Last week, ISBE reversed course on isolated time out. After initially banning the practice in late November 2019, ISBE heard from many stakeholders that having a staff member in a time out room with an escalated student was often unsafe. The recent amendment to the emergency rules seeks to limit and regulate the use of isolated time out rather than prohibit it altogether. Accordingly, ISBE updated its Guidance and Frequently Asked Questions and reporting form to reflect the new development.

The updated Guidance and FAQ document includes the following revised explanations of time out and isolated time out:

[F]or purposes of the ISBE emergency regulations, therapeutic time out is an intervention used in tandem with other positive intervention strategies, whereas non-therapeutic time out is used for the purposes of maintaining a safe environment for learning. Time out includes situations only when the student is in a monitored enclosure … due to exhibiting behavior that poses an imminent danger to self or others, not if the student is being disruptive and needs to cool down in a sensory room, reflection area, or other positive or therapeutic supports…

“Isolated time out” means the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a time out room or other enclosure outside of the classroom without a supervising adult in the time out room or enclosure. Isolated time out is allowed only under limited circumstances. If all other requirements under Section 1.285 are met, isolated time out may only be used when the adult in the time out room or enclosure is in imminent danger of serious physical harm because the student is unable to cease actively engaging in extreme physical aggression.

The updated reporting form now includes a section to describe, for isolated time out, “the rationale for why the needs of the student could not have been met by a less restrictive intervention and why an adult could not be present in the time out room.” The form also now provides space to report on up to four incidents that occurred for the same student on the same day. While schools may find that using one form for multiple incidents cuts down on repetitive paperwork, staff completing the form should provide detailed descriptions of the events leading up the incident, the interventions used prior to implementation of the technique, and the incident or student behavior that posed an imminent danger to self or others for each use of time out, isolated time out, and physical restraint. In some cases, staff may find using separate forms for each incident is clearer.

The updated form also includes space to name both the home school and the serving location of the student. While the initial form asked for the date and time of evaluation by the nurse and the nurse’s signature, the revised form provides a blank to indicate who evaluated any injuries. The initial form provided space for the signatures of the personnel who participated in the time out or physical restraint, the new form asks just for the name and title of each participant. The initial form requested information about a “postvention meeting,” a follow-up “Team Meeting,” and future actions to be taken; these sections have been eliminated in favor of a space to record any planned approach to dealing with the student’s behavior in the future, which more closely tracks the requirements in the rules. The new form also eliminates the section on the initial form to record next steps after the third incident of time out or physical restraint; while a meeting is still required in these situations, information related to the meeting is no longer required on the incident form. Finally, the updated form adds a notice to parents about the right to submit a complaint to ISBE related to the use of time out and physical restraint.

Schools should currently be following the second amended emergency rules and using the updated reporting form. If you have questions about the rules related to and implementation of time out and physical restraint, contact your Franczek attorney.