November 24, 2020

By Attorney Carrie Weber

On Wednesday, November 18, the Iowa State Board of Education approved the adoption of a new Chapter 103, now titled “Corporal Punishment, Physical Restraint, Seclusion, and other Physical Contact with Students.” The rules will become effective January 20, 2021.  

Changes to Chapter 103 were first proposed through the rulemaking process in September 2018. The initial proposal underwent a number of revisions, with new draft rules published earlier this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for adopting the final rules passed without action and the revisions went through a third public comment period and public hearing on September 15, 2020. A full explanation and text of the now-final Chapter 103 rules is located here.

The changes are comprehensive, and school districts should start planning now to ensure they are ready to implement the changes by January 20.  

On December 9, 2020, Ahlers & Cooney will host a two-hour webinar designed for administrators tasked with facilitating compliance with Chapter 103.  

The webinar will discuss changes included in the new rules that require immediate attention in preparation for the 1/20/21 effective date, including, but not limited to:

1. Any time restraint or seclusion is used, a school must attempt to notify the student’s parents as soon as practicable after the situation is under control, but no later than one hour or the end of the school day, whichever occurs first.  

2. The restraint or seclusion must only be used for as long as necessary. Anything beyond 15 minutes requires approval from an administrator or administrator’s designee, with additional approval required every 30 minutes thereafter.  

3. Any seclusion must take place in a compliant seclusion room, unless the nature of the occurrence would make such use impossible, clearly impractical, or clearly contrary to the safety of the student or others. 

4. In addition to requiring documentation of any restraint or seclusion event, the new rules also require documentation of the written rationale for any failure to comply with certain requirements of the rules. Written documentation must include the reasons explaining any of the following occurrences: (a) use of a nonapproved restraint; (b) a seclusion that did not occur in a compliant room; (c) failure to obtain administrator approval for restraint or seclusion lasting longer than 15 minutes; (d) failure to timely contact parents about an incident of restraint or seclusion.   

5. If a school district receives an allegation that an employee violated any provision of Chapter 103, it must investigate and take appropriate corrective action. If the complaint involved a specific student, that student’s parents are entitled to receive the results of the investigation, including any required corrective action, as permitted by law.

6. In certain situations, a debriefing meeting must be held as soon as practicable following the use of restraint or seclusion, but no later than 5 days of the report being mailed or provided to the parent. The rules contain details regarding who must attend and what should be discussed.  

7. The rules contain requirements for the physical specifications of seclusion rooms. Certain specifications must be met by July 1, 2021. Schools must consult with appropriate state and local building, fire, safety, and health officials. This consultation and approval by health and safety officials must be documented. Schools may continue to use rooms that comply with all of the requirements except for size until January 20, 2026, or whenever the portion of the school containing the room is renovated or remodeled, whichever occurs first.  

Please watch your email for further information on the planned December 9 webinar. The webinar will cover the changes to Chapter 103 in more detail and provide attendees with a comprehensive implementation checklist.

This is only a summary of the changes to Chapter 103. If you have questions about the impact of updated rules or would like advice generally on the current requirements under Chapter 103, please contact an attorney in the Ahlers & Cooney Education Law Practice Area.

About Ahlers & Cooney's Client Alerts
Our Client Alerts are intended to provide occasional general comments on new developments in Federal and State law and regulations which we believe might be of interest to our clients. The Client Alerts should not be considered opinions of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., and are not intended to provide legal advice as a substitute for seeking professional counsel. Readers should not under any circumstance act upon the information in this publication without seeking specific professional counsel. Ahlers & Cooney will be pleased to provide additional details regarding any article upon request. Additional copies of this Client Alert may be obtained by contacting any attorney in the Firm or by visiting the Firm's website at   ©2020 Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. All Rights Reserved.

The determination of the need for legal services and the choice of a lawyer are extremely important decisions and should not be based solely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. This disclosure is required by rule of the Supreme Court of Iowa. Memberships and offices in legal fraternities and legal societies, technical and professional licenses, and memberships in scientific, technical and professional associations and societies of law or field of practice does not mean that a lawyer is a specialist or expert in a field of law, nor does it mean that such lawyer is necessarily any more expert or competent than any other lawyer. All potential clients are urged to make their own independent investigation and evaluation of any lawyer being considered. This notice is required by rule of the Supreme Court of Iowa.

Beenken, Katherine


Heffernan, Elizabeth


Van Heukelem, Miriam


Weber, Carrie


« Back