Iowa State Board of Education votes down changing seclusion room rules

Published: Aug. 1, 2019 at 5:36 PM CDT
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Laws governing how and when schools in Iowa are allowed to isolate and restrain students will remain the same for now after the State Board of Education voted down proposed changes on Thursday.

A state report found the Iowa City Community School district was over-using seclusion rooms as a form of punishment. The Cedar Rapids Community School district also reported incorrect data to the federal government concerning their use of seclusion and restraint. Cedar Rapids Schools had used rooms not designed to seclude students, like an electrical utility closet.

A government report later found Cedar Rapids is not alone in under-reporting or not tracking the use of seclusion rooms.

The Board unanimously rejected the proposed rules after several school administrators complained they were too strict and not practical. Instead, the board asked for more review and feedback on possible rule changes.

A workgroup of teachers, parents, and administrators put together the proposed rules earlier this year.

Current Iowa Code has few regulations about what an appropriate seclusion room should look like. The now struck down rules would have changed that.

Staci Hupp, Communications Director for the Iowa Department of Education, said the reason board members opted not to make any changes was so they could get more input. Hupp said the plan moving forward is to get feedback through a series of regional meetings, make new revisions, and then bring them to a vote again before the Board. It is unclear when that vote may happen.

While the state's Board of Education may still be waiting to take action the federal government already has. The U.S. Department of Education announced they would conduct compliance checks to make sure districts are reporting correct seclusion data and offering training.