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Iowa: State board of ed may alter seclusion/restraint rules; room size being considered

Nov 18, 2019, Davonport, IA, Quad City Times: Iowa Education Board revises proposed seclusion and restraint rules in schools https://qctimes.com/news/local/education/iowa-education-board-revise-proposed-seclusion-and-restraint-rules-in/article_2810d923-f4cc-54bf-962c-c481e7db95b5.html The Iowa Board of Education will consider a new proposal Wednesday for how and when students can be secluded or restrained in school. After two years of work, the Iowa Board of Education unanimously voted down — but didn’t entirely scrap — proposed revisions to seclusion and restraint rules this summer. The new rules would have pulled Iowa from the sparse ranks of states that allow students to be secluded and restrained even without a threat to someone’s personal safety. When the board voted down proposed revisions to Chapter 103 — guidelines for restraint and seclusion in Iowa schools — they cited concerns the proposed rules were “too burdensome” on educators. Since then, the state Department of Education has hosted six meetings at Area Education Agencies across the state to garner feedback. Eighty-nine people participated in the meetings, and a handful more sent written comments. … According to notes taken on behalf of the Department — and provided to the Quad-City Times — there are three key changes in the new revisions: parental notification, room size and the use of the phrase “serious injury” as a threshold for intervention. Parental notification The initial resolution proposed parents must be notified within 10 minutes of the start of an incident, a window educators balked at during open hearings. During the public comment in Creston, one participant — the notes do not name people and only rarely designate them as a parent, student or teacher — said staff “do not want to have to notify in the heat of battle.” The new rules state parents need to be notified “as soon as practical after the situation is under control, but no later than one hour or the end of the school day, whichever occurs first.” … One participant at the Central Rivers meeting, labeled as a student, said parents should be notified immediately or as soon as possible because “there were times he was secluded or restrained, and he didn’t tell his mom and neither did (the) school.” … Room size Initially, districts were to be given two years to make sure their seclusion rooms were 7-feet by 10-feet — big enough to keep kids from “spidering” up the walls and risking injury. The new rules grant districts five years to enlarge their rooms to a 7-foot square. “Why can’t people just be reasonable?” one person at the Pocahontas meeting asked. “Why do we need room sizes?” In Grant Wood, someone said they would rather districts “spend money on services for challenging behavior,” not to modify rooms. … The new rules replaced “serious physical injury” with “bodily injury.” Iowa is one of five states that allows seclusion and restraint to be used when no one’s personal safety is threatened, something either proposal would change. Twenty-nine states have banned seclusion and restraint as disciplinary or punitive actions. … In the public meetings, some noted that seclusion and restraint were “not always used as a last resort,” and that they’d like to see “greater accountability for misuse.” A repeated issue the new proposal doesn’t address is putting a cap on how long a student can be secluded. …