SEL programs benefit students long-term. As many as 18 years later, students exposed to SEL in school continue to do better than peers in the following areas: positive social behaviors and attitudes; empathy; teamwork; and academics. They also were found to have fewer problems in connection with conduct, less emotional distress, and lower drug use. CASEL found that SEL skill development is best done through effective classroom instruction, student engagement in positive activities in and out of the classroom, and broad parent and community involvement in program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

In connection with this, we supported related bills – HB5786 and HB4657. PA 100-1035, In School Suspension Focus on Non-violent Conflict Resolution (HB 5786) amends the School Code regarding in-school suspensions so that the school district may focus on non-violent conflict resolution, and positive interactions with other students and school personnel, as well as permits a school district to employ a school social worker or mental health professional to oversee the in-school suspension program. PA 100-1139, Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning Task Force, (HB4657)amends the School Code, creating the Emotional Intelligence and Social and Emotional Learning Task Force to develop curriculum guidelines, assessment guidelines and best practices on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning.

Parenting Education

Research across numerous agencies has shown that programs that promote healthy social, emotional and cognitive development can improve the quality of life and potential for many children. In particular, properly developed parenting programs have been shown to promote positive parenting behaviors and effective discipline strategies, change adverse family patterns, and to reduce levels of child abuse and neglect. According to the National Academy of Sciences, abuse can change a child’s brain, including with respect to: the way the brain regulates emotions, such as fear and anxiety – altering the way a child connects with peers and adults; cognitive processing – including planning, reasoning and decision-making ability; and can lead to an increase in social problems, including drug abuse, violent and/or criminal behavior, to list just a few. The AAP Report also found that parenting education is an effective means to prevent abuse and mental illness before it starts.

PA 100-1043, Parenting Education Bill (HB4442) amends the School Code to require, in part, that the State Board of Education implement and administer a 3-year pilot program to support the health and wellness student-learning requirement with a unit of instruction on parenting education in participating school districts for the ninth through twelfth grade, encouraging instruction on the following: 1) family structure, function, and management, 2) child abuse prevention, 3) the physical, mental, emotional, social, economic, and psychological aspects of interpersonal and family relationships, and 4) parenting education competency development, aligned to the social and emotional learning standards of the student’s grade level. Importantly, it will also allow the State Board of Education to provide grants for those participating in the pilot program.

Take Action

Do we have more to do? Every day! How can you help? Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Networkto stay up to date on issues, and  join us for Illinois PTA Advocacy Day in Springfield on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

Questions concerning advocacy issues? Please contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty at lgarbaty@illinoispta.org.

Local Unit Spotlight: STEPS PTSA Takes On The World!

Today’s post kicks off a new series highlighting the good things that our local PTAs and Councils are doing. If your PTA or Council would like to brag a bit about what they are doing, send a short write-up to your District or Region Director, noting that it’s for One Voice Illinois. Don’t forget to send us some pictures of your event as well!

STEPS PTSA, servicing the Indian Prairie District 204 transition program for young adults with disabilities, kicked off the 2018 school year in style! More than 50 PTSA members, including parents, teachers, students, alumni, administrators, and school board members were on hand to celebrate a summer of successful and noteworthy achievements.

The STEPS PTSA recognized 17 students and coaches for their accomplishments. Their accomplishments included Special Olympics state qualifiers, members of Team USA—Unified Cup tournament, Special Olympics USA games, Special Olympics World Games, keynote speaker at the National Best Buddies conference, keynote speaker at the Special Olympics Women in Leadership breakfast, MLS All-Star athlete, and members of the Chicago Fire All-Star soccer team. The students and coaches each shared their amazing experiences with the audience and each brought memorabilia, photos, medals, uniforms, and newspaper articles to display. The audience cheered them on waving pom-poms and rally towels. It was a wonderful celebration of student abilities and a fantastic way to start the year!

The STEPS PTSA was formed in 2017 with the goal of focusing on the unique abilities of these young adults and supporting the STEPS Transition Program. The STEPS PTSA works to create social opportunities, activities, and events that allow their members to get involved in the community. STEPS Alumni are an important part of the PTSA. They are invited to join the PTSA so that they will continue to have access to social and community activities and events. The STEPS PTSA knows the importance of building an inclusive culture and breaking down barriers. The sky is the limit for the STEPS PTSA students and alumni!

Healthcare Transition Toolkit for Children with Disabilities

If you have a child with a disability, you have probably become very familiar with navigating and supporting their health care needs over the years. However, once your child turns 18, health laws turn much of the responsibility of that care over to your child. Youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities often face a variety of barriers in accessing and managing their health care when they reach adulthood. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) has created a comprehensive toolkit called Transition to Adulthood: A Health Care Guide for Youth and Families.

The toolkit does not focus just on those young adults on the autism spectrum, and many of the tools in the kit are of use to any family. The toolkit provides information on:

  • How to choose a source of health care coverage
  • How to create a health care support network
  • How to integrate health care transition goals into individual educational plans (IEPs), beginning in middle or high school
  • How to manage their own health care

The toolkit also provides guides and worksheets for keeping track of health care records, making doctor’s appointments, and talking to doctors about health concerns. Health care services and supports are often plentiful for children, but lacking for adults. Use the toolkit to help prepare your child for managing with their health care needs in adulthood.