School safety is an issue on every educator’s mind these days. And rightfully so. No one can be expected to learn or teach effectively when they feel unsafe.
The question is, what can we do about it?
Act 44, which Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law this past June and which included significant input from PSEA members, goes a long way toward addressing the issue. Among other things, Act 44 allocated $52.5 million in grant funds to address the issue, authorized the formation of a School Safety and Security Committee, and established the Safe2Say Something program.
Safe2Say, which was spearheaded by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro and developed in partnership with Sandy Hook Promise, is an ambitious attempt to head off tragedies before they happen. The anonymous reporting system, which launched on Jan. 14, provides a way for parents, school staff, students, and community members to instantly report anything from threats to bullying behavior to serious criminal acts.
Reports can be made via a 24/7 phone hotline, a website (safe2saypa.org/tip), or a mobile app. Trained dispatch staff can then triage the reports and alert law enforcement to a serious threat. It’s an idea many PSEA members supported and is modeled after successful programs in Colorado and Michigan.
If any school employee has concerns about the safety of a child or that child’s propensity to harm others, PSEA would advise the school employee to report those concerns directly to the school employer. It’s also important to remember that educators have a legal obligation to report suspicions about child abuse through ChildLine, and to report instances of employee sexual misconduct, abuse, or exploitation to the Pennsylvania Department of Education, their supervisor, and their chief school administrator.
PSEA members who have questions about their reporting obligations or the Safe2Say reporting tool can contact their PSEA UniServ representative for assistance.
“No issue is more important than the safety and security of Pennsylvania’s students and school employees,” said PSEA President Rich Askey. “We’re proud to say our members have taken a leading role in helping shape school safety policies in Pennsylvania.”
See the latest information at www.psea.org/schoolsafety.