EDUCATION

Report cites improper use of school seclusion rooms in Iowa

The Iowa City Community School District occasionally sent students to padded seclusion rooms for minor infractions such as stepping out of line, though the rooms are intended to be used to prevent students from harming themselves or others, according to a state Department of Education review.

After a complaint filed last year, the department reviewed more than 450 incidents of seclusion involving more than 60 students in the district from Dec. 22, 2015, to Dec. 21, 2016.

Officials also visited two of the district's school buildings. The padded, wooden rooms are roughly 6-by-6-foot, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

About four percent of the cases reviewed involved the seclusion room being used for minor infractions by students such as stepping out of line, having an attitude, being out of instructional control or using foul language.

"Seclusion for minor infractions is not a reasonable response," wrote Thomas Mayes, a complaint officer and attorney with the Education Department, in his report.

Mayes also said schools had improper documentation of incidents involving the seclusion room and that the frequent use of seclusion may interfere with a child's right to free appropriate public education under federal law.

He said the district must review and revise all policies and procedures involving seclusion rooms and increase staff training on using the rooms. He also recommended school officials meet to discuss any child who's been restricted 10 or more times in a 12-month period.

The review found that 18 kids were placed in seclusion six times or more and accounted for more than 75 percent of the total number of seclusions in the district.

"While many of the concerns have already been addressed, the district will continue to develop and implement systemic changes that positively impact the learning environment for all students," wrote Kristin Pedersen, the district's community affairs coordinator, in an email.

Next week the district's Time Out Room Task Force is expected to release its recommendations for the continued use of the seclusion rooms.

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Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/