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Oregon House passes ban on 'seclusion cells'

Oregon House passes ban on 'seclusion cells' »Play Video
Oregon Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, wants to ban rooms like this one at Pioneer School in Portland.

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon House unanimously passed Wednesday a bill banning "seclusion cells" and work continues for limits on "seclusion rooms" in schools.

The type of 'seclusion cell' that is included under the Oregon bill is like the one that had been used at a school in Longview, Wash., which KATU News first reported on in November 2012. Those cells are defined as free-standing and not part of the building structure.

Democratic Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis visited a school in Portland that has rooms she hopes would be banned under the law.

"I asked to go inside one of these cells, because I had been told that they're very calming. That it can make you feel better.  That it can make you relax," said Gelser on the House floor Wednesday. "I asked to go inside. I asked to have the door shut. I didn't feel calmer. I didn't feel relaxed."

Gelser visited Pioneer School, which specializes in teaching special needs students and has isolation facilities.

The school district has characterized them as rooms, not cells.

"Often times, if we were to use a room like this, the alternative would be physically restraining a student for a prolonged amount of time," said Portland Public Schools spokesman Matt Shelby. "So this allows us to basically put them in an environment where they can basically calm themselves down."

Gelser said the legislation is aimed at banning just seclusion cells including what's at Pioneer School and separate legislation would further limit the use of seclusion rooms.

She said if the bill approved by the House doesn't accomplish that, she'll go to colleagues in the Senate to have the bill modified to make sure it shuts down those seclusion rooms at Pioneer School.