The State Board of Education today approved new rules for the use of restraints and seclusion rooms in the state’s schools.
The Board of Ed had prepared rules about one year ago, but decided to hold more forums on the issue after getting a large amount of response. Department Attorney Thomas Mayes says the rules were put on hold by the COVID-19 emergency — but they are now ready.
“Three big areas of dispute that we had attempted to address — the size of the room, notice to parents, and sort of the risk to teachers of injury before they could engage in seclusion and restraint,” Mayes says. He says they’ve had a lot of cooperation and input as they moved forward with changes to the rules.
“We’re trying to sort of take into account both student safety as well as parents’ rights and faculty safety in balancing those three. The Department looks forward to any public comment,” Mayes says. Mayes was asked by a board member how harm to a teacher would be defined. He says that will come through training.
“Everybody who worked on these rules throughout this process has known that the rules will not be self-executing. Teachers will need to have these sorts of global ideas explained in a concrete way,” according to Mayes.
He says the rules do address one specific concern. “One thing that the rules emphasize is there’s no Monday morning quarterback. If the classroom teacher, if the paraeducator, if the school psychologist engaged in restraint that was reasonable at that time — the rules will continue to command that that person not be second-guessed with the benefit of hindsight,” Mayes explains.
The Iowa ACLU is one of the groups which has been working with the Board of Education on the rule changes. Spokesperson Veronica Fowler told the board they want to see restraints and seclusion rooms as the very last option. “And only used in the rarest of circumstances. And we believe that ideally their use would be banned,” Folwer says. “That’s not going to happen with the proposed rules — but rules can make the use of seclusion and restraint rare — and the last thing schools do,” Fowler says.
A public hearing will be held on the rules on September 15th in the Department of Education board room in Des Moines. An online option for the hearing will also be available.