When we think about school safety, we often think of annual safety drills or the procedures we put in place to keep our campuses safe from intruders and during disasters. And while many of our schools have general crisis plans in place to support student safety, very few plans address the complex needs of students with disabilities.
School emergency procedures often call for students to move quickly, assume specific and often uncomfortable positions, hide, or be silent. For some of our students with disabilities, these requests can be challenging, or in some cases - impossible. So, what can we do to ensure they're prepared for actual crises and emergencies?
To keep our students safe in the event of a disaster or emergency, we need to dig deeper and develop detailed plans that are specific to students' individualized needs, much like an Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Develop a Team - The team should evaluate your school's safety plan and create a basic plan for all students with disabilities. It's a good idea to include key personnel who regularly support and know the students, such as teachers, paraeducators, occupational or physical therapists, etc.
Checklist - Consider developing an individual checklist that teachers and administrators could use to determine the supports needed for a student in an emergency. The checklist should consider both the general characteristics of the student, but also as questions, such as, “Can the studentâ€¦”
This information is from the Exceptional Child online PD course School Safety for Students with Disabilities, by Dr. Laura Clarke and Dr. Dusty Columbia Embury.