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News & Views - Feb, 2002 Issue #90


Obsidian Trails can resume programs
[From the Albany Democrat Heraldís February 12, 2002 story appearing at dhonline.com.]

Obsidian Trails is free to resume its wilderness programs for teen-agers under a settlement agreement with the Oregon Justice Department. Linn County Circuit Judge Daniel Murphy signed the settlement order Monday. Attorney Dick Whittemore, Portland, said today the school was working with the state Forestry Department and private landowners to find suitable sites for new wilderness camps. Meanwhile, the roughly two dozen remaining participants in Obsidianís outdoor school have been staying at a motel in Burns, Whittemore said. The school itself was never shut down, he explained.

The order settles a case begun on Feb. 1, when Murphy issued a temporary restraining order requiring Obsidian to remove about 30 young people from wilderness camps and take them to proper housing indoors. Whittemore said there had been three groups of children, eight or nine each, hiking or moving around during the day and camping at night in the Cascades, in Linn or Deschutes county.

The judgeís order Feb. 1 followed a complaint by the state Justice Department against Obsidian, charging the Bend organization with unlawful trade practices and racketeering in failing to live up to its advertising regarding medical care and safety for children in its care. The last week in January, an investigation by the state child protection service showed that two teen-age girls had suffered severe frostbite, another went untreated for several days for appendicitis, and a fourth had a severely infected finger.

The agreement with the state calls on Obsidian to pay the Justice Departmentís Consumer Protection and Education Fund $5,000 within 12 months. Obsidian admits no wrong-doing, and the payment is not to be considered a fine or penalty.

The agreement requires that Obsidian have a registered nurse or emergency medical technician trained in wilderness rescue techniques visit all its camps at least twice a week and check the health and safety of all participants. A licensed registered nurse must be on call, and every camp must have an emergency vehicle available. Obsidian also is required to provide treatment for children with serious medical conditions. Also, the school must comply with new administrative rules for the conduct of outdoor schools, even though the rules donít take effect until March 1.

[For additional stories on this tragedy, visit the Obsidian News page on this web site.]

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