Education

Iowa seeking public comment on school seclusion rules

State Board of Education endorses next step for revised draft

The seclusion room at Arthur Elementary has padded walls, a window in the door and a door that is unlockable from outside. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The seclusion room at Arthur Elementary has padded walls, a window in the door and a door that is unlockable from outside. Photographed in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Correction: A new state proposal for revising Chapter 103 of Iowa’s Administrative Rules says school seclusion rooms must be no smaller than 7-by-7 feet. This story was updated at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 27, 2019, to reflect those numbers.

The State Board of Education gave the go-ahead Wednesday for proposed new rules on student seclusion and restraint to go for public comment before final consideration early next year.

The latest revision to Iowa’s Administrative Code Chapter 103, which governs how educators use seclusion and restraint with students whose actions threaten harm to themselves or others, gives Iowa schools five years to enlarge seclusion rooms so the distance between opposing walls is no less than seven feet.

The proposed revision says seclusion may be used only to prevent “serious physical bodily injury” and gives schools up to an hour to alert parents if their child is put in seclusion or restraint. These were sticking points in a previous draft the Education Board voted down in August.

The Iowa Department of Education had six meetings around the state to collect public comments to draft the new set of rules that relaxed the previously proposed requirements for school districts.

Written or oral comments in response to the revised rule must be received by the Education Department by 4:30 p.m. Jan. 7. Comments can go to Nicole Proesch at nicole.proesch@iowa.gov or (515) 281-8661. A public hearing will be held from 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 7 at the Grimes State Office Building in Des Moines.

The changes in seclusion and restraint rules follow a June 2017 lawsuit by the ACLU of Iowa and six other lawyers.

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The Gazette reported in 2016 that some Iowa City students were placed into seclusion for non-violent acts, including refusing to trace in pencil, stepping out of line at recess and pouting. A 2017 state investigation confirmed these findings.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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