Tuesday, December 28, 2021

School safety officer training

Requirements are in place; training should be happening through ESDs

Image of children lining up outside school
When school safety measures intersect with discipline, they often don't work out well for students with disabilities, especially if they are also Black, Indigenous or students of color. Data shows disproportionate removal of students in these groups, even for the same behavior as non-disabled, white students. It also shows Black students are more likely to be arrested in school or referred to law enforcement.

Complicating matters for some students with disabilities is when they are removed or referred for behavior related to their disability. Students affected by trauma also face high levels of removal.

In 2019 and 2021, the state legislature mandated training requirements for school resource officers and other safety and security staff personnel in schools, with the goal of increasing student well-being as well as school safety. School resource officers are police, usually armed, with power to make arrests.

There has been ongoing concern that school safety personnel are not always trained to work with diverse youth, and do not understand federal civil rights laws related to disability, or state laws governing use of restraints or isolation. Restraints and isolation should never be used as discipline, but concerns remain about their misuse.

The state's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) recently filed a report to the state legislature, updating state work in this area.

Following is a snapshot of who is being removed in Washington schools, followed by new rules for training.

In 2019-20, 2.4% of students were excluded in response to behavior.

By race or ethnicity:

  • 5.3% American Indian/Alaskan Native students were suspended or expelled
  • 5% of Black/African American students were suspended or expelled
  • 2% of white students were suspended or expelled

By program or characteristic:

  • 9.9% of youth in foster care were suspended or expelled
  • 6.3% of youth who are homeless were suspended or expelled
  • 5.7% of students with IEPs were suspended or expelled

Certain students were also more likely to receive suspensions of 10 or more days. Of students removed for that length of time:

  • 14.3% were in foster care, vs 10.6% non-foster care
  • 13.5% experienced homelessness, vs 10.4% non-homeless
  • 12.8% were English language learners, vs 10.4% non-ELL

Here is a break down by race, ethnicity, or gender for removal of 10-plus days.

  • Gender X: 13.2%
  • Latino: 12.5% 
  • Black/African-American: 12% 
  • White: 9%

You can explore this data on OSPI's Washington State Report. Choose Diversity Report.

Most school personnel training is done through regional Educational Service Districts (ESDs). The ESD serving King and Pierce counties is Puget Sound Educational Service District 121 (PSEDS).

While schools are not required to have school resource officers, if they do state law requires them to be trained in these areas:

  1. Constitutional and civil rights of children in schools, including state law governing search and interrogation of youth in schools;
  2. Child and adolescent development;
  3. Trauma-informed approaches to working with youth;
  4. Recognizing and responding to youth mental health issues;
  5. Educational rights of students with disabilities, the relationship of disability to behavior, and best practices for interacting with students with disabilities;
  6. Collateral consequences of arrest, referral for prosecution, and court involvement;
  7. Resources available in the community that serve as alternatives to arrest and prosecution and pathways for youth to access services without court or criminal justice involvement;
  8. Local and national disparities in the use of force and arrests of children;
  9. De-escalation techniques when working with youth or groups of youth;
  10. State law regarding restraint and isolation in schools, including RCW 28A.600.485;
  11. Bias-free policing and cultural competency, including best practices for interacting with students from particular backgrounds, including English/multilingual learners, students who are LGBTQ+, and students who are immigrants;
  12. The federal family educational rights and privacy act (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232g) requirements including limits on access to and dissemination of student records for non-educational purpose; and
  13. Restorative justice principles and practice

For more information, visit the OSPI School Safety and Security Staff Program webpage.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Disturbing trend on use of Safety Net funding

Closed circle of figures, with one in red, on the outside looking in

82 percent of high need funds used to remove kids from their school districts

The state has a fund set up for students whose special education support is exceptionally high cost. It’s a way for schools to get students what they need to access learning. In the 2020-21 school year, the state awarded $91 million in special education Safety Net funds.


Just over 29 percent of awards for “high need individual” – and 82 percent of funds in play for that category – paid for out-of-district placements. That’s up from 23 percent of applications in 2019-20.

This included 80 placements in out-of-state non-public agencies (NPAs) – up from 58 in 2019-20.

In other words, most of the funds are being used to remove students from their local public schools, rather than ensure their local school is equipped to meet their needs.

While most awards (2,236) supported students in their district, the state paid more than $71 million to serve 916 students outside their local public schools. This included:

  • 468 students – In-state, non-public agency placement; $36 million
  • 189 students – Educational Service District (ESD) placement; $12 million
  • 179 students – Placement in another school district; $10 million
  • 80 students – Out-of-state, non-public agency placement; $13 million

There are two types of Safety Net funding: High-Need Individual and Community Impact. High-Need funding is provided on behalf of an individual student. Community Impact funding is for a factor that impacts the local education agency as a whole. A local education agency can be a school district, charter school, or tribal compact school.

The 2021 Safety Fund awards covered:

  • 3,153 high-need individual applications totaling just over $86 million
  • 15 community impact applications totaling just under $5 million

More than $834 million has been awarded in Safety Net funding since the program’s beginning in the 1996. In 2020–21, awards went to 116 local education agencies; 118 applied.

This information comes from the 2021 Safety Net Survey, Report to the Legislature

This article was written by Ramona Hattendorf, director of advocacy at The Arc of King County.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

For the inclusion-focused: Hope

Image: Row of 8 children, standing
Would you support … ?

  • Increased preschool capacity to equitably meet the needs of all children and families
  • Reduced suspension and expulsion of young children
  • Family engagement
  • Early childhood best practices integrated with infant mental health consultation
  • Data-based decision making and intervention monitoring

Over the past few years, the state has been quietly building the Washington Pyramid Model, a collection of programs and evidence-based classroom practices to support early childhood development.

The goal: Increase high-quality, inclusive learning settings for young children, which in Washington is an urgent issue for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Among the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Bureau of Indian Education schools we rank 49th out of 53 when it comes to inclusive early learning. (Source: 2020 Annual Report to Congress on the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act)

For children with intellectual disabilities in K-12, we are 51 out 53 when it comes to least restricted environment. Overall, in K-12, we are in the bottom 8 for least restricted environment.

Out of 10,150 preschool students with disabilities in Washington with an individual education program (IEP), just 1,783 attend a regular early childhood program, with supports pushed in. “Regular early childhood program” is actually legal term – spelled out in federal and now state administrative code – that means a regular preschool or other early learning setting, where at least half the students do not have a disability. Access to one is important because research shows that inclusive early learning is critical to social emotional learning and skill development. No study that assesses social outcomes has found segregated settings to be superior.

In fact, research shows skills decline when children are taught them only to be placed into “self-contained” classes, or classes with just a few peers.

Inclusion – or lack of it – affects children’s development and well-being. Relationships, social and emotional learning, and skill building are essential to later behavior health and academic progress.

Data on use of restraints and isolation is similarly alarming.

According to state reports, students with disabilities make up 92 percent of students who were restrained or isolated in our public schools. And 80 percent of the students who were restrained or isolated were in grades K-5.

There is even more upsetting data on suspension and expulsion. National data shows children with disabilities make up about 13 percent of all preschoolers, but account for 75 percent of formal and informal suspensions and expulsions.

Too many schools are not using inclusive, trauma-informed, and culturally responsive practices, and the kids are not all right.

The Washington Pyramid Model supported by both the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and the state Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) is the movement to change that. It focuses on building out technical assistance and coaching to support inclusive programs with fidelity. At its core is relationship building – among staff, with families and community, and with children.

Action steps include:

  •  Improve the inclusion of children with disabilities in early learning settings
  • Identify and implement applied research strategies that address specific inclusionary policy, procedure, and reflections on potential opportunities in early childhood settings
  • Identify early childhood inclusion and funding models, facilities guidance, and high-quality instructional strategies captured in the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center’s Pre-K Inclusion Toolkit and Provisions of Services to Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs During a School Facility Closure document
  • Finalize a Joint Position Statement on Preschool Inclusion with the Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Share training experiences with early learning professionals, across grade levels and disciplines, relating to inclusionary practices and Universal Design for Learning frameworks
  • Continue to build a network to support sustainable professional development around the Washington Pyramid Model to support implementation in classroom, program, and systems level under the guidance of a cross-sector state leadership team

Washington is in year three of the pyramid model build out.

  • Year 1 included work with 2 school districts and 1 education service district, or ESD. ESDs are regional entities, governed by boards, that link public schools to state and national resources. A lot of staff professional development is done through ESDs.
  • Year 2 added 4 early learning programs and two ESDs.
  • Year 3 added 3 districts or programs and 3 ESDs. In King County, implementation sites include the Neighborhood House in South Seattle and the Shoreline School District’s Edwin Pratt Early Learning Center.

You can read about the work in the 2020-21 Washington State Pyramid Model Implementation Report.

The report includes information about the 9 site programs being supported. You can also look up locations on this map, along with locations of other state initiatives on inclusive early learning.

This article was written by Ramona Hattendorf, director of advocacy at The Arc of King County using sources from OSPI and the U.S. Department of Education.