The Iowa Board of Education adopted rules this week restricting the use of timeout rooms and certain kinds of physical restraint. According to the Des Moines Register,
The rules restrict some forms of restraint, such as holding a student facedown on the floor. Educators must get permission from school administrators to confine children in timeout rooms for longer than an hour.
School officials also must attempt to contact parents and document every time they use the discipline method.
Click here to read a more detailed summary of the rules proposed this summer.
The Register reported that the new rules are “similar to guidelines approved recently in Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
The restrictions are a step in the right direction but may not go far enough to deter schools from using timeout rooms excessively. This report from last summer about the treatment of some special-needs children in Waukee Community School District elementaries was quite disturbing. It’s not just the length of time children were confined in the rooms, it’s also the frequency with which teachers resorted to this form of discipline.
This website on techniques for dealing with special-needs children notes that “repeating time-outs too frequently in too short a period of time greatly limits their effectiveness.”
Two families whose children were sent often (and for long stretches) to timeout rooms in Waukee schools have sued the school district. Those lawsuits have yet to be resolved in federal court.