Working to end school resource officer (SRO) programs

Police officers in schools do exactly what they are trained to do—question, detain, handcuff, and arrest. This leads to greater alienation and a more threatening school environment, especially for students of color. We urge school boards across Iowa to end SRO programs and stop feeding the school-to-prison pipeline.

Opposed a new, expanded juvenile detention facility in Scott County

We sent a letter to the Scott County Board of Supervisors in 2022, expressing concerns about its misuse of COVID-19 funds to build a new juvenile detention facility. We pointed out that building a new and expanded juvenile detention facility, no matter the funding source, was bad public policy. Nine other organizations signed the letter.

Helped end the routine indiscriminate shackling of children in Iowa courts

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that Iowa children would no longer be automatically shackled when appearing in juvenile state court. Shackling children—who can be as young as 10—is psychologically traumatic and damaging for them. We helped change this rule in 2017 with Drake University's Middleton Center for Children's Rights and 8 other groups.

Worked to end life without parole sentences for juveniles and to improve parole procedures

The ACLU of Iowa was a part of the broad movement to end the use of life without parole sentences for people convicted of crimes committed as children. We have since continued working to ensure that such children can obtain a meaningful opportunity for rehabilitation in prison and release.

Young people sentenced to life in prison need a realistic chance at parole from the Iowa Board of Parole. In 2016, we filed two petitions for judicial review, arguing that certain procedural rights to ensure “a meaningful opportunity” to demonstrate rehabilitation in seeking parole were denied for two inmates. The Iowa Supreme Court ultimately upheld existing parole procedures for juvenile offenders but affirmed that children are entitled to more rights than adults in parole proceedings.

Helped limit the use of seclusion rooms and restraints in Iowa schools

For years, educators in Iowa public schools used seclusion rooms and physical restraints on students for infractions like refusing to trace in pencil, stepping out of line at recess, and pouting. It was further concerning that children of color and children with disabilities were disproportionately subjected to this damaging practice.

In 2015, we filed a petition with six Iowa attorneys asking the Iowa Department of Education to revise the rules on school seclusion rooms and restraints. Five years later, the Iowa Board of Education voted to limit their use. We supported the new rules outlining that seclusion and restraints would only be used in emergency situations, be no more restrictive than necessary, used only as a last resort, and never used for the discipline or punishment of children. Under the new rules, seclusion rooms must also be at least 56 square feet and 7 feet wide.