A piece of legislation introduced on April 17 would mandate all Guam public schools to be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if passed into law.
Bill 98-37, which was introduced by Democrat Sen. William Parkinson, if enacted, would require Guam public schools to be ADA compliant.
This comes after a roundtable hearing was held where concerns surfaced regarding special education in public schools.
The Guam Department of Education Special Education Division talked about various topics including ADA compliance.
According to Parkinson’s press release, one of the main requests of GDOE was for legislation that would make Guam’s public schools ADA compliant, as not many of them are. This poses a huge accessibility problem for students with disabilities.
“I was extremely shocked to find out that not many of our public schools are ADA compliant,” said Parkinson. “In no other jurisdiction would this be acceptable. It is vital for the welfare of Guam’s students that our school campuses are accessible for everybody, and ADA compliance is a great place to start.”
The measure would require GDOE to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to ensure that all public schools in Guam are fully compliant with the accessibility requirements of the ADA. The plan shall include, but not be limited to things such as an accessibility audit of every school, a timeline for addressing areas of non-compliance, and detailed specifications for modifications and improvements.
Additionally, the bill mandates that GDOE teachers receive training on ADA requirements and that GDOE provide regular progress reports to the Guam Legislature on the implementation of the plan.
“Our public schools are built to serve and educate our youth,” Parkinson said. “Whether that means building more ramps, training our teachers, or whatever other means we have to take to make our schools more accessible to those with disabilities, those are things we must do. These kids are our future. We must invest in them.”
Meanwhile, Democrat Sen. Chris Barnett told the the Pacific News Center that “The bill is a good idea.”
“I doubt GDOE has enough funding to come into compliance with Public Law 37-4 and the Americans with Disabilities Act,” said Barnett, the chairperson of the Legislative Committee on Education.
He suggested to include all local government agencies across the island.
“Senator Parkinson’s measure could easily be expanded to include facilities across the island and the Government of Guam,” Barnett said in a statement to PNC. “The Leon Guerrero Tenorio administration, like other administrations before it, has failed to bring true accessibility to persons with disabilities. No matter the cost, this is an unacceptable failure (and) we must address with action.”