For Immediate Release
February 27, 2023
Contact: Chantal Fuller, Communications Director
Councilmember Henderson Introduces Common Sense Education Legislation
Washington, DC – Last week, Councilmember Christina Henderson introduced common sense legislation that assures school transparency and student safety via the Common Sense School Transparency and Accountability Act of 2023.
This legislation includes four provisions. The first would require local education agencies (LEAs) to notify families or caregivers of students with disabilities when a staff transition occurs, as well as any suspension of federally mandated specialized instruction, related services, or transportation services, within 5 days of the transition. Staffing shortages often result in incomplete or inconsistent delivery of services for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). As the IEP is a legally binding document, it is imperative that families are aware of changes in staffing and services in a timely manner, as well as the plan for assigning a new staff member to service students.
The second provision mandates that LEAs document incidents of physical injury to students, as well as provide documentation of the incident to parents or caregivers. “Families rely on the spoken and unspoken trust placed on school staff to keep their children safe. Lack of communication erodes this public trust and creates conflicting narratives, neither of which is conducive to students feeling safe and loved in our schools. While injuries in school are not uncommon, schools must be proactive and responsive during such incidents,” remarked Councilmember Henderson.
The third provision mandates all LEAs to install carbon monoxide detectors in school facilities. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends all schools have working carbon monoxide detectors, there is no federal law requiring them. Several appliances in school buildings, such as boilers, gas stoves and furnaces, can emit carbon monoxide. Installing detectors is not only tantamount to student safety but is also a necessary aspect of building maintenance. DC would join California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, and Maryland by mandating detectors in schools.
The fourth provision requires LEAs to facilitate annual dental and vision exams to all students. Identifying tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems early in a student’s life not only allows for easier treatment but can save future exorbitant costs for families. Identifying vision issues and providing students with glasses or contact lenses has an enormous impact on a student’s academic, emotional, and social development. Easily detectable and treatable vision and dental issues should not impede learning for our students.
“These ‘common sense’ provisions are long overdue and reflect the recommendations made by the Ombudsman for Public Education to address the lack of communication on the part of LEAs on critical issues. We must also ensure that we quickly identify vision and hearing concerns through annual, free-of-cost examinations,” Councilmember Henderson added.
The Common Sense School Transparency and Accountability Act of 2023 was co-introduced by Councilmembers Charles Allen, Robert C. White, Jr., Janeese Lewis George, Brianne K. Nadeau, and Zachary Parker.