Iowa Senate approves classroom-violence legislation

Redhead teenage male bullying mixed race teenage boy in the corridor at school.
A teacher runs to break up a fight in a school hallway. (Stock photo by Getty Images)

One Iowa teacher resigned from her job because of the anxiety from chronic classroom assaults. Another questioned how his family would financially survive after he was injured by a student, resulting in him leaving work.

Stories such as those prompted state lawmakers to take a major step toward approving a bill intended to curb violence in Iowa’s classrooms — although some Democrats who supported it say they still have reservations with it.

Following a floor debate, the Iowa Senate unanimously approved Senate File 2360, which creates a grant program for school districts to create “therapeutic classrooms” that provide a specialized space for students with behavioral issues. Funding for the classrooms would be tied to the classroom size, which would have a maximum of 15 students. 

“Pain is a daily reality for me,” said Sen. Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, reading from letters sent to her by teachers during a debate on Tuesday. “A reality I didn’t sign up for when I became an educator.”

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

While the Senate vote was unanimous, Democratic legislators said the bill’s $2.6 million appropriation isn’t enough to meet the needs of Iowa schools.

An amendment supported by Democrats would have provided the state’s Area Education Agencies with $3 million for the program instead.

Sen. Amy Sinclair. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Senate)

The amendment didn’t pass, despite Democrats’ argument that without more resources, Iowa schools and teachers will continue to struggle.

“This is a start,” said Iowa Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. “It’s a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.”

But Sinclair pointed out that the participating school districts would receive funding tied to the number of students in the special classrooms. And while it’s not in this year’s bill, Sinclair said, there are plans to provide ongoing funding.

She pointed out that other legislation related to education funding, such as a bill to equalize transportation costs among Iowa school districts, was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday. 

“We’ve funded the promises we’ve made,” Sinclair said.

The bill awaits passage by the Iowa House before it goes to the governor’s desk for her consideration.