Dems: Setting standards for boarding schools

March 15, 2016

The Iowa Senate has voted to increase state oversight of boarding schools like the now-closed Midwest Academy in Southeast Iowa.


Midwest Academy and its founder are under investigation by local, state and federal authorities for child abuse allegations. Officials from the departments of Education, Human Services and Inspections & Appeals told legislators that current law allows such private facilities to operate with little oversight.


When children live at a private or state-run residential facility, it must adhere to safety regulations. Although there are only a handful of these facilities in Iowa, the health and safety of the students matter just as much as that of students attending any other school or receiving treatment at any other facility.


According to Midwest Academy’s website, it’s a “therapeutic boarding school” that has no state-ordered placements, and doesn’t require a license to operate. It was unregulated by the state.


SF 2235 establishes basic certification and oversight for such facilities by allowing state authorities to investigate them and ensure the wellbeing of their students. The bill sets minimum standards for the safety, health and education of children; protecting them from mistreatment, abuse and neglect; and appropriate use of seclusion, restraint or other restrictive interventions. Background and records checks of those providing care will also be required.


In addition, an approved children’s residential facility must provide education and appropriate services by contracting with the local school district or an accredited nonpublic school, or becoming accredited as a nonpublic school. The facility must publish a description of its services online and in brochures, and include fees and return policies in promotional, advertising and marketing materials.

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