The Arc of Texas Provides Recommendations on Ensuring School Safety
The Arc of Texas Leadership and Advocacy Coordinator, Wendy Ward, submitted written testimony to the Texas House of Representatives Youth Health & Safety, Select Committee. Ward provided testimony during the committee meeting on June 23, 2022. Read the testimony submitted below.
Thank you for your leadership in the 87th Texas Legislature.
As a statewide membership organization, The Arc of Texas promotes, protects, and advocates for the human rights and self-determination of more than a half-million Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). We respectfully submit the following recommendations regarding school safety.
- Create a Council on Emergency Response Protocols
- Ensure comprehensive and inclusive school emergency plans
Council on Emergency Response Protocols
Around 11.3 percent of Texas students in public schools are students with disabilities. Students with disabilities and access and functional needs are often left behind in planning for school shooting response and other critical incidents. To deal with insufficient emergency response protocols for all students, we respectfully ask for legislation similar to H.R.7859 – PREP for All Students Act of 2022 during the 88th Texas Legislative Session. A Council on Emergency Response Protocols would validate accessible, developmentally appropriate, culturally aware, and trauma-informed emergency response protocols in public schools, early childcare and education settings, and institutions of higher education.
Comprehensive and Inclusive School Safety Plans
A truly holistic, comprehensive, and inclusive school emergency plan should address the safety requirements of all students with disabilities in the planning of emergency drills to ensure that no one is left behind. Minnesota adopted a comprehensive school safety guide highlighting categorical disability areas for students receiving special education services required by IDEA, as well as students receiving services under Section 504, students with temporary conditions, and English language learners. These are groups of students who may need specialized assistance in emergency situations. Students with disabilities may have IEPs listing annual goals for academic achievement and functional performance. IEPs can include individual emergency plans involving the participation and input of parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, first responders, and students if possible. Texas should replicate such best practices so that students with disabilities and access and functional needs are included in the design and implementation of emergency drills, exercises and response to active shooter situations and other critical incidents. Schools should collaborate with key stakeholders and first responders to develop protocols that are based on research, needs and preferences of students with disabilities, and staff capacity.
We appreciate your consideration of this information and recommendations as we approach the 88th Texas Legislative Session. Please do not hesitate to contact The Arc of Texas for additional information or if we can be of service.