A bill that failed to meet this week’s deadline for legislative action would have set up new state oversight of boarding schools like the Midwest Academy.
The southeast Iowa boarding school for students with drug and behavior problems was shut down in January after a student reported a sexual assault.
State and local authorities then discovered a rash of complaints about the academy. The Iowa Senate voted unanimously this month to close loopholes that had allowed the academy to operate “under the radar,” but the bill died in the Iowa House.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says it should have been a priority.
“We’re interested in shutting these places down,” Gronstal says.
House Republicans say they’re conducting an investigation of how state officials missed the warning signs about the academy. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, says once the investigation is over, Republicans may propose legislation.
“We have several mechanisms to make that happen if it is necessary to do,” she says.
The Senate’s Democratic leader says action is needed now.
“They can investigate ’til the cows come home,” Gronstal says. “It’s time to do something about these kinds of facilities.”
Operators of the Midwest Academy facilities in Keokuk and Montrose falsely claimed students living at the school were also enrolled in the Keokuk School District. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee says some of the staff were not properly licensed or certified for the work they were doing at the school. Students say they were often not allowed to eat, sleep or take showers as discipline.