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Legislators are working hard to address an epidemic of behavioral health issues in Iowa’s classrooms. The Iowa Senate Education Committee passed Senate Study Bill 380 last week, and on Wednesday night the Iowa House held a subcommittee that lasted about 90 minutes on the issue.

The Senate bill addresses issues such as classroom clears, classroom management, training and professional development on violent student behaviors and solutions for the lack of alternative placement classrooms in the state.

Senators supporting the legislation are hopeful the bill returns Iowa classrooms to the safe, productive classrooms they used to be.

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There are five focus points of the bill:

1. Teacher training and professional development on violent student behaviors, least restrictive environment and individualized education programs;
2. Creation of therapeutic classrooms and access to alternative placements;
3. Education and code updates relating to least restrictive environments;
4. Regulation and guidance on the use of room clears;
5. Protections for teachers dealing with violent student behaviors and the creation of better reporting methods for occurrences of these behaviors.

Classroom clears have become a significant issue in Iowa schools. This bill prohibits classroom clears from being written into a student’s IEP and provides guidance to teachers on when a clear should be utilized. Clears can only be utilized if necessary to prevent or terminate an imminent threat of bodily injury to a student or another person in the room, under this legislation.

According to a report from Professional Educators of Iowa, only 36 percent of classrooms in their schools have reported not using a room clear within the last year.

Teachers will be required to report incidents of violence or assault by a student to the principal. They will be provided with immunity from any civil or criminal liability for reporting and there will be an addition of a reasonable person standard for when a teacher or employee can use physical contact.

Statistically, it’s a problem that isn’t going away without action. Eighty percent of teachers have considered leaving the profession (not only due to violence) in the last year. Fifty percent have said they experienced or witnessed violence in their school or classroom.

Jacob Hall

Author: Jacob Hall