School safety bill
In a Letter to the Editor on August 9, Lou Arata criticized Representative Cathy Abercrombie for voting no on Senate Bill 453, An Act Concerning Classroom Safety and Disruptive Behavior.
As the director of Advocacy and Public Policy of The Arc Connecticut, I would like to set the record straight on this bill, which may have been well intentioned but would have undoubtedly put students with disabilities at risk.
Students with disabilities are already two times more likely than their peers without disabilities to be disciplined, suspended and removed from their classrooms. In addition, hard-won rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, federal laws intended to level the playing field for people with disabilities, are under constant attack even here in Connecticut. In 2016 Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher issued a ruling in the CCJEF v. Rell case, that said the state could deny children with "profound" disabilities a public education on order to enhance funding for regular education, and that school districts should be free to determine whether some disabled students were even "worthy of receiving services."
When he vetoed SB 453, Gov. Malloy expressed concern that it would put students of color and students with disabilities at risk of being disproportionately impacted. This position was supported by the school superintendents association, the special education directors association, the association of boards of education, disability rights organizations and many parents groups. And it is also why many legislators who had initially supported the bill chose not to override the governor’s veto.
We all want our schools to be safer but putting the rights of students with disabilities at risk is not the way to achieve that.
Shannon Jacovino, West Hartford
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