IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Despite announcing it would remove "temporary seclusion rooms", the Iowa City School District still has and uses several seclusion rooms where staff will confine students.
Isolating kids having violent outbursts in a seclusion room is legal in Iowa but the Iowa Department of Education had found Iowa City schools had abused its seclusion rooms, using them too often and for unapproved reasons like failing a test. That prompted last year's announcement to get rid of temporary seclusion rooms. But the key word there is temporary.
"Its our obligation, our responsibility as educators to make sure that we look at the full gambit of options that are available to us and that we consider those that are least restrictive," is what Iowa City schools Superintendent Stephen Murley said this past November after sending a letter to parents announcing the district would get rid of its temporary seclusion rooms by the start of this school year. But that only meant their makeshift, plywood boxes.
Iowa City School Board member Phil Hemingway thinks the district's communication on seclusion room use is misleading, leading many to believe all seclusion rooms are gone.
"I believe that individuals can look at it and feel that there's been some miscommunication," said Hemingway.
There are still 9 permanent "designated" seclusion rooms spread across 8, mostly elementary schools, in the district.
In the 2017/2018 school year, 14 students with special needs were secluded in one a total of 221 times at Grant Wood Elementary alone. Despite that, Hemingway says the district has made strides in how it uses seclusion, mainly by increasing training for staff and using better reporting tools.
Hemingway said he plans to personally visit those schools that currently have designated seclusion rooms.
Superintendent Murley was asked to talk about its seclusion rooms use and policies but he declined.