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October 30, 2006



This is a very valid issue and something really does need to be done about it. The idea of putting all special education classes on the first floor is something that I think would help the problem, and even though students are integrated into general education classes throughout the day, many of the students would be in that homeroom a good part of the day. This would greatly cut down on the chances of an evacuation being necessary during one of those times they are out of the class room.

Daunna Minnich

Is this a joke: fragile students and teachers are to wait on the 2nd floor until fire fighters arrive to save them? What are the students supposed to do while they are choking on smoke & fumes — toast marshmallows?

The school ought to take a lesson from multi-story hospitals on how to evacuate the fragile.

Spending $306K on a downstairs remodel is not enough. There still needs to be a practical (i.e., life-saving) plan for evacuating students in wheelchairs when they are included in activities upstairs. There's actually a pretty inexpensive solution to this entire problem: convert staircases to ramps.

Sue Keller

A few years ago, a local high school in Carroll County, MD had a fire. Everybody was evacuated. Everybody, that is, except a student who used a wheelchair. He was taken to a stairwell and left with an attendant until the fire department arrived. There was an outcry from the community. This resulted in a policy put together by the school system which designated so called "safe areas" (stair wells) in the school in which people who could not use stairs without assistance would wait until the fire dept. arrived. The local fire marshall's office supported this policy. A reporter from the Baltimore Sun that I talked to about this story told me that this sort of policy is standard all over the U.S., according to her research. My contention was, and still is, that this tiered evacuation smacks of a "triage" situation in which the able-bodied are considered more valuable and thus saved first. While this may be appropriate in military settings, it is criminal in a public school setting.

Children with disabilities typically have little to no choice where they attend school. No matter where in the building a child with a disability has a class, their "workspace" needs to be as safe as every other child's. What are we telling the other children who are forced to abandon their peers with disabilities during real emergencies or practice drills? Sorry, your friend just doesn't make the cut? She's just not as precious to us as you are? And to the child thus abandoned it's more proof of how undesirable their difference is...

We need a pragmatic policy that will allow everyone to be rescued. Segregation of kids with disabilities to certain parts of the building is not the answer and actually undermines a child's right to a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive setting. This failure of imagination on the part of our schools and fire depts. is staggering and should not be left to stand. My beloved child deserves to enjoy the basic human rights and dignity that all of us are entitled to. The fact that we actually have to convince people to treat our children as humans is beyond words.

Patsy - Massachusetts

Special needs and fire drills, safety, and the newer Code Yellows/Red (in MA) are definately not disability friendly. And this is a topic that I have been research for info. for months. There is little "good" info out there regarding this. Children with cognitive development and other related developmental issues are also greatly affected by this as well. There are many children with sensory, autism that experience the famous "fight or Flight". Of when severe terror consumes them during the drill, leaving the parents to deal with the social emotional devastation of the child in the following months. This is an area that needs to be addressed on a large scale. We also just had our son's IEP changed to reflect "my son's removal from the school prior to any planned Fire Drills" This took 2 years to get it on his IEP. My son is trained on Fire Drills at the end of the school day when there is no alarms sounding. He practices it with the class. But his fear level is so high during the drill that he had to be hospitalized last year. It took the hospital visit to get it on the IEP. I guess my son's school didn't find my son's deficating himself during the fear of the fire drill severe enough -- It's all good now. But this is an area that really needs to be addressed! For all special needs kids, if they have issues with the drills.

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