DES MOINES – AFSCME Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement following a town hall meeting with employees of the State Training School at Eldora:
“It has become clear to me that recent reports out of the State Training School at Eldora from Disability Rights Iowa (DRI) tell a one-sided story that disregards the employees who have dedicated their careers to dealing with some of the most difficult and vulnerable kids in Iowa. Employees unanimously confessed that their work environment has become significantly more dangerous in the past few years.
“The frequency of staff assaults, including stabbings and beatings, demonstrate why staff turnover has increased with Disability Rights Iowa’s witch hunts. DRI has emboldened the residents by teaching them that they are exempt from discipline in any form. Workers report that it is common for residents to physically or verbally abuse staff while taunting them with phrases like, ‘You’re not allowed to touch me, or I’ll call DRI.’ Resident escapes and police interventions have also increased, due to staff fearing that even trying to break up a riot will result in DRI intervention.
“Beyond the culture of insubordination that has been created, the attorneys who make up Disability Rights Iowa have actually made the residents less safe when staff don’t feel they have the ability to do their jobs. For example, there was an incident in which a teenager escaped, stole a car, drove to Ankeny, and stabbed someone in the neck. If the staff felt empowered to stop this teenager from escaping, this incident likely would not have occurred.
“We absolutely believe that safety and oversight is extremely important, especially when dealing with vulnerable populations. What is equally important is that a balance is struck so that employees feel confident in creating the safest possible environment for both the residents and themselves.”
The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 61 represents 40,000 public employees in Iowa including law enforcement and correctional officers, firefighters, mental health workers, professional school staff, emergency responders, and many other workers. AFSCME Council 61 also represents home health care and child care providers across the state and private sector workers at Prairie Meadows, Palmer College of Chiropractic, Des Moines University, and ABM (Marshalltown).