Senator Portantino Introduces Bill to Address Emergency Safety Procedures for Special Needs Students

This week Senator Anthony J. Portantino introduced Senate Bill 323, a bill that addresses the need for emergency safety procedures for IEP (individualized education programs) students.

“Our priority is always student wellbeing,” stated Senator Portantino. “School safety and emergency plans should be all inclusive that requires careful planning and coordination. Special needs of students with disabilities can be unintentionally overlooked, so we are hoping to address that issue with SB 323. I am thankful to Andrea Crissman for bringing attention to this important issue.”

Due to complications that arise when a person is disabled, some individuals are not able to follow an evacuation plan, earthquake or lockdown protocols in the same manner as the general population. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), schools must provide for the educational needs of students with disabilities and address accessibility on campus for all persons. However, the broad mandate of the ADA does not adequately ensure the safety of students with disabilities during emergencies. The IEP is updated annually by the student’s team and provides an opportunity to identify necessary accommodations for student safety.

“My son has significant disabilities. He can’t walk, stand or participate in a fire drill or earthquake drill, much less understand what they are and what to do,” said Andrea Crissman, a constituent and Glendale Unified School District parent. “Educators who care about children have said that they are prepared to keep all students safe, and no one would leave a child behind. They are sincere but school safety plans don’t always address the accommodations my son would need during an earthquake or evacuation. We shouldn’t wait to learn from a tragedy. Advance planning and training are key to keeping everyone safe. SB 323 will help teachers and emergency responders keep every student safe. It will save lives.”

If the procedures of a comprehensive school safety plan are insufficient to ensure an IEP student’s safety during an emergency, SB 323 would require the IEP to include a description of the necessary accommodations to those procedures. Under SB 323, the emergency accommodation plan must be transferred within 30 days if the student changes schools. The bill would require a local educational agency to create and maintain an inclusive school emergency plan and would require that those safety procedures be included in the inclusive school emergency plan for any student whose parent provides written consent in compliance with specified federal laws. Additionally, SB 323 also provides guidance for how local educational agencies develop, maintain and use an inclusive school emergency plan.