Senate gives unanimous nod to safety bill

In a major victory for classified school employees around the state, both chambers of the Oregon Legislature unanimously approved legislation that will ensure educators are no longer left in the dark regarding their students’ needs.

The broadly recognized need for employees working in special education to understand the needs of their students, be informed of changes to their behavioral intervention plans (BIPs) and provide meaningful input in development of the BIPs was confirmed by Democrats and Republicans coming together to vote yes on House Bill (HB) 3318B. The Senate vote was 29-0, while the House supported the bill 57-0. The bill now heads to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.

On the Senate floor, chief cosponsor Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, said the bill will ensure educators are best informed and able to help the children they work with.

“This is a good bill that will make students and staff safer at school, and recognizes the inherent worth of every child,” Gelser said.

OSEA’s Government Relations and Communications teams approached the topic with sensitivity to the unfair problems faced by young students as well as an understanding that the status quo was no longer acceptable for children or staff. This special care for the value of each child drew praise from Gelser as well as a broad coalition that included AFT-Oregon, the Oregon Education Association (OEA), Disability Rights Oregon and Family and Community Together (FACT) Oregon.

This widespread support for the bill helped it sail through both legislative chambers, despite opposition from the Confederation of School Administrators (COSA).

Ava Bartley, advocacy and engagement director for FACT Oregon, said school districts are often resorting to shortened school days for students with behavioral challenges out of apparent inability to meet their needs.

“These procedural protections and safeguards will ensure that the needs of children experiencing behavioral challenges in the classroom will be better understood and met so they can be successful in school and receive their free appropriate public education,” Bartley said.

Bob Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon, hopes the bill will help address complaints that students with disabilities are too often excluded from the classroom.

“In some districts, one hour of tutoring per day is substituted for any serious effort to return the student to school with an adequate behavior intervention plan,” he added.

As amended, the bill calls for districts to:

  • Conduct a functional behavioral assessment for students with an individualized education program (IEP) or 504 Plan who have had behaviors that put themselves, other students or staff at imminent risk of serious bodily injury within 45 school days upon receipt of parental consent
  • Develop, review or revise a BIP following an incident exhibiting these behaviors
  • Allow relevant service providers to provide meaningful input into the development, review or revision of the BIP, as well as require them to be notified of relevant changes and training opportunities.

The bill takes effect in the 2018-19 school year..

Special thanks to chief sponsors Sen. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, and Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, along with Sens. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland; Lew Frederick, D-Portland; Tim Knopp, R-Bend; James Manning Jr. D-Eugene; and Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay; and Reps. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale; Jodi Hack, R-Salem; Susan McLain, D-Hillsboro; Bill Post, R-Keizer; Greg Smith, R-Heppner; and Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro.

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