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Bill Would Ban Seclusion Rooms

Twelve-year-old Jared Harrison testified about his experiences being shut in a seclusion room at his 4J school before the Legislature’s House Committee on Education in Salem on Feb. 22. “I think people have it in their minds that kids that are exposed to this kind of treatment are some kind of monsters,” Jared’s mother, Jennifer Harrison, says. “They are not thinking about a kid who can speak at length publicly.”

Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, is pushing for House Bill 2756, which would force school districts to get rid of free-standing, self-contained units — seclusion cells — but would not change Oregon laws that regulate non free-standing seclusion rooms. Also on the slate is HB 2585, which would require the Oregon Department of Education to establish minimum standards for spaces used for seclusion.

Jared, who has attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and was placed in the behavioral program at McCornack Elementary, was repeatedly put in a seclusion room and had restraint used upon him from first through fourth grades, Harrison says. 

She says while she welcomes this bill, she doesn’t think it goes far enough. “It should have to do with the locking; if you are locking a child in a room, it should be considered seclusion.” Jared testified to the committee that the door to the room he was in would be locked magnetically while someone held down a button, and he spoke about an incident in which another student “picked on him” by turning off the lights, leaving him screaming in the dark until someone noticed.

Harrison says, according to the most recent data she was able to get from 4J, there were 235 uses of seclusion in 4J elementary schools in 2010-11. She says, “Either there were more than 235 instances of imminent threat or bodily injury in grade schools at 4J or they are misusing seclusion rooms.”  She says that either idea is scary. Under Oregon law, the rooms can only be used in cases of “reasonable threat of imminent, serious bodily injury.” 

The Oregonian writes, “Portland Public Schools reported using seclusion rooms 104 times from the beginning of the school year to mid-January.” But Harrison says in Eugene she has not been able to get the most recent statistics from 4J.

Harrison says if other parents want to contact her because they share concerns over the seclusion room issue, she can be reached by phone at 914-5095 and email at jraeharrison@hotmail.com