A social media post is causing concern among parents of children with special needs who are worried the Office of Governor Abbott considered recommending that special needs students be evacuated last in the event of a school emergency.
WFAA has verified the recommendation came from a non-profit organization and is not included in the current version of the Governor's School and Firearm Safety Action Plan.
The social media post shared by numerous parents states that a directive was included as part of a recommendation for the safe schools initiative led by Gov. Greg Abbott and that the guidance states "if there is a diverse special needs population, consider evacuating that population last."
It initially shocked parents like Breggett Rideau who was responsible for getting the 2015 law passed that requires cameras in special needs classrooms in the state of Texas to help protect special needs students like her son from abuse.
"And I was sick to my stomach. Like I can't believe that," Rideau said. "I can't believe it at all. When I first read it, I'm like, that's a meme. Surely that's not real."
The guideline wording comes from previous versions of a document called the Standard Reunification Method created by a non-profit called I Love U Guys. After a hostage situation and fatal school shooting in Colorado in 2006, the parents of a student who died formed the I Love U Guys Foundation naming it after the last words their daughter texted to them.
Their foundation recommends how teachers, parents, and students should consider responding to disasters and emergency situations at K-12 schools. And one of the many early recommendations included the advice on special needs students because of the additional resources they will need once outside a school.
However, activists believe the language was being strongly considered for the Texas Edition of the guidelines, and as recently as June 12, the Texas Disability Task Force, in a letter to both the Center for School Safety at Texas State and the I Love U Guys Foundation, expressed their concern about the "Special Needs Population" recommendation on page 16 of the Standard Reunification Method that can still be found on the I Love U Guys Foundation website. However, as of this writing, in a version of that document that is endorsed by the Texas School Safety Center at Texas State University, the paragraph about special needs students has been removed. The reference to evacuating special needs students last is not included in the Texas Edition.
And by reaching out to the governor's office, we've verified it's just one of many recommendations presented to the governor when creating his School and Firearm Safety Action Plan last month. Abbott’s initial action plan released on May 30, does not include any reference to special needs students being evacuated differently than any other student.
The I Love U Guys website also includes this statement: "Notice we use the word 'method.' Not protocol. Not procedure. Method. What that means is that we provide you with some tactics. Things we know. But the event, your reunification site, your environment, will ultimately dictate what you do. Please, in your planning, if you see something here that doesn't seem to work in your environment, we encourage you to figure out what does."
Still, parents like Breggett Rideau believe the language was strongly considered in Texas and is speaking out hoping other school districts in other states understand her concerns.
"I want you to save all the kids at the same time," she said.
In answer to concerns, The I Love U Guys foundation has now updated the language in the special needs section of its Standard Reunification Method document, a document among many which it offers to schools and organizations as a starting point in creating individual school action plans.
Page 20 of the foundation’s Standard Reunification Method now reads:
“SPECIAL NEEDS POPULATIONS The Individuals with Disabilities Act mandates additional supports for students with special education needs in school setting. These supports would also function to provide supervision and assistance to students with disabilities during emergency situations.”
You can find the entire document at iloveuguys.org.
The following information are links to the two different versions of the recommendations and Governor Abbott’s School Firearm Safety Action Plan.