Legislators not sold on new junk food rules for schools

In April the Iowa State Board of Education approved new nutrition standards:

A special task force drew up the standards, which set limits on calories, fat content, sugar and other nutritional measures. Carbonated beverages are banned. Caffeinated beverages and sports drinks are banned in elementary schools.

But the rules do not apply to food provided by school lunch or breakfast programs, items sold at concession stands or certain fundraisers or items provided by parents, teachers or others for class events.

Although I would have preferred tougher guidelines, these rules were a step in the right direction. To be more precise, they would have been a step in the right direction. After protests from some school officials, the State Board of Eduation “delayed most of the standards from going into effect until the 2010-11 school year.”

By that time, the regulations may have been relaxed, judging from what happened last week in the state legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee (unofficial motto: “Where good rules go to die”). The rest of the story is after the jump.

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Board of Education adopts stricter rules on timeouts and physical discipline

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.

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