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United States saw uptick in extreme weather and natural disasters from 2016-2018; 2018 was worst year for on-campus violence since Columbine school shooting in 1999

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is introducing the Promoting Responsible Emergency Protocols (PREP) for all Students Act to keep all students safe when extreme weather strikes or on-campus violence occurs. During the 2017-2018 school year, 16 to 18 percent of children had a disability or developmental delay. As natural disasters such as flooding and wildfires rise in the United States and on-campus violence spikes, safety recommendations for schools and child care settings must evolve to integrate the needs of young children and youth with disabilities. The PREP for all Students Act would ensure that public schools, early child care education centers and institutions of higher education have the tools they need to develop inclusive emergency preparedness protocols. U.S. Representative Susan Wild (D-PA-7) is introducing companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“No student should feel unsafe or unprotected in a learning environment,” said Senator Casey. “We must do more to meet the needs of all children and youth, regardless of age, developmental stage and ability. The PREP for all Students Act would ensure that young children and students with disabilities are not left out of emergency preparedness and would support schools and child care centers by providing the resources they need to keep young people safe.”

“All too often, emergency protocols are designed with a one-size-fits-all approach – not properly accounting for the unique needs of persons with disabilities, mental health needs, or young children,” said Congresswoman Wild. “As natural disasters and on-campus violence continue to rise, every level of schooling – from child care centers to institutions of higher education – need the resources to be able to develop trauma-informed emergency preparedness plans to protect young students and students with disabilities. I’m proud of this legislation that would ensure students with disabilities and mental health challenges are included in their schools’ emergency planning and creates a safer environment for each and every student.”

The PREP for all Students Act would establish a Federal Advisory Council composed of federal agencies, youth with disabilities and mental health considerations, parents, educators and advocates to develop guidelines and recommendations for the implementation of accessible, developmentally appropriate, culturally aware and trauma-informed emergency preparedness protocols in early child care and education centers, public schools and institutions of higher education. The legislation would ensure that Congress is provided a report with the findings of the Federal Advisory Council and that schools are provided with accurate information about the needs of specific populations of children, youth and employees during emergency events.

The PREP for All Students Act is supported by the following organizations: National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Institute for Childhood Preparedness, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), Sandy Hook Promise, National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), Little Lobbyists, National Association of the Deaf (NAD), Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), Autism Society of America, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Council of Parent and Attorney Advocates (COPAA), Spina Bifida Association and Access Living.

Read more about the PREP for all Students Act here.