Safe2Say Gets Underway (January 15, 2019)

Yesterday, January 14, 2019, PA schools implemented a new anonymous tip line. Safe2Say Something is a result of a partnership between the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General and Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization begun by loved ones of the victims of the school shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut.

Safe2Say Something is an anonymous tip line that will be available 24/7/365 in all Pennsylvania schools for students in grades six through 12. Anyone can use the tip line to submit an anonymous tip regarding persons who may be a threat to themselves and/or others. To submit a tip, people can call the hotline at 1-844-SAF2SAY (1-844-723-2729) or on their own phone through the Safe2Say app.

Tips goes through the PA Attorney General’s Office, where they are evaluated. If the tip is life-threatening, it immediately referred to law enforcement. If a tip is not felt to be life-threatening, it is forwarded to a designated team within the school district(s) involved.

Some school districts have expressed concern over what they see as a lack of preparedness for the implementation of the program, and some have passed resolutions to that affect. However, according to a January  3, 2019 letter from the PA Attorney General’s Office to school districts, “The January 14, 2019, launch date is written into statute, and our office will be ready to receive, triage and forward all tips to school entities, and 911 dispatch as necessary, across the Commonwealth. These tips will save lives.” Safe2Say has begun accepting tips from Commonwealth students, but it still is “a work in progress,” said Joe Grace, spokesman for PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

Of course, in addition to the tip line, students can always talk directly to a school staff member or police.

Director Kuntz Provides Guidance for Opioid Prevention Instructional Requirements (January 14, 2019)

Recently, PAPSA Executive Director Dr. Doug Arnold spoke with Carol M Kuntz, Director of the PA Office for Safe Schools about how schools can address the instructional requirements for Act 55 of 2017. Ms. Kuntz is encouraging LEAs to check out PDE’s Opioid Misuse Prevention Act 55 of 2017 webpage at  https://www.education.pa.gov/Schools/safeschools/laws/Pages/Act55.aspx.

Ms. Kuntz is also encouraging LEAs to check out two curricula that cover Act 55 instructional requirements for grades K through 12.  They are Operation Prevention, https://www.operationprevention.com/  and The HOPE Curriculum, https://starttalking.ohio.gov/Schools/The-HOPE-Curriculum. Both curricula have been vetted by Pennsylvania school administrators and health teachers, and meet the health curriculum standards.  They are free for schools to use.

Ms. Kuntz wants everyone to know that the Office for Safe Schools is there to help schools throughout the Act 55 of 2017 process and can be reached at 717.783.6469 or via email at carkuntz@pa.gov.

General Assembly Education Committee Chairs Named for 2019-20 (January 8, 2019)

Rep. Curt Sonney from the 4th Legislative District in Erie County has been named as Majority Chair of the House Education Committee for 2019-20. “This is an exciting opportunity to be on the ground floor of real change in our state’s education system,” said Sonney. “The committee stage is the point at which bills are reviewed, improved and determine if they are ready to go before the full House for consideration. Although Pennsylvania already has an excellent education system, there is certainly room for improvement to ensure all students receive the best possible education.”

Rep. James Roebuck, D-Phila., has been re-appointed as the Democratic chairman of the House Education Committee for the 2019-20 session. “What a wonderful honor it is to have the privilege of chairing this committee once again. I always look forward to shaping our educational environment into one that helps foster growth and positive learning,” Roebuck said. “Over the years as chairman, I have established a good working relationship with the Republican House and Senate Education chairmen, and I believe that we will continue to work together in order to achieve more for our students and their futures.”

In the Senate, Sen. Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) received official notification that he has been appointed to serve as the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee for the 2019-2020 legislative session. “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to lead one of the most important public policy conversations in Pennsylvania today,” said Sen. Aument. “A strong education system is critical to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians reach their full potential and have the opportunity to experience earned success and upward economic mobility.”

Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, was re-appointed Democratic chair of the Senate Education Committee.

As Expected, Dear Colleague Letter from USDE Withdraws Statements of Policy and Guidance Regarding School Discipline (January 3, 2018)

A “Dear Colleague Letter” dated December 18, 2018 was recently received by all LEAs informing them the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Department of Education (USDE) are withdrawing the statements of Policy and Guidance reflected in the following documents:

  • Dear Colleague Letter on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline dated January 8, 2014; and
  • Overview of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative dated January 8, 2014.

Additionally, the Department of Education is withdrawing the following related documents:

  • Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline, dated January 8, 2014;
  • Appendix 1: S. Department of Education Directory of Federal School Climate and Discipline Resources, dated January 8, 2014;
  • Appendix 2: Compendium of School Discipline Laws and Regulations for the 50 States, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico, dated January 8, 2014; and
  • School Discipline Guidance Package FAQs, dated January 8, 2014.

The Dear Colleague Letter on Nondiscriminatory Administration of Discipline (“Guidance”) discussed the legal framework that the Departments employ to analyze complaints of discrimination under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title IV), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000c et seq., and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d et seq., and its implementing regulations, 34 C.F.R. Part 100. Title IV authorizes the Attorney General in certain circumstances to institute a lawsuit against public school boards, colleges, and universities upon receiving a complaint of discrimination. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin by recipients of Federal financial assistance. The Guidance presented and analyzed, under Titles IV and VI, a number of factual scenarios involving the application of school discipline, and indicated what conclusions the Departments might reach in each scenario.

On March 12, 2018, President Trump announced the formation of a Federal Commission on School Safety.  President Trump directed the Commission to study and make recommendations regarding several issues, including whether the Guidance and associated documents should be rescinded.  On December 18, 2018, the Commission recommended that the Departments rescind the Guidance and associated documents. 


CSPG Update Affects Special Ed. Instruction Certification (January 3, 2018)

On January 3, 2018, Dr. Kerry W. Helm, Chief of the Division of Certification Services, Bureau of School Leadership and Teacher Quality, informed all LEAs of Certification Staffing Policies and Guidelines (CSPG) updates that are now in effect in the Commonwealth. A particular update pertinent to pupil services is CSPG 61 – Special Education PK-8 and 7-12 – which added the restriction for Special Education 7-12 to teach 6th grade. All CSPG information is found on the PDE Website.