School seclusion rooms go by many names in Eastern Iowa school districts, including quiet rooms, safe rooms and timeout rooms.
But the function is the same — to provide a small, enclosed, empty space for staff to send angry or upset students in danger of harming themselves or others.
Of Cedar Rapids’ 31 schools, Garfield, Gibson, Harrison, Hiawatha, Hoover, Johnson, Pierce and Truman elementaries; Harding Middle; Kennedy High; and the Polk Alternative Education Center have seclusion rooms.
Iowa City has 18 timeout rooms in the 26-school district.
Public and accredited private schools in Iowa are required to follow state administrative rules on restraints and physical confinement.
Chapter 103 requires seclusion rooms be of “reasonable dimensions,” have adequate light and ventilation and be a comfortable temperature. Rooms may lock, but that lock either must engage only when a staff member is holding it or must automatically release when there is an emergency, like a fire alarm or a power outage.
Iowa City’s rooms are 6-feet by 6-feet, empty with padded walls and door. A room at Horn Elementary is enclosed on the top with a light. There is no lock on the door. Staff can observe the student through a window on the door.
The duration of the time a child may be in seclusion must be “reasonable, considering the age, size and physical and mental condition of the student,” the law states. Staff cannot keep a child in seclusion after school lets out and must get an administrator’s permission to extend seclusion past an hour.
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Schools must attempt to contact a child’s parent or guardian the same day seclusion is used and send a written copy of a report that includes the time of isolation, reasons and what the student and teachers can do the next time to prevent it.