Requirements are in place; training should be happening through ESDsdon'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:
- Constitutional and civil rights of children in schools, including state law governing search and interrogation of youth in schools;
- Child and adolescent development;
- Trauma-informed approaches to working with youth;
- Recognizing and responding to youth mental health issues;
- Educational rights of students with disabilities, the relationship of disability to behavior, and best practices for interacting with students with disabilities;
- Collateral consequences of arrest, referral for prosecution, and court involvement;
- 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;
- Local and national disparities in the use of force and arrests of children;
- De-escalation techniques when working with youth or groups of youth;
- State law regarding restraint and isolation in schools, including RCW 28A.600.485;
- 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;
- 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
- Restorative justice principles and practice
For more information, visit the OSPI School Safety and Security Staff Program webpage.