The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that would increase state oversight of boarding schools like the now-closed Midwest Academy in southeast Iowa.
“Fundamentally it would require this type of operation to receive a certificate of approval to operate,” says Senator Herman Quirmbach, a Democrat from Ames who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Midwest Academy facilities in Keokuk and Montrose were raided in late January after a teacher told state authorities a student had been sexually assaulted. Quirmbach says there were “gaping loopholes” that allowed the academy to operate “under the radar for far too long.”
“I think there remains a question as to whether the appropriate state agencies exercised the authority that they had in a timely fashion,” Quirmbach says. “…But I think that this bill is a significant step foward in preventing this type of situation from emerging again.”
The bill passed the senate on a unanimous vote and now goes to the House for consideration.
The Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa House has launched an investigation of how the Departments of Education and Human Services responded to warning signs at the academy. Parents paid to send sons and daughters who had behavior and drug problems to live at the academy to undergo treatment and counseling, as well as go to school. The facility’s operator falsely claimed students living at the school were also enrolled in the Keokuk District.