HB 1401 Seeks to Increase the Number of School Nurses, Counselors, and Social Workers (May 19, 2019)

On May 8, 2019, HB 1401 was referred to the House Education Committee. The bill would require one school nurse for every 750 students, one school psychologist for every 500 students, and a school counselor and social worker for every 250 students. In essence, the proposed legislation would cut the maximum ratio of students to school nurses in half and establish minimum staffing requirements for other professionals who work with students.

Current PA law requires schools to have one nurse for every 1,500 students and sets no minimum for school psychologists, school counselors, and social workers.

Increasing the number of school counselors and mental health professionals was a recommendation made by Governor Wolf’s School Safety Task Force.

Although PAPSA recognizes the need for increased staff in these areas, concerns voiced by PASPA President Tom Burnheimer include the need for added funds to help pay for the additional staff, as well as the shortage of school nurses, counselors, and school psychologists that is currently being experienced throughout the Commonwealth.

HB 1415 Introduced in PA House, Would Require Trauma-Informed Polices & Procedures (May 19, 2019)

HB 1415, a bipartisan bill being introduced in the PA House, is  aimed at creating trauma-informed school environments throughout the state in order to help ensure that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are recognized in the school setting so children can get the support they need. The bill would require trauma-informed policies and procedures (including such things as positive behavior supports, restorative justice, and resiliency), as well as training for school staff, new school board members, and even postsecondary students pursuing a degree in education.

According to Rep. Christina Sappey, one of the bill’s sponsors, “[t]his legislation would help teachers and staff in schools to get the training they need to recognize the signs of childhood trauma and assist in overcoming the hurdles students face in school due to the severe impacts on their brain development and functionality, as revealed by decades of research.”

An identical bill is being introduced in the PA Senate.

Thanks to Media News group for information contained in this story.

State Board Supports Proposed Changes to Mandatory School Age Requirements (May 12, 2019)

On May 8, 2019, the PA State Board of Education voted unanimously to support the Wolf Administration’s proposal to require students to officially start school by the age of six and to remain in school until at least the age of 18. Currently, mandatory school ages in the Commonwealth are eight years old to begin school and 17 years old to drop out of school. The changes must still be approved by the General Assembly.

PDH Releases May 2019 School Health Update (May 10, 2019)

On Friday, May 10, 2019, Jill Clodgo, RN,  Chief, Division of School Health, Pennsylvania Department of Health released the May 2019 School Health Update. Highlights from the Report include:

The complete report can be accessed at http://papsa-web.org/wp-content/uploads/2019-School-Health-Update-May-2019.pdf.

State Legislators Unveil 14-Bill Package to Help Create Safer and Healthier Schools (May 10, 2019)

On Wednesday, May 8th, in the spirit of creating a safer and healthier school environment for Pennsylvania’s schoolchildren, a 14-bill “Beyond Safe Schools” package has been proposed by legislators. Those legislators – all democrats – are proposing an increase in funding to hire school staff that are primarily in the pupil services field (i.e., counselors, school nurses and social workers). School librarians are also included in the funding proposal.

One bill is offering a bill to cut in half the student-to-school nurse ratio from the current 1,500:1 to 750:1. Another bill would increase funding to schools that serve students who are homeless, chronically absent, and in foster care; would fund a study to determine a means whereby schools can measure the number of students experiencing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma in their lives; and would provide funding for pupil services staff (e.g., social workers and psychologists)  to help afflicted students.

Other bills in the package would increase training requirements for school police officers and security officers; mandate pediatricians to do depression screenings, reporting the number of suicides and attempted suicides on school grounds to the PA Office of Safe Schools; and require instruction regarding bullying prevention and cultural diversity.