Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018, a number of policy changes to address school safety have been proposed at the local, state, and federal level.
Staff at the National Disability Rights Network have been examining those proposals to determine their impact on students with disabilities and students of color. What they found is alarming. While there are some sensible ideas, there are others that have the potential to cause great harm to these children without doing anything to improve school safety.
Many of the proposals focus on increased access to personal information about students, raising questions about privacy right. Legal protection of students’ educational, medical and mental health data have been developed for good reason. Expanded sharing of private information without thoughtful and carefully enforced guardrails could result in discrimination against non-violent students who present no risk to public safety
Other proposals advocate for anonymous reporting mechanisms. Anonymous reporting may be misused to target students with disabilities for behaviors that are a manifestation of their disability and are not dangerous.
Children of color and children with disabilities are already removed from school and arrested at disproportionate rates due to decisions by improperly trained, supported, and supervised school staff. Anonymous reporting and many of the other ideas being proposed will just make that situation worse.
There is no question that we must do everything we can to ensure our schools are safe. But our policies must be guided by research and evidence not fear. Check out NDRN’s analysis of the current proposals to improve school safety.