District to get rid of seclusion rooms - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

District to get rid of seclusion rooms

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Photo from the Iowa City Press Citizen. Photo from the Iowa City Press Citizen.
IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

The Iowa City Community School District has announced it's plans to stop using seclusion rooms next school year. 

According to the district, they will continue to use the rooms for the rest of this year because Individualized Education Plans work as a contract between parents and the district and some plans require the room as an option for safety. 

An email the district sent to families reads, 

"The Iowa City Community School District is committed to the safety and well-being of all of our students and staff. The District is committed to discontinuing the use of temporary seclusion rooms (sometimes referred to in the general public as “isolation boxes”) within our schools by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. The District recognizes the role of restraint and seclusion in providing a Free and Appropriate Public Education for all students in a Least Restrictive Environment within our schools and is seeking ways to improve our practices. The District also recognizes that students with a formal safety plan developed in coordination with parents/guardians may have needs that differ and the District will work with parents to meet their student’s needs. The District has been reviewing each site and the student needs within each school using the recommendations of the Restraint and Seclusion Task Force. The District has completed the work to eliminate 7 temporary seclusion rooms within our schools and we plan to eliminate the remaining temporary seclusion rooms throughout the District by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. We will provide continuous updates as we move through the process, including working with parents, students, and staff."

Superintendent Stephen Murley says the padded rooms were built with safety in mind. 

"Parents often come to us with concerns about their students safety so they are looking for those types of spaces," says Murley. 

Particularly for students who may harm themselves or others. 

A complaint filed against the district claims the rooms have been misused. 

"They've occasionally been used in ways that aren't consistent with our expectations," Murley told us. 

The Department of Education found there have been a small number of instances where they were used for miner infractions such as stepping out of line, having an attitude or foul language. 

Murley says they will turn the permanent seclusion rooms into something else, for example Liberty High uses theirs as a recycling space.

Temporary seclusion rooms will be torn down altogether. 

While the rooms are going away, we are told the idea of seclusion as a tool will not. 
    "If you get into an altercation with a friend of yours and I have to take you to my office and I have to close the door and I've prevented you from leaving, that is seclusion," says Murley.

"So seclusion doesn't go away because that is a part of the educational process but this particular form is what we are looking at eliminating," he told us. 

We are told the rooms will be removed and repurposed by the end of the school year. 

The ACLU of Iowa along with six attorneys filed a petition asking for changes when it comes to the state's use of seclusion room and restraint.

We are told the Department of Education is due to respond to that petition by November 27th. 
  

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