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Iowa City to End Use of Seclusion Rooms as Parents Questions the Practice in Ottumwa

By Ellis Codjoe, November 09, 2017

The leader of Iowa City public schools says the district’s use of small, padded rooms for students will come to an end by the start of the next school year.

The decision, announced this week, comes after a state investigation found some improper use of these rooms. It also come amid an ongoing discussion in Ottumwa regarding the use of the so called “seclusion rooms”.

On Monday, the Ottumwa Courier reported that the parents of Eisenhower second-grader David Prose are at odds with Eisenhower Elementary School and the Ottumwa School District over the use of seclusion rooms. David is autistic with a genius level IQ, but recently became upset when he didn’t finish a project. He reportedly kicked a filing cabinet and was removed to the seclusion room to calm down, according to the Courier report.

David described the room as “the dungeon” when telling his parents that he did not want to go back to school because he didn’t want to be put back in the room.

Iowa City Schools Superintendent Stephen Murley says the district’s goal is to move away from using the seclusion rooms.

“What we are looking for, however, is alternatives to the spaces that we have been using to provide that kind of seclusion when and if it’s necessary,” Murley said. “There are many other options available to us on that continuum.”

Schools in Iowa City have used the tiny rooms to temporarily isolate students who are considered at risk of harming themselves or others. According to Murley, the rooms will be phased out – rather than shut down immediately – because they’re still included in individualized education programs for some students.

“We’re hoping that over the course of the remainder of the year, in conjunction with our seclusion room and restraint task force, that we can continue to expand the options that we have to meet those children’s needs,” Murley said.

The other options may include more effective use of existing spaces in the schools and possible creation of new spaces for dealing with behavior issues.

Murley said seclusion rooms have already been removed from some schools where no students have them written into their education plans.

Ottumwa School Superintendent Nicole Kooiker did not immediately return our message asking her to comment.

David’s father told the Courier that he would like to see the Ottumwa School District discontinue the use of seclusion rooms.

*Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis contributed to this report.

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