The State Board of Education has voted against a new set of school seclusion rules, with the likelihood of the board revisiting the matter this fall.
School administrators strongly opposed the proposal on grounds that the rules were too strict, saying schools need more flexibility to carry out their safety and discipline policies.
In the meantime, laws governing how and when schools in Iowa are allowed to isolate and restrain students will remain unchanged. According to Iowa Department of Education officials, they seek to gather more public input, revise the rules once more, and present a new proposal before the board as soon as November.
Iowa permits trained school employees to restrain or isolate students when the students’ actions pose a danger to themselves or others. Schools in the eastern part of the state have seclusion rooms in which students who become violent are placed.
Though educators in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City asserted that restraint and isolation are a last resort, a state report determined that the Iowa City Community School district was over-using seclusion rooms as a form of punishment while the Cedar Rapids Community School district incorrectly reported figures in relation to their use of seclusion and restraint to Washington, D.C.
A federal report later concluded that other districts under-reported or neglected to track the usage of seclusion rooms.
Earlier this year, a state work group of teachers, parents, administrators, and advocates devised a new version of Chapter 103, which oversees the usage of restraint and isolation in the state.
The proposed changes that the board voted down would have implemented stronger standards for physically restraining and secluding students, as well as required schools to contact parents within 10 minutes when seclusion or restraint is carried out.
The U.S. Department of Education stated that they would monitor how districts statewide are reporting seclusion data.