“The Quiet Rooms” Wins Four Illinois APME 2019 Awards

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The Illinois Associated Press Media Editors announced this week that “The Quiet Rooms” series, a collaboration between ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune, won four awards in the Illinois APME 2019 newspaper contest. This year, three newspaper divisions competed in more than 20 categories including General Excellence and Sweepstakes.

The investigation, by ProPublica Illinois reporter Jodi S. Cohen, the Tribune’s Jennifer Smith Richards and former ProPublica Illinois fellow Lakeidra Chavis, won two first place awards in the categories of investigative reporting and public service, second place in the digital storytelling category, in addition to being the 2019 Editorial Sweepstakes winner.

“The Quiet Rooms” showed how Illinois schools frequently put children in stark “isolated timeout” spaces, or physically restrained them, for reasons that violated state law. Seclusion and physical restraint of children in Illinois is supposed to happen only in limited situations and only for safety reasons. State education officials, however, have failed to monitor the use of these practices, which can inflict trauma and injury, and parents often are told little about what happens to their children.

The series prompted the state’s governor and education officials to commit to sweeping change, beginning with emergency restrictions. State officials banned locked seclusion immediately and put new restrictions on schools’ use of physical restraint, including banning prone restraint. For the first time, Illinois is also monitoring restraint and timeout, with schools required to notify state officials within 48 hours of using the measure. The state also announced plans to invest $7.5 million over the next three years to train Illinois educators on more positive ways to work with students.

See a list of all winners for the Illinois APME 2019 newspaper contest here.

ProPublica Illinois is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to get weekly updates about our work.

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