Iowa City's La James beauty school accused of violating sanitation, licensing laws

Owner responds to allegations

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La James International College in Iowa City, a well-known beauty school, is facing several accusations that it violated Iowa Code related to sanitary practices and licensing requirements.

The Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences announced Thursday that is has filed 10 charges against the school at 227 E. Market St. and that the college, its owner Cynthia Becher and college administrator Tracy LaDage could face disciplinary action.

According to the statement of charges made public by the board Thursday, a state investigator visited the college on June 14, 2012. During that inspection, the state official found non-circulating spas containing debris, with logs that did not specify which tub had been cleaned and who had done the cleaning, according to the documents.

The state also reported finding pouches holding scissors that were laden with hair clippings and pens, paper and Chapstick intermingled with cleaning supplies at student stations.

When asked about the school’s esthetics classroom, college administrator LaDage said the school had closed it after finding a student asleep. She also said it was possible that a student instructor would be placed in a classroom situation alone, and she said new employees were given 90 days to obtain an instructor’s permit – although she couldn’t say whether that was a La James’ policy or state law.

“Respondents failed to exercise professional competency within their scope of practice as instructor and owner failed to provide a quality standard of learning,” according to the document.

Charges La James faces include failing to disinfect instruments and equipment, failing to clean and document cleaning of pedicure spas, failing to provide an esthetics classroom, failing to meet instructor-to-student ratios, employing instructors without certification and failing to supervise student instructors.

In an emailed statement, Becher -- who owns all seven of the college locations -- said that she and her staff just learned of the allegations on Thursday, nearly a year after the suspect inspection.

"We were surprised by the allegations since the prior three inspections at the La James Iowa City school met state regulatory requirements," she said in the statement. "However, it is not and will not be our practice to resolve any legal or regulatory issues through the news media.

She went on to say that it is "important to our clients and our staff that all state laws and regulations be met in our facilities."

A disciplinary hearing on the charges is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2014, in the board’s conference room in Des Moines. If any of the allegations are founded, the board could take disciplinary action against the defendants.

On the La James website, Becher boasts 40 years of experience and past service on several boards, councils and cosmetology associations. She was named Iowa Business’s Education Person of 2007 and Small Business Woman of the Year in 2004.

La James has been educating students for more than 75 years, according to the website. It lists its mission “to enroll, educate, graduate and place.”


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