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Creating a Culture of Safety  

May 26, 2021

Sonoran UCEDD Affiliated Faculty Participates in Panel Discussion about Sexual Abuse Prevention in Schools 

Sonoran UCEDD Affiliated Faculty Jamie Edgin participated in two panel discussions about preventing sexual abuse of students with disabilities.  

The panel discussions, It's Really About Safety: Preventing Sexual Abuse in Arizona Schools, were held in response to Governor Doug Ducey’s veto of a sex education bill and based on findings from a recent report called Preventing Sexual Abuse in Arizona Schools: Suggested Protocols for Students with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities.  

Jamie Edgin - A photo of a smiling white woman with medium length brown hair. Edgin, who has 20 years of research experience within the disability field, serves on the Arizona Response to Sexual Violence & Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Collaborative that published the report.  

Among the recommendations for preventing sexual abuse in schools is 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. 

Another approach to prevention is limiting instances of one-on-one contact between a student and a staff member. This can mean having two staff members addressing an individual students’ needs, limiting the amount of time a student is a with a staff member, and propping open a door to minimize abusive contact.  

“Systems change needs to happen,” Edgin says. “And it should come from a collaborative effort between parents, teachers, schools and administrators to create a culture of safety that doesn’t put these students into potentially dangerous situations.”  

The report has been shared and Edgin hopes it will serve as guidelines when school districts put their policies in place. The report may also help with writing future legislation.  

The Preventing Sexual Abuse in Arizona Schools: Suggested Protocols for Students with Intellectual, Developmental and Other Disabilities Report can be found on the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council website.  


The Arizona Response to Sexual Violence & Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities Collaborative comprises of members from the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona Commission for the Deaf & the Hard of Hearing, Planned Parenthood of Arizona, Arizona Coalition to End Sexual & Domestic Violence, and the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.  

The Experts in the Room

May 25, 2021

Sonoran UCEDD students train Reid Park Zoo staff on accessibility, inclusion

Screenshot of a Zoom shared screen presentation. Across the top from left to right: Dominique Hughes, Kayla Tilicki, Corrine Winsten and Jacy Farkas have their cameras on to give a presentation called: Accessibility Basics, Universal Design and Engaging with Divers Guests.
From left, University of Arizona students Dominique Hughes, Kayla Tilicki, Corrine Winsten and Sonoran UCEDD Assistant Director Jacy Farkas conduct a training for Reid Park Zoo staff and volunteers. 

Growing up in Tucson, one of Kayla Tilicki’s favorite things to do was visit Reid Park Zoo.

“I always wanted my parents to buy keys for the boxes that you turn on to learn about an animal and hear its sounds,” says Tilicki, a University of Arizona 2021 graduate and Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities certificate program recipient.  

When she was approached to help finish work on a virtual training for Reid Park Zoo that focused on accessibility and inclusion, she jumped at the chance.  

“Hearing that I could work with a group that I engaged with as a child was really exciting to me,” she says.

Alumni Corinne Winsten and Dominique Hughes worked on the project last year as part of their developmental disabilities certificate program and returned to help Tilicki adapt it into a virtual training.

Tilicki, Winsten and Hughes all agreed the opportunity to share and teach others what they learned was a fulfilling experience.

“I’ve learned a lot in my college experience, but I never really saw myself as the expert in the room,” Tilicki says. “So, it was a great opportunity to take the chance. To be that expert and teach other people. It was really empowering.”

Nearly 50 Reid Park Zoo staff, volunteers and docents participated in the virtual training held over Zoom in May. Among the attendees was Molly Koleczek, an education specialist for the Reid Park Zoo, who helped facilitate the training.

“After the training, the staff and volunteers feel more equipped, and have increased confidence and awareness to provide a more welcoming and equitable experience to everyone who comes to the zoo – regardless of ability,” she says.  


Congratulations, Class of 2021!

We wish the graduating members of the 2020-2021 cohort of Sonoran UCEDD Trainees all the best for their hard work and accomplishments over the past year. They faced extraordinary challenges but met them head on.

A graphic that shows Class of 2021 -- Congratulations. It also has portraits of the following people in two rows: Top Row: (Left to Right) Kayla Tilicki, Jordan Gotwalt, Daniel Hernandez, Laasya Vallabhaneni. Second Row (left to right): Leah Guerrero, Mahkyla Howes, Kai Glahn, and Haley Arnold

From left: Kayla Tilicki, Jordan Gotwalt, Daniel Hernandez, Laasya Vallabhaneni, Leah Guerrero, Mahkyla Howes, Kai Glahn, and Haley Arnold


Haley Arnold, Kai Glahn, Jordan Gotwalt, Daniel Hernandez, Mahkyla Howes, Kayla Tilicki, Laasya Vallabhaneni


Leah Guerrero

To see some of what they worked on over the past year, please watch the trainee presentations from the 3rd Annual Trainee Symposium. Our graduating trainees and their peers did a fantastic job.

Congratulations, Class of 2021! We look forward to seeing what you do next.