- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A second Iowa facility for delinquent youths is being criticized for failing to meet educational standards.

The state is being urged to examine the practices of the State Training School for Boys in Eldora after two separate investigations, the Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/RpO7mt ).

Questions about the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo prompted the governor to close it in January. At the Iowa Juvenile Home, residents were sometimes denied schooling while being kept in isolation cells for extended periods.

Investigators from the state Department of Education and the nonprofit group Disability Rights Iowa said it appears the Eldora facility is failing to meet minimum education standards for special education students. Both organizations conducted separate, independent investigations.

Gov. Terry Branstad’s spokesman Jimmy Centers said officials are working quickly to correct the alleged violations at the Eldora facility.

The Iowa Department of Human Services operates the facility. Spokeswoman Amy Lorentzen McCoy said the agency has already begun making changes, but some improvements, such as hiring and training new staff, will take time.

“Changes to the program must be thoughtful and thorough and include assistance from our partners,” she said. “DHS welcomes both the direction and resources identified in the report to further address deficiencies.”

The Eldora facility usually houses about 125 boys between the ages of 12 and 18. They are often placed there by a judge after getting in trouble, and many have committed felonies.

Typically, 50 to 60 percent of the boys at Eldora qualify for special education services.

The state Education Department said in its report that the Eldora staff appeared to have “little understanding and appreciation for meeting the individual learning needs” of children with disabilities.

The investigators questioned many of the written individual plans because they weren’t individualized, and some of the interventions suggested in the plans would only reinforce bad behaviors. Plus, some of the descriptions of behavior, such as “class clown,” couldn’t be measured.

And investigators said the Eldora facility’s programs to teach boys how to live independently and maintain employment were extremely lacking. For example, the plan for one youth called for him to play basketball at Duke University and become a plastic surgeon, but didn’t include any assessment of how unlikely that is.

When Disability Rights Iowa visited the Eldora facility in April, its investigators found the same issues, but executive director Jane Hudson said she’s been encouraged that state officials seem willing to address the problems.

“At Eldora, they have agreed to bring in a national expert on transitional services to work with them, so there are a lot of positive changes they are making,” she said.

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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