Key Issue: School Safety

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Key Issue: School Safety

School violence is a top concern for PSEA members. We grieve for victims and their families — and we are committed to making changes aimed at protecting everyone who works and learns in our schools.

PSEA encouraged members to share their ideas to make our public schools safe from violence in the aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. PSEA shared those suggestions with lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf.

Many of your ideas were used to put School Safety Act 44 into law. 

Making a difference

PSEA Member appointed to PA's School & Security Committee

Charlene Koretz, PSEA member and school nurse, from the Colonial School District has been appointed to Pennsylvania’s School and Security Committee, which is part of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

Congratulations on your appointment, Charlene. We’re glad you’re able to share your expertise with this group!

Act 18 of 2019 updates

**Act 18 of 2019 made modifications to Act 44 of 2018 as it relates to school safety and security grant program funding.

**Act 18 also requires the creation of a Model Trauma-Informed Approach Plan which school entities that apply for School Safety and Security Grants for trauma-informed approaches to education must use.

Budget Update

In addition to providing continued school safety grant funding in the budget, policymakers adopted two important school safety initiatives in a separate school code bill.

Threat Assessment Teams

One initiative supporting the creation of threat assessment teams in every public school builds on the success of the Safe2Say Something program. Threat assessment teams are intended to assess problem situations in schools and take steps to prevent violence. Establishing threat assessment teams was among the school safety recommendations included in a 2018 PSEA report based on ideas shared by about 1,000 PSEA members.

“Preventing violence in schools before it starts is, by far, the best way to keep our public schools safe,” Askey said. “Establishing threat assessment teams in public schools and creating connections between those teams and the successful Safe2Say program is an excellent step in that direction.”

Trauma-informed Learning

The other school safety initiative calls for training and professional development for educators to implement trauma-informed learning approaches in the classroom that will improve the social-emotional growth of students and the well-being of educators.

“The impact of trauma on students is a rising epidemic,” Askey said. “Many students experience traumatic events that can shape their lives forever — from bullying or neighborhood violence to an unstable home life or homelessness to the disastrous impacts of addiction. With the right supports, students can overcome these adverse childhood consequences and thrive.

“This bill provides educators with guidance, supports, and training for implementing trauma-informed approaches in their classrooms as well as supports for the impact of secondary trauma on their own lives and professional practice.”

PSEA Advisory: Safe2Say Something Program

On June 22, 2018, Governor Wolf approved Act 44 establishing the Safe2Say Something program (S2SS). The Safe2Say Something provisions establish a system through which people may make anonymous reports of behaviors that present concerns in public and nonpublic schools.

Legislature approves bill creating comprehensive safe schools program

The legislation enacted in June 2018 provides school districts $60 million in school safety grants for a menu of security, training, prevention, and counseling programs. It also creates a "Safe2Say" program.

Allowable Uses for School Safety and Security Grant Program

Act 44 identified 21 allowable uses for the $52.5 million in School Safety and Security Grant funds available to school entities for 2018-2019. The guidance is intended to ensure the grant monies are invested in evidence-based strategies, but provide school entities the necessary flexibility to fund the programs that meet their local needs.

The 21 uses fall into the following primary categories:

1)  Safety assessments, planning, and infrastructure

  1. School safety and security/Risk assessment
  2. Emergency Preparedness – plans, drills
  3. Physical security upgrades – technology; visitor systems;

2)  Personnel costs (training and compensation)

  1. school resource officers and school police officers
  2. certified guidance counselors, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, licensed clinical social workers and school psychologists

3)  Services for students

  1. Counseling services for students
  2. Administration of evidence-based screenings for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE survey) and provide trauma-informed counseling services as necessary based on the results
  3. Trauma-informed education and supports including qualified personnel to provide services
  4. Develop efforts between schools and behavioral health professionals
    1. Identification of students in need of trauma support
    2. Student Assistance Program (SAP) – prevention, early intervention, referral for services

 4)  Supports, programs, and training for school staff and students

  1. Identification of at-risk behaviors in students
  2. Classroom management
  3. Multi-Tiered System of Support (Tier 1, 2, and 3)
  4. Positive Behavior Support
  5. Conflict resolution programs
  6. Restorative justice strategies
  7. School-based diversion programs
  8. Violence-prevention programs – including bullying

Speaking out for school safety

For many years, PSEA has advocated for the prevention and elimination of violence in schools. PSEA members have spoken out in support of policies aimed at preventing school violence, drafting emergency response plans, and requiring background clearances for people who enter school buildings as well as implementing comprehensive security measures in every school. PSEA also supports educational programs that emphasize gun safety and increased awareness of the need to keep firearms secured.

PSEA will focus on state-level policies and supports that our members believe will make a real difference in Pennsylvania. PSEA President Dolores McCracken outlined policy suggestions during a March 15 public hearing on school safety before the PA House Education Committee.

School Safety Town Hall

PSEA Vice President Rich Askey joined Attorney General Josh Shapiro and representatives from education and parent organizations at a town hall meeting on school safety April 19.

Both Rich and the attorney general said that risk assessment must be done on a school-by-school basis, and that it is key to recognize problem signs ahead of time. Attorney General Shapiro said he is working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on legislation to create a clearinghouse within the AG’s office to report such information.

Resources: Talking with Students

Resources are available to help PSEA members talk to students about how they are feeling in the wake of school violence and other traumatic events.

Advisory: Addressing threats of potential school violence

In the current climate, educators have become increasingly concerned about how to respond to threats and other signs of potential violence against members of our school communities. PSEA has prepared a legal advisory to assist members in thinking about this issue.

School Safety and Student Activism

Read a joint statement on school safety and student activism from PSEA, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Pennsylvania Principals Association, and Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

Thank you for sharing your policy ideas

Thank you to all the PSEA members who shared their policy ideas to help make our public schools safer. PSEA has shared your ideas in a report sent to Gov. Tom Wolf and state lawmakers.