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Assessing Legal Preparedness for School Closure in Response to Pandemic Flu or Other Public Health Emergencies James G. Hodge, Jr., J.D., LL.M. Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Executive Director, Center for Law & the Public’s Health August 3, 2007.

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Acknowledgment and disclaimer

Assessing Legal Preparedness for School Closure in Response to Pandemic Flu or Other Public Health Emergencies

James G. Hodge, Jr., J.D., LL.M.

Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Executive Director, Center for Law & the Public’s Health

August 3, 2007


Acknowledgment and disclaimer

Acknowledgment and Disclaimer

  • Acknowledgment

    • This project is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Law Program through a cooperative agreement with the Center for Law and the Public’s Health.

  • Disclaimer

    • Information in this presentation does not represent the official legal positions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state or local governments and is not meant to provide specific legal guidance or advice. Users should contact their legal advisors for specific legal guidance concerning the scope and extent of the laws authorizing school closures in any state.


Principal objectives

Principal Objectives

  • The Role of School Closures In Response to Pandemic Flu

    • Terminology

    • U.S. children in schools

    • School closure as prevention mechanism

    • State pandemic flu plans

  • Center Project Goals and Methodology

  • Major Findings and Conclusions


Terminology

Terminology

  • Meaning and use of the phrase “school closure” in this presentation

    • School closure generally entails class cancellation, student dismissal, and/or control of the physical building. Its precise meaning in a particular situation will be determined by the laws of the appropriate jurisdiction.

  • Alternative meanings

    • Cancellation

    • Evacuation

    • Dismissal


U s children in schools

U.S. Children in Schools

  • Over 48 million students enrolled in 98,000 public schools nationwide

  • Over 6 million students are enrolled in private schools

  • 88% of school-age children enrolled in public schools, including 87% of PreK-8th grade children, and 91% of adolescents enrolled in grades 9-12

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics, based on 2003 data


School closure as prevention mechanism

School Closure as Prevention Mechanism

  • Increasing social distances among children may reduce disease transmission (WHO Writing Group 2006)

  • Modeling analyses suggest that school closure may potentially reduce the incidence rate among children by over 90% (Glass et al. 2006)

  • School closure is part of a comprehensive U.S. strategy to control the spread of disease as reflected in state pandemic flu plans


School closures examples

School Closures - Examples

  • Inclement weather –

    • Schools closed in Maryland due to winter storm (February 14, 2007);

    • Schools closed in Tucson, Arizona because of fog and snow (January 22, 2007)

  • Violence – School shootings prompt closure in Ohio (December 18, 2003)

  • Threats to general safety – Phone threats result in school closure in Harrison, New York (March 27, 2001)

  • Disease outbreaks –

    • Rhode Island Schools closed due to encephalitis outbreak (January 5, 2007);

    • Maryland School for the Blind closed after the spread of an unknown virus (November, 2006)


Pandemic influenza plans and school closures

Pandemic Influenza Plans and School Closures

WA

VT

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CO

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KY

DC

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OK

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AR

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AL

MS

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LA

Plan recognizes school closure:

47

FL

Plan does not recognize school closure:

4

PR - (Puerto Rico)


Pandemic influenza plans and school closures legal authority

Pandemic Influenza Plans and School Closures - Legal Authority

WA

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AZ

NM

AR

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GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

Plan cites legal authority to close

schools: 9

FL

Plan does not cite legal authority to close

schools: 42

PR - (Puerto Rico)


Center project premise

Center Project - Premise

  • The premise is that there is sufficient, clear, and specific legal authority to close schools in preparation for or response to pandemic flu.

  • This premise, however, is uncertain.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requested the Center for Law and the Public’s Health (Center) to prepare a comprehensive analyses of school closure laws nationwide


Center project goals

Center Project Goals

  • Assess the laws, regulations, and policies that authorize school closures for extended periods [up to 12 weeks] at the state and local levels during non-emergencies and declared emergencies;

  • Identify departments, officials, or other persons authorized to close schools; and

  • Assess the criteria and potential conflicts among government actors to close schools


Methodology 1

Methodology - 1

  • Presumptions

    • Every state has some general public health powers during non-emergencies that could be used to close schools or other facilities

    • Every state has broad public health emergency powers to close schools

    • Every school district/board has some inherent authority to close schools


Methodology 2

Methodology - 2

  • Focus of the Center’s Research

    • Express, specific authority to close schools in non-emergencies and declared emergencies

    • For an extended period of time

    • In response to an actual or potential spread of disease or other public health threats


Methodology 3

Methodology - 3

  • Rationale for assessing specific legal authority for school closure:

    • To move beyond general authorities (e.g., communicable disease laws) and look specifically to express authorizations

    • To pre-identify potential gaps or other impediments to systematic school closure across jurisdictions

    • To limit the potential for conflicts among or within jurisdictions regarding school closure


Methodology 4

Methodology - 4

  • Limitations - the Center’s analysis does not address:

    • The timing or appropriateness of school closure decisions with respect to the epidemiology of disease transmission, severity, or its potential introduction

    • The specific legal route to school closure in jurisdictions with multiple options

    • The accountability of governmental actors in the use (or non-use) of school closure authority in response to actual or potential public health threats


School closures during non emergencies

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

  • School closure laws during non-emergencies include provisions that:

    • Expressly authorize school closure due to disease or epidemic – 17 jurisdictions

    • Authorize school closure to protect the public’s health – 10 jurisdictions

    • Authorize school closure for other purposes – 22 jurisdictions


School closures during non emergencies1

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

WA

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NH

HI

AK

MT

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ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

SD

WI

NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

WV

MD

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

Express authorization to close schools

due to disease or epidemic: 17

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during non emergencies2

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

  • Expressly authorize school closure due to disease or epidemic - Ohio

    “During an epidemic or threatened epidemic, when a dangerous communicable disease is unusually prevalent, or for any other imminent public health threat as determined by the board [of health], the board may close any school and prohibit public gatherings for such time as is necessary.” R.C. 3707.26A 


School closures during non emergencies3

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

WA

VT

NH

HI

AK

MT

ME

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

SD

WI

NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

WV

MD

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

Express authorization to close schools or

facilities to protect the public’s health: 10

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during non emergencies4

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

  • Authorize school closure to protect the public’s health – Idaho

    “The Director [of the health department]… may order the closing of any public, parochial, or private school, or other place of public assembly when, in his or her opinion, such closing is necessary to protect public health.”

    IDAPA 16.02.10.015(5)


School closures during non emergencies5

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

WA

VT

NH

HI

AK

MT

ME

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

SD

WI

NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

WV

MD

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

General authority to close schools

for other purposes: 22

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during non emergencies6

School Closures During Non-Emergencies

  • Authorize school closure for other purposes – Maryland

    “The final decision of a local board of education to close a school shall be announced at a public session and… shall include the rationale for the school closing and address the impact of the proposed closing on the factors” MD ADC 13A.02.09.01(A)-(D)


Departmental authorization during non emergencies

Departmental Authorization During Non-emergencies

  • School closure laws during non-emergencies:

    • Empower the public health department or a public health officer to close schools – 30 jurisdictions

    • Empower the education department or a school board/superintendent to close schools - 24 jurisdictions

    • Empower the emergency management department to close schools – 0 jurisdictions


Level of governmental authorization during non emergencies

Level of Governmental Authorization During Non-Emergencies

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ID

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DE

OH

IN

IL

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CA

WV

MD

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

State Department: 27

PR - (Puerto Rico)


Level of governmental authorization during non emergencies1

Level of Governmental Authorization During Non-Emergencies

WA

VT

NH

HI

AK

MT

ME

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

SD

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RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

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NE

NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

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DC

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TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

County, City, or Local Departments: 37

PR - (Puerto Rico)


Level of governmental authorization during non emergencies2

Level of Governmental Authorization During Non-Emergencies

WA

VT

NH

HI

AK

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ND

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OR

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ID

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OH

IN

IL

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DC

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OK

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NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

State and County, City, or Local: 14

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during emergencies

School Closures During Emergencies

  • School closure laws during declared emergencies include provisions that:

    • Expressly authorize school closure due to disease or epidemic – 7 jurisdictions

    • Authorize the utilization or closure of facilities or property – 48 jurisdictions

    • Authorize the evacuation of persons from threatened areas – 45 jurisdictions


School closures during emergencies1

School Closures During Emergencies

WA

VT

NH

HI

AK

MT

ME

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

SD

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NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

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CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

Express authorization to close schools

due to disease or epidemic: 7

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during emergencies2

School Closures During Emergencies

  • Expressly authorize school closure due to disease or epidemic – Wisconsin

    “The [school] board may close any school or dismiss any class in the event of an emergency…or epidemic.”

    W.S.A. 119.18(6)(b)


School closures during emergencies3

School Closures During Emergencies

WA

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AR

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AL

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LA

FL

Authorization to close/utilize facilities

or properties (including schools): 48

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during emergencies4

School Closures During Emergencies

  • Authorize the utilization or closure of facilities or property – Kansas

    The governor may “utilize all available resources of the state government…and utilize any private property if the governor finds such action necessary to cope with the disaster.” K.S.A. §§ 48-925(c)(2), (4)


School closures during emergencies5

School Closures During Emergencies

WA

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NH

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OR

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ID

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RI

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WY

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PA

IA

NJ

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NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

WV

MD

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

Authorization to evacuate persons

from threatened areas (including

schools): 45

PR - (Puerto Rico)


School closures during emergencies6

School Closures During Emergencies

  • Authorize the evacuation of persons from a threatened area – North Dakota

    The governor may “[d]irect and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area within the state if the governor deems this action necessary for the preservation of life or other disaster or emergency mitigation, response, or recovery.”

    NDCC 37-17.1-05(6)(e)


Departmental authorization during emergencies

Departmental Authorization During Emergencies

  • School closure laws during emergencies:

    • Empower the public health department or a public health officer to close schools – 9 jurisdictions

    • Empower the education department or a schoolboard/superintendent to authorize school closure – 6 jurisdictions

    • Empower the emergency management department or Governor to close schools – 51 jurisdictions


Level of governmental authorization during emergencies

Level of Governmental Authorization During Emergencies

WA

VT

NH

HI

AK

MT

ME

ND

MN

OR

MA

ID

SD

WI

NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NJ

NE

NV

DE

OH

IN

IL

UT

CA

WV

MD

CO

VA

KS

MO

KY

DC

NC

TN

OK

AZ

NM

AR

SC

GA

AL

MS

TX

LA

FL

State Department: 52

PR - (Puerto Rico)


Major conclusions

Major Conclusions

  • Explicit authority to close schools during non-emergencies is lacking in many jurisdictions [24]

  • Multiple departments may be authorized to close schools [31 – public health; 24 – education; 5 – dual departments]

  • Wide differentiation of levels of government responsible for closing schools [30 – state; 36 – local; 15 – dual levels]

  • Major shift of authority to close schools once an emergency is declared

  • Lack of assessment criteria on the appropriateness of school closure


Major conclusions1

Major Conclusions

  • While there are legal avenues to close schools in virtually every jurisdiction in non-emergencies and emergencies, variations in legal authority across jurisdictions may lead to:

    • Potential disagreements concerning the responsibility, timing, and duration of school closures

    • Consideration or balancing of competing interests

    • Delays


Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments

  • Many thanks to the following for their contributions to the research and presentation:

    • Dru Bhattacharya, JD, MPH,Center Fellow

    • Jennifer Gray, JD, MPH,Center Researcher

    • P.J. Wakefield, Center Administrator


For more information

For more information . . .

  • James G. Hodge, Jr., J.D., LL.M.

    (410) 955-7624

    [email protected]

  • Center website: www.publichealthlaw.net

  • Thank you!


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