I9: Two Iowa members of Congress call for investigation, one a ban of school seclusion rooms following I9 report

Published: May. 10, 2018 at 4:54 PM CDT
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Two members of Congress are calling for an investigation and another wants an outright ban following an I9 report on schools using seclusion rooms and restraints on students. That report found the use has nearly doubled at some schools. It also found errors in reporting and oversight.

One of the main concerns from Iowa's congressional representatives is that the Cedar Rapids School District again under-reported its use of seclusion and restraint in 2015, the data recently released.

It is legal in Iowa for schools to use seclusion rooms or to restrain students having a violent outburst. The new data shows the use of seclusion rooms in 23 eastern Iowa school districts we examined nearly doubled from 2013 to 2015. Most of those, 88%, involve students with disabilities.

I9's initial investigation found Cedar Rapids schools failed to report any instances of seclusion and restraint to the federal government. This time, the district again under reported its use of seclusion and restraint by 41.

Republican Senator Joni Ernst called that latest report "concerning". Republican Senator Chuck Grassley called it "alarming". It's prompted the two senators to ask the Office of Inspector General to investigate seclusion and restraint use and reporting. Senator Ernst added that, "Iowa's children deserve nothing less than a safe environment to learn and grow". Senator Grassley said he and Ernst have, "also requested information about action the department (U.S. Department of Education) is taking.”

Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack said he is "disappointed" in the increased use of seclusion and restraint., adding that he wants the federal government to "prohibit any state or local education entity from allowing students to be put in seclusion rooms."

Cedar Rapids Schools Communications Director Akwi Nji said Thursday the 2015 data came before the district implemented changes. She says since our report, the district has hired two data analysts to improve their data recording and reporting.

The Iowa Department of Education is also investigating Cedar Rapids Schools' use of seclusion rooms and restraints. It does not track use with out a complaint and says they have not had a chance to analyze the new federal data yet.