Establishing a Health and Safety Team in Schools
WHEREAS, students are entitled to a free, high-quality, public education, and children, families and educators deserve to learn and work in a safe, secure, and sanitary environment; and
WHEREAS, the community school model was based on the premise that partnerships and collaborations with community-based organizations serve as protective factors and offer easily accessible, real-time support services which can directly impact the overall well-being and health of children, youth, and families; and
WHEREAS, schools across America shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a challenge to delivering continued services to subgroups of students, such as those who experience homelessness and students with special needs; and
WHEREAS, children in our communities need access to a nurse on site, as well as a team of healthcare professionals and other school related personnel to support learning and well-being and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline; and
WHEREAS, racial and ethnic minorities are at greater risk for exposure to and adverse outcomes from COVID-19 due to the social determinants of health, such as living and working conditions. A greater prevalence of underlying health conditions also put racial and ethnic minorities at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, students and families are experiencing trauma and persistent disparities in access to healthcare, which pose special challenges for racial and ethnic minority populations, and ongoing professional development is needed for the management of depression and anxiety caused by family loss, job loss, repeated closings and personal illness; and
WHEREAS, devices used to learn are known to emit blue light, which has a detrimental effect on vision and is known to cause sleeplessness by interrupting circadian rhythms, resulting in increased attention issues, headaches and mood swings, and learning ability has been negatively impacted by the need for extended remote learning; and
WHEREAS, hearing and vision problems are health problems that negatively impact the ability to learn, and students with health conditions are currently provided a 504 plan under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, with extended time to complete tasks; and
WHEREAS, prior to the pandemic shutdown students were assessed and monitored by their teachers and school nurse for a variety of health issues, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI), vision or hearing impairment, color blindness, asthma and diabetes, which are classified as 504 health accommodation condition; and
WHEREAS, schools are reopening and students and adults are often asymptomatic but carry the virus in their nasal cavities, and students are just as able as adults to carry and spread the virus; and
WHEREAS, the NAACP approved resolutions on Using Vision Therapy to Improve Opportunities for Juvenile Offenders and Adult Inmates in 2009, Vision and Learning in 2010, and Vision Screening for Traumatic Brain Injury in 2018, and students are now required to spend extended time on devices in school and at home.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will advocate for schools to address all health conditions that affect learning utilizing existing disability laws and that they provide equitable accommodations to ensure quality learning among all students whether learning occurs in school buildings or during distance learning sessions.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that NAACP units will advocate for the formation of Health and Safety teams within schools which plan and provide for the health needs of the entire school community in this new COVID impacted environment, including re-examining safety protocols for sign-in and other procedures and providing air conditioning, filtration and ventilation upgrades to remove virus particulates and environmental triggers from the air.
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will advocate for creation and implementation of full developmental, vision and hearing screening programs for all students, to include provision of personal protective equipment, blue blocking glasses and/or other technology to manage vision stress for students, educators, and staff.