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Iowa Senate seeks to address disruptive student situations

DES MOINES — The Iowa Senate has approved legislation designed to address difficult and violent student behavior in Iowa schools. Senator Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said the problem is more widespread than many imagine.

“This bill is truly about creating a safe learning space for all students and all teachers,” Sinclair said.

Senator Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola, said disruptive students are causing big problems in Iowa schools.

“We heard about teachers who were really having problems,” Garrett said, “….some even thinking about quitting….because of the stress of these situations.”

All 50 senators voted for the bill. However, Democrats like Senator Liz Mathis of Cedar Rapids complained more money is needed to address mental health and other needs to students now, before they wind up in the criminal justice system.

“The clock is ticking,” Mathis said. “We need to get serious about this.”

Senator Jackie Smith, a Democrat from Sioux City, said it’s become clear some of Iowa’s youngest students lack the social and emotional skills necessary to function in a classroom.

“The largest percentage of removals for behaviors has occurred in grades K-through-2,” Smith said. “It’s gone up 82 percent.”

Smith said universal preschool would help.

Parents have complained teachers trying to calm a disruptive student have had to resort to clearing classrooms of all the other students. The bill makes it clear that is not the option schools should be choosing on a regular basis. The legislation would set up a new state grant program for schools to establish “therapeutic” classrooms for disruptive students. The bill also includes new liability protections for teachers who have to use “reasonable force” to restrain a student.



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