For this weekly feature, we profile a noteworthy bill that is going through the legislative process. The bill may relate directly to TCDD’s Public Policy Priorities or another disability-related issue.
Bill: House Bill (HB) 195, relating to provisions and plans by public schools to ensure the safety of individuals with disabilities during a disaster or emergency situation.
Bill author: Rep. Mary González, House District 75 (El Paso)
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We’ve created a Bill of the Week one-pager (PDF) for HB 195. This is a simplified explanation of the bill that you can share with your representative and personal network.
Texas lacks guidelines for school districts regarding emergency plans for students with disabilities. Although school districts must provide equal safety access for people with disabilities during an emergency situation, their plans might not include accommodations matching the unique needs of a student’s disability. Students in wheelchairs may have different needs and requirements than students who are deaf or blind, but these distinctions are generally unaccounted for in current plans. Some argue that since schools are supposed to ensure that students with disabilities have academic opportunities on par with their peers, schools must also ensure that every student’s safety is on par with their peers.
What does the bill do?
HB 195 would amend the Education Code to require a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan to address any necessary accommodations needed during a disaster or emergency situation.
The bill would also require the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to establish guidelines for school districts’ multi-hazard emergency operations plans to ensure the safety of students and district staff members with disabilities during emergencies or disasters. Advocacy groups representing people with disabilities would be consulted during the development of these guidelines.
If passed, HB 195 would take effect on Sept. 1, 2023, or immediately if approved by a two-thirds majority in each chamber. The bill would apply beginning in the 2023-24 school year. TEA would be required to establish guidelines for multi-hazard emergency operations plan provisions for individuals with disabilities no later than Dec. 1, 2023.
Statement from Rep. Mary González, bill author:
Statement from Rep. Mary González, bill author:
“Students with disabilities and staff with disabilities are especially vulnerable when no specific preparations are made for school campus emergencies. HB 195 will provide safer schools for people with disabilities, and makes sure we’re looking out for all Texans.”
Where is the bill in the process?
On March 13, 2023, HB 195 received a public hearing before the House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety and was left pending. This means that the committee did not vote on the bill, but it could be considered again at a future committee meeting. You can watch the discussion on the bill here, beginning at the 15:50 mark.
Who supports the bill and why?
The following comments were provided at the March 13 hearing on HB 195:
- Nacogdoches ISD: Dr. Audrey Young, the director of student support services for Nacogdoches Independent School District (ISD) and a member of the Texas State Board of Education, testified in support of the bill. González had previously indicated that Young was the person who had asked her to author HB 195. Young discussed a 2018 experience of having a ninth-grade student with a mobility impairment whose classes were on the second floor of her school. Young and other administrators wondered how they would get the student downstairs in case of an emergency. This led Young to research what other states were doing in terms of emergency planning for students with disabilities. She found numerous instances of individual school districts adopting safety plans, often in response to a tragic incident, but few statewide plans specific to students with disabilities. In 2019, Young adopted a plan for her own school district and urged the passage of a statewide bill in Texas. She stated, “I, as a special education director, can tell you that I would rather fault on the side of being prepared than of being not prepared.” She continued, “ I am less worried about parents suing me for messing something up than for not acting at all on behalf of those students.”
- CTD: Jolene Sanders-Foster, advocacy director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD), testified in support of the bill. She outlined the benefit of having an emergency safety plan incorporated into an IEP or Section 504 plan. Sanders-Foster noted that, “it is important to outline it in the IEP, not just so that the parent is aware or not just so that each member of the ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal) Committee is aware, but as you know, students with disabilities also participate, … and so for them to also be aware of what the plan is in an emergency and to feel supported by those other people around the table.” Sanders-Foster also voiced her appreciation for the bill’s inclusion of disability advocacy organizations to consult in the development of guidelines for multi-hazard emergency plans, indicating that it stays true to the disability mantra of “nothing about us without us.”
- Law Enforcement: Scott Moore, deputy sheriff for Trinity County and a former trustee for Conroe ISD, testified in support of the bill. He serves on the school safety and security committee for Centerville ISD and advises the administration of Apple Springs ISD as a sheriff’s liaison. Moore stressed that HB 195 would benefit “every single district across the state and every single special needs student.” Moore indicated that the success of first responders in emergency situations is often reliant on the ability of the people in a facility to respond to certain basic directions and commands. He stated, “We need these plans in place so that the teachers and the [paraprofessionals] responsible for these students can know the unique individual needs of those students, can practice the emergency procedures specific to that student, and can assist the first responder community.”
The following groups also registered their support for HB 195 but provided no testimony: The Arc of Texas, the City of Houston Mayor’s Office, Texas Association of Community Schools, Texas Association of School Boards, Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, Texas Federation of Teachers, Texas Parent to Parent, Texas State Teachers Association, and United Ways of Texas.
Who opposes the bill and why?
No testimony was provided in opposition to HB 195 at the March 13 hearing.
The following comments were provided on the bill for the March 13 hearing:
- TCDD: Sabrina Gonzalez Saucedo, a public policy analyst for TCDD, submitted written remarks on the bill. She stated, “Effective and individualized emergency plans are an imperative part of disaster preparedness. To better ensure the safety of students with disabilities in Texas schools, it is vital for disaster planning to consider the needs of students, including those who have physical disabilities, have sensory disabilities, may lack understanding of a situation, or are unable to act quickly.” Gonzalez Saucedo also recommended that the planning should address accommodations a student will need in an emergency drill in addition to an emergency or disaster situation. She indicated that “schools are required to carry out six different types of emergency drills a year which include: a fire evacuation drill, a severe weather drill, a general evacuation drill, a lockdown drill, a secure drill, and shelter in place for hazardous materials drill. Each of these emergency scenarios requires a specific response to ensure the safety of students. Therefore, the IEP team should coordinate a plan appropriate for each scenario given the needs of each student with a disability.”
The following groups also registered on HB 195 but provided no testimony: Disability Rights Texas and the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education.
TCDD has adopted the following language as one of its 2023 Public Policy Priorities:
Emergency Preparedness: Reinforce the state’s responsibility for requiring and assisting local jurisdictions to develop and implement public safety plans that include meeting the needs of people with disabilities in all emergencies.
How much will the bill cost?
The Legislative Budget Board found HB 195 would not impact the state budget in a significant way.
Is there a Senate companion to the bill?
There are no companions to this bill in the Senate.
For the latest information about where HB 195 is in the process, follow the bill on the Texas Legislature Online. To receive future legislative updates from TCDD, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram.
Bill of the Week Updates
Here is an update on a previous TCDD Bill of the Week for the 88th legislative session.
- HB 446 has been scheduled for consideration by the full House on Tuesday, March 28. The bill would remove the R-word from various Texas statutes.