A bill banning the use of free-standing "seclusion cells" within Oregon schools is on its way to the governor's desk after approval from the state senate on Monday.
The senate voted 27-1 to pass House Bill 2756, which would force schools to stop using free-standing, self-contained seclusion cells.
While supporters say placing students in seclusion areas can help them
calm down, opponents insist using seclusion can be traumatic. In Oregon,
state law mandates that students can only be placed in seclusion rooms
as a last resort.
The actual number of rooms affected by the bill is largely unknown,
since seclusion rooms that are not free-standing -- which are in use in
many districts -- will remain unaffected.
Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), who introduced the issue in the
House, said she believes the bill would shut down four units at Portland
Public Schools' Pioneer School,
a program exclusively for students with disabilities. The district,
which has remained neutral on the bill, has used the rooms more than 100
times since the beginning of the school year.
Sen. Doug Whitsett (R-Klamath Falls), the only senator to vote no, said it was "good policy," but an unfunded mandate.
But Gelser said the testimony of a psychiatrist and several families
against the use of seclusion rooms showed the bill was necessary. "The
cost of removing one of these inappropriate units from a district is
negligible compared to the long-standing safety of children," she said.
Hearings on the bill drew no opponents and several families who were
against seclusion. In February, student Jared Harrison emotionally told
members of the House Education Committee about being forced into a
seclusion room multiple times a week in the Eugene 4-J School District.
His mother, who later pulled him out of the district, said last month she had gathered information from eight districts, which showed officials placed students in seclusion rooms 791 times.