Public Comments — TCOLE School-Based Law Enforcement Training

TCDD Letterhead

December 21, 2015

Delivered via public_comment@tcole.texas.gov

 

Mr. Kim Vickers
Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
6330 East Highway 290, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78723

RE: School-Based Law Enforcement Training Draft, December 2015

Dear Commissioner Vickers and Members of the TCOLE Commission:

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) is pleased to provide comments concerning the School-Based Law Enforcement Training Draft released by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) pursuant to the requirements of HB 2684, Regular Session, 84th Texas Legislature, 2015. TCDD is established by federal law and is governed by 27 board members, appointed by the Governor, 60% of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. The Council’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.

We were heartened that the curriculum included discussions of positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) and restorative justice.

We concur with all of the comments jointly submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Texans Care for Children, Texas Appleseed, and other cosigners to the document submitted to you on December 17, 2015.

TCDD has additional comments. The next draft of the curriculum would be improved with a greater focus on students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as they clearly constitute the subset of students most often involved in SRO-related incidents. According to United States Department of Education statistics for Texas in 2011–2012:

  • Students with disabilities total 9% of the school population but comprise 79% of those physically restrained at school.1
  • Students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension (13%) than students without disabilities (5%).2
  • Students with disabilities represent 26% of students arrested and 21% of those referred to law enforcement, even though they are only 9% of the overall student population.3

The draft curriculum does not recognize students with a dual diagnosis of intellectual and developmental disability and mental illness as requiring special understanding. Please note that it is estimated that at least one-third of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities also have mental illness. Further, a prevalence rate of emotional disorders of up to 50% has been reported for children with intellectual disorders.4 The reasons for this have been cited as reduced capacity to manage social and cognitive demands, problem-solving difficulties, poor social judgment, and communication limitations, and related biological, psychological, and social risk factors.5 The curriculum needs to acknowledge the special needs of students who are dually diagnosed and provide not only education to officers about behaviors, but also strategies on how to intervene and prevent unnecessary suspensions and arrests.

With respect to the curriculum on mental illness, we recommend correcting substantial inaccuracies, such as listing only “Heredity — Mental illness runs in families” under the heading “Causes of Mental Illness.” Not all mental illness is hereditary.

Another area of importance requiring more discussion is the effect of trauma on students, especially individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Students with intellectual and developmental disabilities experience abuse, neglect, institutionalization, restraint and seclusion, abandonment, bullying, and other forms of maltreatment at higher rates than the general population. The trauma associated with these experiences can result in challenging behavior that, without informed intervention, leads to new trauma. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network6, SafePlace (Austin)7, the Child Trauma Academy (Houston)8, and other resources should be accessed to provide practical guidance to SROs.

It may be helpful to note that Senate Bill 133, Regular Session, 84th Legislature, 2015, amended the Health and Safety Code to expand the categories of school district employees eligible to receive training in Mental Health First Aid training through a Department of State Health Services (DSHS) grant program beyond educators alone and includes school resource officers. This training has been in effect for two years. The coordination of how to most efficiently achieve the joint objectives of SB 133 and HB 2684 needs to be considered.

We respectfully recommend that a stakeholder group of students, family members, advocates, public school officers, general and special education teachers, mental health authorities, contract providers of Mental Health First Aid, and other subject matter experts be convened to jointly review the draft document and recommend changes. Such an action will go far to ensure that the curriculum meets the intentions of HB 2684 and is responsive to the concerns that prompted its passage.

We stand ready to serve as a resource to you in the work ahead, especially with respect to issues involving students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including students who are also diagnosed with mental illness. Please do not hesitate to call on us.

Sincerely,

/s/

Linda Logan, MPAff

Footnotes


  1. Data Snapshot: School Discipline. US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Washington, DC: March 2014, p. 19. Accessed at https://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CRDC-School-Discipline-Snapshot.pdf, December 18, 2015. 
  2. Data Snapshot: School Discipline, p. 17. Accessed at https://ocrdata.ed.gov/Downloads/CRDC-School-Discipline-Snapshot.pdf, December 18, 2015. 
  3. Civil Rights Data Collection. US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Accessed at http://ocrdata.ed.gov/StateNationalEstimations, December 18, 2015. 
  4. Including Individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities and Co-Occurring Mental Illness: Challenges that Must Be Addressed in Health Care Reform. National Association for the Dually Diagnosed. Accessed at , December 18, 2015. 
  5. Wergas D. “The Other Dual Diagnosis: Intellectual Disability and Mental Illness.” NADD Bulletin, Volume X, Number 5, Article 2. Accessed at http://thenadd.org/modal/bulletins/v10n5a2~.htm, December 18, 2015. 
  6. http://www.nctsn.org/resources/audiences/school-personnel., accessed December 18, 2015. 
  7. http://www.safeaustin.org/safeplace/, accessed December 18, 2015. 
  8. http://childtrauma.org/, accessed December 18, 2015.