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Can A School Employee Put My Child In a Safe Room or Time-Out Room?

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

Information

A school employee may be able to put your child in a safe room or time-out room, if the rules are followed.  Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 103 lays out the minimum rules for using safe rooms. A school district may adopt more rules but at the very least the school must follow the minimum rules from Chapter 103.

What is A Safe Room and What Does the Room Have to Look Like?

A safe room or time-out room is an area or room used by school employees to physically confine or detain students. Physical confinement and detention means keeping a student in a room or other enclosure, from which the student cannot leave.

If a school has a safe room or time-out room, the area must:

  • be a reasonable size,
  • have no hazards or dangerous objects,
  • have light and ventilation, and
  • be at a comfortable temperature that matches the school building’s temperature,

If the safe room has an automatic door lock, the lock must automatically unlock when the fire alarm or weather warning goes off. If the lock is not automatic, it must be the kind that will only lock when a person is holding the lock mechanism. The lock must not stay locked after the person has taken his or her hand off of the lock. When the door is unlocked, the student must be able to open the door from the inside.

When Can My Child Be Put In a Safe Room and How Long Can My Child Be Kept in a Safe Room?

A school employee may put your child in a safe room for major discipline issues or for health and safety reasons. The school employee may not use the safe room for minor discipline issues. Before a school employee can put your child in a safe room, the school employee must have tried other discipline options (if reasonable). That means the school employee should only put your child in a safe room as a last resort.

A student may be kept in the safe room only for a reasonable period of time. The amount of time a student can be kept in a safe room depends on the child’s age, size and physical and mental conditions. The student can be kept in a safe room during school, before school or after school. The school employee must get approval from a school administrator, like the principal or assistant principal, if a student is to be kept in the safe room for longer than one class period or more than 1 hour.

An adult must monitor the student at all times while the student is in the safe room. Also, a student must be allowed reasonable breaks to attend to bodily needs, such as going to the bathroom. Sleeping is not considered a bodily need for the safe room.

Does the School Have to Tell Me If My Child Has Been Put In A Safe Room?

Yes. If your child is put in a safe room, the school must try to tell you that same day. In addition, the school must tell you the following things in writing, within 3 school days:

  • the names of the student and school employees involved;
  • the name of the school administer who approved the longer detention if the student was kept in a safe room for longer than one class period or longer than 1 hour;
  • the date and time and how long the student was kept in the safe room;
  • the actions of the student before, during and after being put in the safe room;
  • the actions of the school employees before, during and after the school employee placed the student in the safe room;
  • the alternatives the school employees attempted before putting the student in the safe room;
  • a description of any injuries to the student or to others and any property damage; and
  • a description of what the school employees plan to do in the future to deal with the student’s behavior.

What Can I Do If a School Employee Illegally Put My Child in A Safe Room?

If a school employee put your child in a safe room and the employee did not follow the rules, you have a few options. You can file a complaint with:

  • the school board for your school district.  The local school board’s decision can be appealed to the State Board of Education.  The decision of the State Board of Education can be reviewed by a state court judge.
  • the State of Iowa Board of Educational Examiners
    • The State of Iowa Board of Educational Examiners licenses teachers and other school professionals. The Board investigates complaints about licensed school staff.  The first step is to fill out a complaint form.
    • Your complaint must be filed within 3 years of the incident.

If the school is discriminating against a student based on a protected characteristic, such as race, sex, national origin, or disability, you could file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or your local civil rights commission, if there is one in your city or town. The Iowa Civil Rights Commission or your local civil rights commission investigates complaints of discrimination. The first step is to contact the Commission and fill out an Intake Form. Your complaint must be filed within 300 days of the last incident.

Another option if the school is discriminating based on a protected characteristic is to file a complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.  The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights investigates complaints of discrimination in programs that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education. The first step is to fill out a complaint form. Your complaint must be filed within 180 days of the incident.

You may apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid if you think your child has been illegally put in a safe room.

Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 

To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:call 800-532-1275. Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161 or 

apply online at iowalegalaid.org

If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer” on the Iowa State Bar Association website – iowabar.org.   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.

Last Review and Update: Aug 28, 2015
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