PSEA is a community of education professionals who make a difference in the lives of students every day.
Phoenixville EA member John Odell is in his second successful career after 24 years with the Army.
Pennsylvania’s public schools should be the safest and healthiest places for students to learn and grow. To make sure they are, we need the most qualified teachers, teaching assistants, school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers.
PSEA is committed to making changes aimed at protecting everyone who works and learns in our schools.
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Message from the president
Message from the president
It’s a Different World…I started my career in school nursing in the fall of 1993. It was before Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland. It was still a time when we believed that it was safe to send kids to school because their teachers, counselors, nurses, and principals would protect them from the dangers of the outside world. In the winter/spring of 2019, I was invited to start sitting on our district/county committee for an intruder drill in one of our middle schools. At this time, I felt my role was to listen and offer input, if applicable. I believed that the exercise was mainly for law enforcement and EMS. It was to be done on a non-school day with teachers volunteering to participate and be victims. Our students that are part of our local Explorer’s Club were to be the student “victims.”
On August 21, 2018, the CSNs and our MAAs (non-certified nurses in our district) were given the opportunity to observe the drill taking place. This middle school is a large two-story building with many hallways, outside doors, and open classrooms. We were in a classroom with windows that faced an open area where the intruder would meet his demise. On a smartboard, we could observe areas in the building as law enforcement was actively seeking out the intruder. We could hear the simulated gunshots occurring. We could see “victims” on the floor. We could feel the terror of it all. After several minutes, what seemed like a much more extended period, the intruder was apprehended outside the classroom where we were located. We watched as he was cornered by law enforcement and subsequently took his own life.
It wasn’t until the intruder was caught that law enforcement then went from room to room, looking for accomplices, clearing the rooms and escorting individuals out of the building by police officers. As areas were cleared of threats, EMS was brought in by a police escort. “Victims” had been down on the floor until this phase of the drill. They were tagged after a quick evaluation, no medical treatment at this point. The next phase was individuals being instructed on where to go, if ambulatory, or taken by EMS to designated triage areas that were color-coded green, yellow, red and black and where medical treatment started. It was a long time until the “victims,” our students, our co-teachers and paraprofessionals received treatment. It was surreal.
This school is in the most populated area of our district with a paid police department and paid EMS/fire department. It still took a significant amount of time for law enforcement to enter the building and then for EMS to do their job. The realization is that we will lose co-workers and students. As school employees, we will not come out of a real situation unscathed. We have started planning for our next intruder drill to be held on August 20, 2019. After observing the training this past August, I am more vocal currently. The drill will take place in a very rural middle/high school in our district. It will make law enforcement and EMS a much more extended time to reach our rural schools. Countywide, our volunteer EMS/fire departments are not operated as optimally as one would like and during the workday, the members are not close to their departments due to locations of places of employment.
Because of the nature of our rural schools, I believe that the district is going to have to utilize the staff that they have in place. They need to clear the nurses (CSNs and MAAs) as soon as possible so that they may help with the “victims.” Nurses can’t be hands-on, but we can be directing individuals on what they can do (i.e., hold pressure and don’t let up, or utilize the Stop the Bleed kit on a specific limb/wound). Counselors, psychologists, and social workers need to be made available to assist wherever their skills are needed. Administrators need to be available for their resources. In the review of the August 2018 drill, I recognized that we shouldn’t be tying up EMS by transporting individuals from the building to the triage areas. We need to utilize the adults or middle/high school students that are able and capable of doing this. Let EMS do what they are trained to do and hopefully save lives. We must extend the drill to think about the reunification of parents and their student if they have been transported to a hospital.
The CSNs and MAAs need to be part of the emergency pieces of training that the district has. Training shouldn’t just be for district administration. I recognized this need when a very involved secretary discussed with me what the CSNs could be doing during the emergency drill; it was to discuss how we are going to get students with EpiPen’s stored in the Nurse’s Office their EpiPen in the event of an active shooter or other such emergencies. Non-medical individuals do not “Get It!” They need our input.
As we plan and drill for an active shooter, scheduling ahead for another attendance area school in 2020, I refuse to live my life in fear of that individual that needs mental health care. If I did, I wouldn’t be in my position as a school nurse. I wouldn’t go to movie theaters, and I wouldn’t go into places of worship. I do continue to hope and pray that another student, school employee, or any other individual do not become the victim of another human being with a gun.
-Louise Tharp, DPS President, Certified School Nurse in Warren County School District
The Safe2Say tip line went live in January 2019 and has already processed over 14,000 tips, of which 2,500 have been life-safety interventions. We know that many of our DPS professionals are an integral part of the Safe2Say teams in your district, but we know that the implementation of this program has presented challenges. On behalf of PSEA and all the staff and students you’re assisting and protecting, all the schools that you’re making just a bit safer each day, we want to express our thanks.
Please visit www.psea.org/schoolsafety for additional resources and communications regarding school safety and Safe2Say.
FERPA Flexibility for Health or Safety Threat “FERPA affords schools and districts flexibility when responding to circumstances that threaten the health or safety of individuals in their school community. Understanding the provisions of FERPA relative to such circumstances will empower school officials to act decisively and quickly when challenges arise. The following [linked] frequently asked questions detail how FERPA may apply in these circumstances.”
Please review the U.S. Department of Education Privacy Technical Assistance Center’s recently released update regarding FERPA regulations.
School Safety Grants
Applications will be reviewed and scored in six different regions with target award amounts being established for each region, as Act 44 requires that there be geographic distribution of the grant funds across the state.
PCCD received $318 million in requests for School Safety: Part B – Competitive Application funding, while only $40 million remains available for distribution.
$45k Minimum Salary – Co-sponsorship Memo (Sen. Schwank & Rep. Toohil) –SUPPORT – increases the minimum salary for educators from $18,500 to $45,000; funding has been allocated in the proposed state budget to cover salary and benefit costs to fund this measure.
Many DPS professionals will receive a raise under this plan – check out Erie City SD Certified School Nurse Bridgette May speaking at a PSEA Press Conference in Harrisburg on March 26 in support of this legislation. Read More: whyy.org/articles/erie-school-nurse-says-she-loves-her-job-but-the-salary-is-like-a-nightmare/
School Social Worker Certification - HB 390 (Rep. Miller) – referred to House Education – SUPPORT – directs PDE to create a certification for school social workers.
Depression Screening - SB 199 (Sen. Regan) – referred to Senate Education – SUPPORT – provides for depression screenings to be conducted in conjunction with the sixth and 11th grade physical; formerly SB 1181 and HB 2095 of 2017-2018
School Counselors - SB 997 of 2017-2018 (Sen. Costa) – SUPPORT - provides for ratios for DPS professionals and certification for school social workers (PSEA has been working with the Senator to revise and reintroduce this legislation; look for it soon!)
Delegation of Nursing Care Tasks – Co-sponsorship Memo (Rep. Cox) – OPPOSE – provides nurses the authority to delegate nursing care tasks to non-licensed personnel
Dental Screenings by Dental Hygienists – HB 994 (Rep. Fee) – allows PHDHPs to perform dental screenings to comply with the dental mandate (PSEA legislative committee and CSDH’s have recommended a position of “oppose” due to the threat to existing DHS programs which provide a higher level of care for kids.)
Threat Assessment – Co-sponsorship Memo – was HB 2493 of 2017-2018 (Rep. Ortitay) – SUPPORT – provides for the creation of threat assessment teams in schools (PSEA in conjunction with PSBA have done extensive work to revise last session’s legislation; look for it soon!)
CPR – SB 115 - SUPPORT – directs PDE to create model curriculum and guidelines to encourage CPR training for high school students
PSEA is actively monitoring legislation that could impact members and our schools. Please watch your email for updates and be certain to contact your legislators on issues that impact your students and your schools. Remember – when it comes to school health – YOU are the expert!
Social Work Month - Rally to Support HB 390
March was Social Work Month. On March 25th, social workers, school social workers, and students studying to become social workers converged on the state Capitol in an event organized by NASW. Nearly 700 individuals met with their legislators and participated in a training and rally to support two important pieces of legislation for the profession:
HB 390 – compels PDE to create a certification for school social workers, allowing them to be fully integrated into the school community, committed to long-term student success, and bound by the high professional standards required for other school professionals.
45k Minimum Salary – increases the minimum salary for education professionals in schools from $18,500, set in 1988, to $45,000. Funding for salary and benefits have been allocated in Gov. Wolf’s proposed state budget and will not be funded by school districts. Also contains a correction to the definition of professional employees to include school social workers, thus guaranteeing them the furlough protections and other protections currently held by those defined as professional employees.
2018 PSEA December House Delegates- wrap-up
NEW BUSINESS ITEM #8 – PASSED
ADVOCATE TO CREATE CERTIFICATES- PSEA will continue to advocate for the creation of certificates for members in EA bargaining units whose subject/practice areas currently only require licensure, and for any new certification requirements to be applied prospectively. Concurrent with this effort, PSEA will continue to advocate for all members represented in EA bargaining units to be considered “professional employees” under the School Code and to ensure equal rights and protections afforded under this definition in law.
Moved by: Alan Malachowski, North Penn EA
NEW BUSINESS ITEM #12 – PASSED
ADVOCATE FOR APPROPRIATE STUDENT-TO-STAFF RATIOS- Using existing resources, PSEA shall advocate for appropriate student-to-staff ratios for pupil services personnel (including but not limited to school counselors, school dental hygienists, home and school visitors/school social workers, school nurses, and school psychologists) in the Commonwealth. Such ratios shall be determined by the PSEA Department of Pupil Services (DPS) Executive Board during the 2018-2019 school year using existing guidance from the PSEA Government Policy Agenda and respective professional organizations.
Moved by: Bill Senavaitis, Central Bucks EA
Save The Dates
National School Nurse Day
2019 NASN Conference
PSEA Gettysburg Summer Leadership Conference
Health Secretary Touts Benefits of Immunizations:
By Nina Lehr, Pennsylvania Legislative Services | March 6, 2019
Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), held media availability along with local pediatricians to talk about the importance of immunizations in response from the comments made from US Sen. Rand Paul about how immunizations should not be required during a hearing yesterday.
Sec. Levine stated immunizations are one of the victories of public health and pediatrics in the 20th century decreasing many significant childhood illnesses including polio, whooping cough, measles, and mumps. She reiterated, “I want to make it very clear that child immunizations, adult immunizations, such as the measles vaccine, are safe and they are effective in preventing very serious illnesses and have been a public health victory.” She added the idea that these immunizations should not be required does not make sense and studies have proven there is no association between the measles vaccine and autism. She noted the article that indicated a link between autism and the measles vaccine was proved to be false and fabricated and was withdrawn from publication but has had an effect on misinformation to the public about the safety of vaccines.
Sec. Levine remarked DOH is committed to working with stakeholders to improve the Commonwealth’s immunization rates and the current immunization rate for measles in Pennsylvania is greater than 96 percent, which is higher than the threshold needed for “herd immunity.” She clarified “herd immunity” means enough of a population is immunized that the disease is unlikely to spread and lead to an outbreak. She noted a key initiative from the Wolf Administration last term was to change the provisional period for when immunizations are due in school from 8 months to 5 days in order to get most children vaccinated before the school year starts. She emphasized there are still some communities where more work and outreach needs done to dispel the misinformation being spread from anti-vaccination groups.
Dr. Abby Myers, a general pediatrician at Penn State Health, stated she is a proponent of mandatory vaccination in order to attend day cares and public school and believes “in this day and age it is easy to forget that these illnesses are out there and these diseases can be life-threatening and often at times do still take children’s lives.” She noted it is important to be in a good relationship with your pediatrician in order to talk about the purpose, safety, and efficacy of the vaccines and to receive an educated opinion. She concluded her remarks by emphasizing mandatory vaccines are important to protect all children, including those who are not able to get vaccines due to true medical conditions.
Q & A with the Media and Secretary Rachael Levine
Vaccines are encouraged but not law?
important to have that herd immunity for those who cannot actually be vaccinated and the rate of philosophical or religious exceptions is less than 2 percent statewide.
Sen. Paul said he and his family have all been vaccinated but is concerned about government-mandated vaccinations saying it should be up to the parent, can you comment?
Do you have a response to the senator saying there is not enough evidence to support the claim that unvaccinated children can spread the disease to immuno-compromised children?
Have you seen any attitudes towards vaccinations on the state level that you have found concerning?
Due to the fact that the philosophical and religious exemptions are not used very often do you believe there should be a law change disallowing them?
Do you support government intervention in requiring immunizations?
There were reported 16 cases of mumps at Temple University, are you concerned?
How do you feel the internet is playing a role in the misinformation to the public? Social media and the internet can be used as a force for public health good and public health bad. We emphasize to the public to not believe everything you read on the internet and social media and the internet can be used to spread misinformation about many public health topics. We have a fantastic new website at the Department of Health to get facts about public health in general, including vaccinations, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also has a website to get factual information.
Other than at Temple, have you been hearing of other outbreaks or cases for mumps or measles?
ESSA is the latest reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the landmark 1965 civil rights law. At its core, ESSA is about equity and opportunity for all students.
In December 2018, PDE identified 97 schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and 190 schools for Additional-Targeted Support and Improvement (A-TSI), in accordance with the school accountability framework under ESSA and in PA’s approved state plan.
Schools identified for CSI and A-TSI cover 70% of Pennsylvania counties, with rural, suburban, and urban schools having been identified for supports. These schools were not identified simply on test scores alone; but rather evaluated over a multi-year span using multiple measures to more accurately reflect challenges in the schools.
 The accountability system that identifies both CSI and TSI schools includes the following indicators: • Student proficiency on state standardized tests • Student growth as measured by state standardized tests • Growth toward proficiency for English learners • High school graduation rate • Chronic student absenteeism • Student career readiness
ESSA requires states to identify schools for CSI and A-TSI every three years (next round of identification will be Fall 2021). Schools that are re-identified may face “more rigorous interventions” as determined by the state.
PDE has developed and shared its School Improvement process with all LEAs with schools designated for CSI or A-TSI. The process includes the following key components:
NEXT STEPS – ENGAGEMENT AT THE LOCAL LEVEL:
Ginny Kelbish, DPS School Psychologist Section President
“80 percent of success is showing up.” - Woody Allen
Allen’s quote captures the importance of school attendance. Great teachers and a strong curriculum cannot be effective if children are not present for their school day. Because student attendance has been found to be important to academic achievement as well as long term career success, the Pennsylvania Department of Education is one of 36 states that selected chronic absenteeism to be a school quality indicator in the Consolidated Plan for implementing PA’s Every Student Succeeds Act.
More than 6.5 million children in the United States, approximately 13 percent of all students, miss 15 or more days of school each year (Allison & Attisha, 2019). Pennsylvania defines chronic absenteeism as the number of students in a school who miss more than 10 percent of school days across the academic year for any reason. This is estimated to be 18 days in a 180- day school year. A student is chronically absent if he or she misses as few as TWO days of school a month!
A student is absent if they are not physically participating in instruction or instruction-related activities on school grounds or at an approved off-grounds location for at least half of the school day. This includes excused and unexcused absences because in both cases instructional hours are lost. Any student enrolled for fewer than 60 days in a school will be excluded from the school’s chronic absenteeism rate. This is because there has not been a meaningful opportunity for the school to apply intervention strategies. Pennsylvania will be reporting on the regular attendance of each school district on its Future Ready Index.
If student absenteeism is addressed in a district, it is often done one student at a time with interventions tailored to one student and their family. This is not inappropriate, but schools need to think about attendance interventions through the multiple tiered systems of support (MTSS). Each school building should have interventions at the tier 1, 2, and 3 levels.
Absenteeism has varied causes and interventions need to consider the school and community systems that interact with families and students. To meaningfully think about absenteeism, educators should consider the demographics that describe the students, families, school, and community. We know that impoverished students, students who have unstable housing, students who have changed schools, students with parents in poor health, students who have chronic health issues, students with disabilities, and students of racial or ethnic minority status are at greater risk for chronic absenteeism. We know that the school climate and punitive disciplinary practices can negatively impact the relationship between students, families, and school staff. We know that safety issues in the school community and the relationship between the school and the community impacts school attendance.
Educators should not work alone in addressing chronic absenteeism, but rather create a diverse coalition of local stakeholders to work together to engage students who are chronically absent. “Models of coordinated community action to address and eliminate chronic absenteeism exist across the country, and each model is different; different communities make different choices about how to use time and resources. However, an element that defines success is the “coordination and collaboration among a diverse collection of local stakeholders.” (U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education, 2015). Representatives of education, health, housing, and justice-related agencies and organizations need to be at the table, alongside youth, families, local government, and community, faith-based, and philanthropic organizations.
In 2015, the Every Student, Every Day: A Community Toolkit to Address and Eliminate Chronic Absenteeism was released. www.ed.gov/chronicabsenteeism/toolkit.
The toolkit is organized around the following four action steps:
Action Step 1: Generate and act on absenteeism data.
What is the absentee rate in your district?
A school building can now go on the Future Reading Index to see the attendance rate for their school and district.
To improve attendance, districts must collect data on absenteeism and communicate that data to the important stakeholders. Many schools are challenged by collecting meaningful data on who is approaching the chronically absent mark. Student database systems can assist school districts in collecting the data, but districts still need to create a system to gather, track, and communicate data.
Action Step 2: Create and deploy positive messages and measures.
Organizations like Attendanceworks.org have handouts and posters on the importance of attendance that can be downloaded and hung in school offices and hallways.
Often, the first response to chronic absenteeism is to discipline the student with detention or the parent with fines. This may be appropriate if the student is truant. However, most of the professional recommendations encourage focusing on incentives for attendance and problem solving around the chronically absent student.
When Children and Youth and Juvenile Probation are involved, the school can work closely with them to improve a student’s attendance.
Action Step 3: Focus communities on addressing chronic absenteeism.
This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with a journal article in Pediatrics that linked school attendance to the long term social, emotional, behavioral, and physical health of children. The AAP wanted to bring attention to this issue because “chronic school absenteeism, starting as early as preschool and kindergarten, puts students at risk for poor school performance and school dropout, which in turn, put them at risk for unhealthy behaviors as adolescents and young adults as well as poor long- term health outcomes.” (Allison & Attisha, 2019) “Data strongly suggest that the long-term consequence of chronic absenteeism is a population that is less educated, less healthy, underemployed, less financially stable, and more disenfranchised.” (U.S. Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Education, 2015).
The AAP makes the following recommendations.
Infection Prevention: Schools should encourage hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers. Parents should be encouraged to access flu shots and immunizations. However, AAP believes efforts should be made to make these resources available in family friendly community settings.
Importance of school nurses: One study found that 95 percent of students seen by a school nurse for illness or injury return to class with 82 percent of students seen by an unlicensed school employee.
Other studies have found that the presence of a full-time school nurses reduced the illness-related absenteeism among children with asthma in schools with part-time nurses.
School Based Health Centers (SBHC): The AAP articles cites research about how school- based health centers (SBHC) improve grade point averages, graduation rates, and attendance. “SBHC’s provide health services to students who otherwise may have been sent home or missed school because of illnesses and injuries or attending medical appointments for management of chronic health problems. School based health services can include preventative services, dental services, and mental or behavioral health services.” (Allison & Attisha, 2019)
School Based Mental Health Services and Trauma Informed Schools:
There is little research on how school based mental health services impact attendance. Having services in the school prevent students from the leaving the school for appointments. The hope is that addressing mental health needs improve student’s engagement in learning.
School Policies and Programs:
Creating a positive school climate through school programs, extracurricular activities, and community connections.
Improving communication between parents and the school.
Informing parents about their child’s attendance and how quickly a child can be considered chronically absent.
Action Step 4: Ensure responsibility across sectors.
Keep the communication about the importance of attendance happening across all of the stakeholders. This means putting up posters encouraging attendance every year, not just one year. This means always working towards improving attendance each year, rather than making it a one- year initiative.
Resources for Parents
www.attendanceworks.org/resources/messaging/making-the-case/-This link has information about the importance of attendance for business leaders, health providers, religious leaders, and others. These can be distributed as informational fliers.
https://healthyschoolscampaign.org/here-healthy/ - Taking action to address health-related chronic absenteeism.
The following links are taken from, “The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health” written by Mandy A. Allison, Elliott Attisha, and the Council on School Health
Organizations Addressing School Attendance
Links to Resources to Share with Patients and Parents
We need to hear from you!
The next meetings of the DPS Committee and the School Nurse Section will be held April 26 and 27 in Harrisburg. Please reach out to your region representative today to share your concerns, questions, and success stories!
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