Note: This is such an important subject, and one that brushed my family last week. The day after the shooting in Florida, my daughter's high school had an unscheduled dismissal for a water problem. I came home at 11:28am to find a school bus waiting in front of my house. My first thought was "Oh did I miss a half day?" I did not. The district put my pre-verbal daughter with autism onto a bus without contacting me and confirming I would be home to bring her in the house safely. The district sent an email 40 minutes before dismissal. - and while I check email often, I don't check it every 15 minutes and I do not have alerts since I run no fewer than 6 email accounts for various parts of my work and other areas of my life. My phone would be blowing up all day.
The robocall came to my house house phone 10 minutes after her bus arrived. The robocall came to my cell 25 minutes after the bus arrived. And a Robotext arrived 30 minutes after the bus arrived saying the buses were on their way. In light of Florida, I wasn't going to lose my mind over the mistake. My girl was safe. But the teacher should have called me on my cell to make sure I was available. I called the Superintendent and suggested a new system for the kids with special needs. "Make sure you reach a parent or guardian." He agreed to look into where the school had gone wrong. I think it was simple - CALL MOM. Common sense. In a lockdown emergency - I promise you that none 0f my three could stay quiet to avoid detection. Would they be thrown into the hall to save the other students and staff? Are those seclusion rooms soundproof? That's another post. Kim
With lockdowns and evacuation drills becoming a regular occurrence in schools, students with disabilities are often faced with disruptions of routine, unrealistic behavior expectations, accessibility problems, and other challenges that may not have been addressed in the IEP and remove necessary supports. Friendship Circle asked Dr. Dusty Columbia Embury and Dr. Laura Clarke, who’ve written about safety and students with disabilities, to answer some questions about how schools can include these students in their planning for unexpected events and how parents can make sure their children’s needs are accounted for.
Introduction from Dusty and Laura
We are passionate about creating and sustaining inclusive settings and experiences for all children, and we began our research about school safety and children with significant disabilities after the Newtown school shooting.
What started out as a panicked conversation between friends who both have a child with a disability turned into research about what kinds of safeguards are in place for children with disabilities in a school crisis. Our article in Teaching Exceptional Children, “Supporting Students With Disabilities During School Crises: A Teacher’s Guide,” was the result of this research, and our work in this area has continued as we work with our friends at Scenario Learning on their school safety online course for school professionals and through workshops and trainings with school districts interested in creating safety plans that address the most vulnerable students.
What are some issues with lockdown drills that parents of kids with disabilities should be aware of?
Dusty: It depends on the student—but we know that practice for emergencies like a lockdown or a natural disaster can present challenges to our students. When I think about my own student, I think about the (often loud) disruption to the routine and not knowing what is happening. Changes, especially frightening ones, present difficulties for my student and many other students. When she was younger, my concerns were that she would shut down and be unable to move to safety on her own and might lash out if others attempted to move her to safety. Read more at FriendshipCircle.org here.