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Judge Orders IJH Reopened

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- A Polk County judge ruled today that the state should reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home and Girls State Training School in Toledo, writing that Gov. Terry Branstad's decision to close the facility last month was unconstitutional.

The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of state senators, arguing the closure of the home.

Judge Scott Rosenberg wrote that, because the legislature funded the home through June 2014, it was unconstitutional for Branstad to overstep his bounds and remove that funding.

"I was extremely excited," said IJH youth service worker Abbie Lampman, about hearing the news of the ruling.

Reopening the home is all about keeping the girls who lived there safe, Lampman said.

"Their placement from the juvenile home was hurried and there wasn't a lot of thought put into where they were going," she said.

Two of the 21 girls who were placed in private facilities after the closure ran away from those placements -- one of them was found in Ohio.

There were 14 girls who were sent back to homes that some girls reported were unstable.

"Some of them in particular have told me that they weren't ready to go home. The home environment wasn't the best thing for them. They weren't comfortable being there, they were scared to go there," IJH youth service worker Todd Sprague said.

According to a statement from the governor's office, the home was closed because of an investigation that showed girls were kept in isolation rooms for extended periods and weren't meeting federal education standards.

It's why Sen. Steve Sodders and Sen. Jack Hatch have a bill heading to subcommittee on Thursday that would use recommendations from a Branstad-appointed task force to reopen the home while fixing those problems.

For instance, the bill makes it so that the Area Education Association or the local school district can come in and program the school -- and possibly raise standards.

"Hey, let's now focus on getting this place back up and running as quickly as possibly, but make the changes for those kids," Sodders said.

The bill has bipartisan support, Sodders said, and he is hopeful Branstad will not veto it. The bill does not address the girls who were relocated or the employees who were laid off.

In response to the ruling, Branstad's office issued a statement saying he did not make the decision to close the home lightly, but did what was in the best interest of the girls living there.

The Attorney General's office is reviewing the ruling to determine the state's legal options in appealing.
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