UPDATED March 20, 2020: This resource has been updated to include and reflect a regulation adopted by the state of Montana in January 2020 that LexisNexis and WestLaw had not yet included in their databases. As noted below, recently passed legislation and regulation may not have been captured in our initial search. If there are other regulations or statutes that you feel are missing from this compendium, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The COVID-19 outbreak has led schools across the country to assess their level of preparedness for a pandemic. Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes and/or regulations that govern how schools or school districts should respond to a disease outbreak. This resource from Child Trends and EMT Associates, Inc. provides the text of state statutes and regulations—as well as noncodified guidance from state health and education agencies—that relates to pandemic planning for schools. This tool is designed as a resource for educators, policymakers, and general audiences to learn more about pandemic planning for schools within their states; it is not designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of these policies.
There is significant variation in the prescriptiveness and content of state/territorial statutes and regulations. The vast majority of state policies touch on the following areas:
Several states have language requiring schools to develop plans or policies to address aspects of a contagious disease outbreak. However, fewer states have more comprehensive plan requirements that address issues, such as disease prevention, emergency procurement and staffing, flexible or remote instruction, or students’ access to services when schools are closed—for example, Oregon’s law establishing a “Pandemic-related Supplemental Nutrition Program” to provide food for students who otherwise would receive free meals at school. Examples of states with more comprehensive plans include, but are not limited to, Georgia, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia.
To compile this resource, we first searched state health and education codes in LexisNexis and Westlaw as of March 2, 2020. Statutes and regulations were included if they specifically referenced illness, contagious disease outbreaks, pandemics, or epidemics (or related terms); broad hazard planning laws without specific reference to disease were excluded from this search. Next, we identified public-facing versions of each identified law. Due to the lag time before new or amended laws appear in legal databases, some laws may not have been collected, including any recently passed legislation that has not yet been codified. We also searched each state’s department of education and health department websites to identify any resources related to pandemic planning or specific to COVID-19. We did not find school pandemic planning laws for New Hampshire, and data were unavailable for Guam, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
Thanks to Kristen Harper, Yosmary Rodriguez, Stephen Russ, Heather Steed, and Sarah Sun for their assistance with this blog post.
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