Dozens of students displaced by residential treatment facility closure

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AURORA, IL (WCIA) — The state is in the process of transferring students out of a residential treatment facility and school for children who have a mental illness or disability.

This came as the result of a report that detailed accounts of abuse and neglect at Northern Illinois Academy in Aurora. The report was compiled between January and February 20201 by Equip for Equality — an Illinois organization that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities.

In it, Kids said staff “frequently shoved and slammed them onto the ground and on their beds.”

Click for the full report from January 2021

State Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala said the State Board of Education initially got involved in February 2020, following complaints that first came in from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

A corrective action plan was created and later deemed unsuccessful, according to the latest report from Equip for Equality. As a result, the state will designate NIA as non-approved starting in August, meaning the school will no longer receive money from ISBE.

51 of about 60 students currently at Northern Illinois Academy were state-funded. More than 30% of those kids were placed there from school districts all over the state. We couldn’t confirm which counties, if any, in central Illinois were affected due to privacy concerns.

So, where will these displaced students go now?

“Well I believe that there are other residential facilities throughout the state,” Dr. Ayala responded. “But you know, we have to take a look at the student needs, what the capacity is and whether schools are at capacity. I mean all of those factors would have to be looked into.”

The superintendent of education says some students have been transferred out by parents. The rest are still in school at NIA, awaiting new placement by their districts.

Ayala said the State Board of Education does not have plans to take disciplinary action against staff at NIA. She said that’s up to the school.

NIA’s Executive Director Anthony Penn did not respond to request for comment.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this school and the transition, email us at

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