Girl’s Family Sues Oregon School over Alleged Seclusion Room Incident

A lawsuit filed last week accuses Oregon’s Springfield School District of holding a then-7-year-old girl in a 6-foot-by-8-foot seclusion room for having a “meltdown” in class.

The $300,000 lawsuit, filed by the girl’s grandfather, says the student’s Court Appointed Special Advocate made an unannounced visit to the school in 2012 and found the girl in a dark room, lying in the fetal position on the concrete floor, reported The Register Guard.

The girl’s grandfather became her guardian after her mother’s death.

The lawsuit asserts that the student, who has been diagnosed with several developmental disorders, was sent to the small room more than once before her advocate found her there.

LawsuitRepeated visits to the small room have caused the girl to have nightmares, fear the dark and become claustrophobic, according to the lawsuit. It also worsened her post-traumatic stress disorder and oppositional defiance disorder, the suit says.

A spokeswoman for the Springfield School District said Monday that officials had not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

The use of seclusion facilities in Springfield schools has declined since the state passed stricter laws regulating such punishments.

Springfield students were put into seclusion 61 times during the 2011-2012 school year, but by the next year the reported incidents of seclusion fell to 13.

Seclusion not used at all in 2013-14 and only twice in the school year that ended in June, according to a district spokeswoman.

One of the rules passed by the Oregon legislature in 2011 requires schools to tell parents the same day if their child is secluded or physical restrained.

Another new requirement mandates that staff be trained to deal with misbehaving students, especially those who are disabled, and legislators banned the use of free-standing “cells” for seclusion in 2013.

Schools can still use seclusion rooms that are part of a building’s original design.

Parents and mental health advocates have expressed concern about the rooms. They say seclusion is not an effective or safe way to calm students.