Public Comment / HB 61: School Safety Requirements

Updated: 1 year ago
Public Policy

February 3, 2023
Nate Crippes / Public Affairs Supervising Attorney
Andrew Riggle / Public Policy Advocate
(801) 363-1347 / (800) 662-9080

Good afternoon committee members. My name’s Andrew Riggle. I’m the Disability Law Center’s public policy advocate.

While the DLC supports transparency in the agreement between a school district and a law enforcement agency, as well as clarity around the roles and responsibilities of a school’s administration and its school resource officer, we ask you to consider the question of how to improve school safety in all its complexity. While we recognize a grant can now be used to purchase a few other items, please don’t give in to the temptation to focus on disability as the problem, or law enforcement as the solution.

20% of youth live with a mental health condition. Half of adults living with mental illness experienced onset by 14. A student with a disability is twice as likely to be suspended from school as a student without a disability. Individuals with disabilities make up only 12% of the student population, but 25% of all arrests. Almost ¾ of youth involved in juvenile justice systems have mental health conditions. We’re deeply concerned more SROs in schools will undo the progress we’ve made in dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

Media reports estimate that 1/3-1/2 of all those killed by law enforcement had a disability. Some put it even higher, at 60-80%. The Harriet Tubman Collective names at least 18 victims. With more SROs in school, we fear more tragically unintended outcomes, like that suffered by Linden Cameron.

The DLC supports public education and other efforts to unravel myths associating persons with disabilities with violence and to ensure effective treatment, support, and safety for these vulnerable individuals. We vigorously oppose attempts – in the name of public safety – to deny students rights or privileges, or otherwise discriminate against them on the basis of a disability.

Thank you for your time and consideration of our perspective.