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Oregon Orders Portland School To Remove Seclusion Cells

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

The Oregon Board of Education has ordered a Portland public school to remove four so-called "seclusion cells."

The small rooms are used when out-of-control students need a place to calm down without posing a risk to themselves or others. Oregon lawmakers this year voted to ban the starkest versions of these rooms.

Backers of the measure specifically pointed to the seclusion cells at Pioneer School in northeast Portland. It serves students with severe behavioral and mental health issues.

Democratic Representative Sara Gelser, who championed the measure, says she's glad the state has clarified the legislation's intent.

"Sometimes we pass laws and we have to pay attention to them. It's not just about getting that bill across the floor," says Gelser. "It's about making sure that changes are actually made to make schools better, safer places for kids."

The Portland Public School district questioned whether the law actually applied to the cells at Pioneer School. Nonetheless, it had already decided not to use the seclusion cells during the current academic year.

Representative Gelser says she's holding a hearing next week to determine whether other school districts in the state are still using seclusion cells.

On the web:

HB 2756: Seclusion cell ban - Oregon Legislature 
Letter to Portland Public Schools - Oregon Department of Education