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Iowa City: District "rethinks" isolation rooms; school principals receive behavior training

Oct 5, 2018, Iowa City (IA) Press Citizen: The small, padded seclusion rooms are gone. What's next for Iowa City schools? … Spearheaded in 2016, the collaborative art space serves as a shining example as the district rethinks its approach to discipline, with an emphasis on preventing student outbursts in the wake of criticism received from its use of small, padded seclusion rooms. … Without the small padded seclusion rooms, what happens next? Those rooms, at only 6 by 6 feet, prompted a wave of backlash across the state and have been removed or re-purposed at all ICCSD buildings. Two months into the 2018-19 school year, the district's goal for doing without the spaces is to reduce the need for them in the first place. District officials are turning to a decade-old approach to discipline called Positive Behavior Intervention Systems, or PBIS, and bolstering PBIS-specific training at each campus. The approach is described as multi-tiered, but generally comes down to teachers and staff finding ways to clearly set behavior expectations and reward students who meet those expectations. … Fully integrating the new system is time-intensive. Julie Jensen, who teaches the courses for the AEA, said it typically takes around three years for a campus to fully transition to PBIS. The Grant Wood Area Education Agency has offered PBIS training since 2008, with the vast majority of schools in the region participating in some form or another. For PBIS training, ICCSD is turning to QBS Safety Care. The training sessions are happening at each campus throughout the year. Every ICCSD principal took a class on the basics of behavior and will receive more monthly training. Glenn said some buildings will receive specific verbal de-escalation training. … Seclusion is still happening in schools Seven elementary campuses, along with North West Junior High, currently have designated seclusion areas, as of early October. The rooms are permanent spaces within the buildings and vary by campus. They are not the small, padded rooms that drew the ire of critics, but officials did not share specific details on their dimensions. … "We will try to use preventative strategies, but sometimes we can’t provide an education to students and meet the requirements of their individualized education program (IEP) without having a designated safe area," Glenn said. The number of designated seclusion rooms can change in a matter of days, depending on the IEPs of students in a particular building…. Hundreds of spaces in Iowa City schools could be slightly modified to fit state requirements for a designated seclusion space. … What is PBIS? PBIS consists of three tiers. Tier one is about setting campus-wide expectations for students — Jensen said this can mean making sure that teachers have a clear road-map for how to set rules in shared spaces like the cafeteria and the gym. Tier two is about classroom expectations. Tier three is about working with individual students who have behavior issues. …

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