Elementary school children are being placed in makeshift prison cells. Multiple Iowa school districts are using this controversial isolation as punishment, according to a website article at ScaryMommy.com.
A controversial new type of punishment, tiny pine boxes with little to no light or ventilation called “seclusion enclosures,” is designed to confine children and discipline them, said the article, written by Cassandra Stone.
“If I was to do what they did, it would be child abuse .Why is it OK for the school district to do that to a child?,” said Tammy Mims, a former resident of Cedar Rapids.
Iowa defines corporal punishment as “intentional physical punishment of a student” using “unnecessary physical force.” These rooms are able to slide by Iowa’s ban on corporal punishment, reported the article.
“If there is indeed a situation where a child is harming themselves or others, there is no doubt a school official should intervene immediately. But is a six foot Pine Box of Terror really the best way to do that?” Stone asked.
Parents and guardians who have children in Iowa school districts have been complaining about seclusion rooms since they started sprouting up last year, the article said.
Mims, guardian for a little girl who was locked inside one of these rooms, said she could hear the girl screaming to be let out in the background, according to the article.
State rules say parents have to be notified the same day the punishment occurs. Mims received a call informing her of the girl’s punishment.
A complaint filed earlier this year describes some of the seclusion rooms as “a plywood box lined with foul-smelling black horse stall mats” and flooring made of recycled tires.
“Since when did we start criminalizing kids as a form of discipline?” Stone asked.
Legally, parents don’t have to offer their consent, “probably because no parent of sound mind would ever consent to their child being locked inside a dark, hot, smelly makeshift closet at school,” the article said.
The intended use for these rooms is to serve as a drastic “time out” for violent kids, but that hasn’t stopped teachers from confining kids for minor grievances, like stepping out of line at recess, the article said.
Students can spend up to an hour in seclusion rooms; schools need “special permission” to extend their time beyond that, the article reported.
“While many of the concerns have already been addressed, the district will continue to develop and implement systemic changes that positively impact the learning environment for all students,” said Kristin Pedersen, community affairs coordinator for the Iowa City Schools District in a statement to USA Today.
“We trust school districts with our children’s lives – Iowa schools can do far, far better by parents and students. Further traumatizing them seems inhumane and unnecessary,” the report concludes.