Report follows executive order issued by Governor Ducey
PHOENIX — April 22, 2021
This week Governor Doug Ducey vetoed a sex education bill partly due to concerns it could limit discussion around sexual abuse prevention, putting vulnerable children at risk. The Arizona Response to Sexual Violence & Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Collaborative immediately responded by releasing “Preventing Sexual Abuse in Arizona Schools: Suggested Protocols for Students with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities.”
At nearly seven times the risk of sexual abuse as their peers, Arizona students with disabilities are vulnerable to exploitation. This new report focuses on helping Arizona schools design better ways to protect students with disabilities from sexual abuse.
Some of the suggested best practice recommendations include:
- Resources and strategies to support students who report abuse
- Required training for mandatory reporters
- Policies that promote supervision and digital communication guidelines for all school personnel
- Accessible and inclusive lessons on sexual health and relationships
One of the most critical recommendations towards prevention is also seen as the most controversial: offering accessible and inclusive lessons on sexual health and relationships. Research finds that young adults with mild to moderate cognitive disability are sexually active at similar rates to their peers without a disability, yet are less likely to learn about sexual health from trusted adults. Receiving ineffective or inaccessible sex education, or no sex education at all, has also been found to be a correlating factor in the sexual abuse of youth with disabilities.
Recent research found other factors that contribute to abuse. “Some students with disabilities grow up with adults providing hands-on personal care and may not have an understanding of when they are touched inappropriately,” said Erica McFadden, Executive Director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and one of the leaders of the Collaborative. “Some may not understand when they are a victim of sex trafficking. For that reason, our youth with disabilities should be receiving information on how to identify unsafe situations and what to do about it.”
"The inclusion of students with disabilities and their respective accessibility and accommodation needs in school abuse prevention policies is critical,” said Betty McEntire, chair of the Collaborative’s sexual abuse prevention in schools workgroup. “It not only ensures a safe learning environment, but also provides educators and school administrators the tools needed to respond in an inclusive manner.”
The Collaborative will be hosting a Zoom panel for educators Thursday, May 13 at 9:00-10:30 a.m. and for community members Tuesday, May 18 at 6:00-7:30 p.m. to discuss the research findings and policy recommendations and take questions and answers from the audience.
For more information about the report, contact Erica McFadden at [email protected] or (602) 542-8977.