SAFETY DOC PODCAST #93 | Why the Sidelines of School Safety Are a Tragic Act of Kindness | Dr. David Perrodin, PhD

[PODCAST] Schools are exempting students with disabilities from participating in safety instruction and safety drills. These misplaced pardons are enabled via an incorrect application of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process or a district-generated parent “opt-out” form. First, let’s be clear that it is illegal to exempt students from mandated fire drills. However, the practice is sprawling, unchecked and not enforced. Dr. Perrodin predicts deadly consequences from “protecting” children with special needs from receiving proper safety instruction. 

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David kick starts this episode by noting he is donning a beanie and insulated jacket as the basement of his North Star Studio was barely pushing the thermometer to 54 degrees Fahrenheit. Worse yet, the evening temperature would dip to minus ten degrees – a bit brisk for March. He shuffles through a few thoughts on his mind including: Why aren’t windshield’s more durable; How his home town issued a rare decree liberating residents from shoveling their sidewalks for the rest of winter; Why is it that people forget the blatant racism of Dr. Seuss’ cartoons during World War II; and looking ahead to the August 10th release of his book School of Errors – Rethinking School Safety in America.


There are at least 10 million school-age children with disabilities in America and they aren’t receiving the same quality of safety instruction as their non-disabled peers. Per disability rights attorney James Sibley, “It is amazing how schools think that “sparing” special ed students from participation in fire drills active shooter drills and the like is showing them some sort of kindness. Many disabled students present special challenges during emergency situations and they shouldn’t just be included in regular safety planning, there should be specialized safety plans in place for them. And, for those plans to be successful there needs to be preparation and practice.” Students must be provided skills that will generalize to home, stores or trips.  And, these skills must be resilient and reliable as the student exits school and enters the post-secondary setting.


Davis, Alicia & Gast, David. (1998). Social safety for young children: A review of the literature on safety skills instruction. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education. 18. 222-234. “Young children in today’s society may find themselves in situations that require appropriate action in order to avoid dire consequences, such as injury of death. These situations may be the result of contact with objects in the physical environment action in order to avoid dire consequences, such as injury or death. such as guns, knives, or toxins. In other cases, children may be faced with confronting dangers in the social environment, such as avoiding the lures of strangers or responding to the abuse or neglect of a caregiver. Although safety education programs are implemented frequently in school settings, few research studies have systematically evaluated the methodology for teaching safety skills to young children.” Dr. Perrodin praised this study and also noted it was perhaps the best available on school safety instruction although it was done more than 2 decades ago. He pointed out that the study urged future research not be conducted in a group style, but individualized, and that it was critical to conduct “in vivo” data gathering – or to observe the child in various natural settings including school.


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Dr. Perrodin’s “Safety Doc Podcast” negotiates school and community safety. To be informed about industrial safety, please contact Appalachian State University Professor Dr. Timothy Ludwig, PhD, at


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