State education leaders create standards for seclusion rooms

State education leaders create standards for seclusion rooms »Play Video
The seclusion rooms at Pioneer School in Portland.

SALEM, Ore. – The Oregon lawmaker who pushed to ban so-called seclusion cells is now focusing on school compliance and a list of what any remaining rooms should look like.

Rep. Sara Gelser held an Education Committee meeting on Monday where lawmakers discussed a list of standards for seclusion rooms. The Oregon Department of Education created a list of requirements for the 2014-15 school year.

Oregon outlawed seclusion "cells", which are freestanding structures that educators used to isolate children having behavioral issues. Seclusion "rooms" differ because they are part of a school's original design and can't easily be removed.

According to the guidelines from the state, any seclusion rooms must be large enough for three adults to move freely. One of those adults should be able to lie down.

The room also must be no smaller than 64 square feet, with distance between adjacent walls no less than seven feet.

The list also prohibits furniture and exposed objects. The walls, floors and ceilings must be smooth. Any windows must be made of shatterproof glass and doors must open outward.

“On first blush, what I’ve seen, it seems like these standards are a bit more rigorous and I think that reflects that you are talking about children and you are talking about a school-based facility,” Gelser said.

The doors of seclusion rooms came off last week at Southeast Portland’s Pioneer School after legislators urged school officials to comply with a new law banning them. Those rooms would not have fit the new requirements because they were smaller than 49 square feet.

The committee on Monday said the rooms at Pioneer School helped them craft the new standards for seclusion rooms.

“I don’t want to beat up on Portland too much, but that helped us decide what to do  with other districts,” said Cindy Hunt with the Oregon Department of Education.

The list will be circulated to school districts for at least two months to get feedback.

“What we have to do is make sure we are meeting the needs of kids that have intensive behavior needs,” said Gelser. “We need to keep them safe, we need to keep their classmates safe and we need to keep the teachers who teach them safe.”