USDE, DOJ, and HHS Release First Report to Congress as Part of the Interagency Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education (December 6, 2022)

The Interagency Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education (Task Force), created by the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA 2022 Reauthorization), presented its first report to Congress today. As required by the VAWA 2022 Reauthorization, the report focuses on recruiting, retaining, and training the U.S. Department of Education’s highly qualified workforce who investigate complaints and enforce Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and section 485(f) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Clery Act). The reauthorization of VAWA and the work of this Task Force continue a long commitment to action by President Biden, who was the primary Senate sponsor of the original Violence Against Women Act, which was enacted in 1994.

The Task Force, which includes the USDE, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), was established on Sept. 1, 2022. The VAWA 2022 Reauthorization required the Task Force’s first report to be completed by Nov. 30, 2022, which is no later than 90 days after the Task Force’s establishment.

“The Department of Education is fully committed to ensuring that every student has the right to learn in a safe environment free from harassment and sexual violence,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

“Sexual violence prevention, particularly in educational settings, is critical,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “This report is the first step to providing critical information about gaps in federal law enforcement and resources. HHS looks forward to working across the federal government to advance trauma-informed health care and advocacy services for survivors.”

As required by Congress, the report provides information from the USDE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Clery Group within the office of Federal Student Aid on the following topics:

  1. An assessment to identify gaps or challenges in carrying out such investigation and enforcement, which may include surveying the current investigative workforce to solicit feedback on areas in need of improvement.
  2. An examination of issues of recruiting, retention, and the professional development of the current investigative workforce, including the possibility of providing retention bonuses or other forms of compensation for the purpose of ensuring the USDE has the capacity, in both personnel and skills, needed to properly perform its mission and provide adequate oversight of educational institutions.
  3. An assessment of the benefits of outreach and training with both law enforcement agencies and educational institutions with respect to such workforce.
  4. An examination of best practices for making educational institutions aware of the most effective campus sexual violence prevention, investigation, and response practices and identifying areas where more research should be conducted. And,
  5. Strategies for addressing such other matters as the Secretary of Education considers necessary to sexual violence prevention, investigation, and responses.

In addressing the USDE’s work on best practices and strategies for preventing campus sexual violence, the report highlights a range of the Department’s programs, including its National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE)’s recent Lessons from the Field webinars on engaging school communities in preventing gender-based violence. Both featured leaders of prevention programming who provided practical, ready-to-use strategies for preventing sexual violence and other gender-based violence on college and university campuses and in secondary schools.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

USDE Seeks Public Comment on Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Stronger Connections (November 25, 2022)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is seeking public comment on Draft Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Stronger Connections Frequently Asked Questions – Nonregulatory Guidance (2022). As indicated in its title, the final document will provide nonregualtor guidance.

In the FAQs, the USDE outlines school violence prevention options under $1B Stronger Connections grant program Schools should take a comprehensive approach to violence prevention that includes not only improved safety measures but meets students’ physical, social, emotional, mental health and academic needs, according to a draft FAQ issued by the U.S. Department of Education for the $1 billion Stronger Connections grant program.  

A September 15, 2022 letter  to Chief State School Officers by U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona provided  information regarding the prioritization of funding for school districts that focuses on poverty levels, as well as other circumstances based on the need to address student vulnerabilities.

The FAQs also provide recommendations for allowable activities under the grant.

The public is invited to provide feedback on the draft document by December 19, 2022.

The USDE will consider all comments in making revisions, as appropriate, but will
not provide individual responses to comments.

Submission Instructions include:
Send comments to: StrongerConnections@ed.gov
Subject line: Stronger Connections Grant Program FAQs Comments: Please submit succinct, substantive comments regarding the draft Bipartisan Safer Communities Act Stronger Connections Grant Program FAQs, which may include:
• Identifying questions or answers in the document, by question number, that you think are not clear and provide a suggestion for enhancing clarity; or
• Providing suggestions for enhancing the document overall, such as an unanswered question.

Special Olympics Honors Daniel Boone HS as a 2022 National Banner Unified Champion School (November 25, 2022)

The Daniel Boone Area High School has been selected as a 2022 National Banner Unified Champion School by Special Olympics.  This is a prestigious distinction that celebrates the “best of the best” inclusive school communities.  Daniel Boone High School is one of 110 schools throughout the country to receive this national honor for its efforts to make sure all students feel included and respected. It is also one of only three schools in Pennsylvania to be selected as a 2022 National Banner Unified Champion School.

In an interview with WFMZ Hannah Huddleson, a junior at Daniel Boone,  stated, “Our big word is ‘inclusion. We choose to include and just make sure that everybody’s unified.”

In addition, Daniel Boone Superintendent Brett Cooper said, “We developed a district vision. That vision is five simple words: ‘Learning together, advocating for all.'”

The high school has unified sports, where students of different abilities can compete, including a bocce team and track-and-field team. There’s also a unified ambassadors group made up of more than 100 students.

Congratulations to longtime PAPSA member Robert Hurley, Assistant to the Superintendent at Daniel Boone.

For more from WFMZ, click here.

OSERS Reminds States of the Need for Timely Special Ed Services for “Highly Mobile Students” (November 11, 2022)

On November 11, 2022, the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) sent a letter to state special education directors focusing on the needs of “highly mobile children” and stating that schools need to provide “timely and expedited evaluations and eligibility determinations” for such students that are also suspected of having a disability that impacts their learning. The letter is intended to help to ensure the educational stability of highly mobile students with disabilities and defines highly mobile children as those who are connected with military families, or are migratory, homeless, or in the foster care system. 

The eleven page letter was the OSERS response to concerns from stakeholders and includes resources regarding response to intervention (rti) approaches before an evaluation is complete, as well as the use of comparable special education services for students new to a school district.

Students who move frequently, particularly those with disabilities, can face challenges such as difficulty communicating their needs to school personnel unfamiliar to them.

To view the letter, click here.

Source: K12 Dive

NAPSA Signs on to Letter to Congress Supporting the EDUCATORS for America Act (November 11, 2022)

On November 8, 2022, the National Association of Pupil Services Administrators (NAPSA) joined 41 other national organizations in signing on to a letter supporting the EDUCATORS for America Act (S 3360/HR 6205), which would invest in and revitalize federal educator preparation programs. That has been sent to all members of the US Congress.

The letter states that there were an estimated100,000 classrooms in 2018 staffed by instructors who did not complete some type of educator preparation program (Learning Policy Institute). Also, despite the increased need for PK-12 teachers, the number of students completing bachelor’s degrees in education has been in decline over the last two decades (AACTE), and this shortage has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

In answer to these challenges, the bill ensures that students are taught by fully licensed teachers and authorizes $500 million annually for grants to support states in developing and implementing a statewide strategy for meeting their educator workforce needs, including ensuring an inclusive and equitable workforce that supports the recruitment, preparation, and retention of populations that are underrepresented in the field of education. This includes teachers of color, first generation college students, and teachers with disabilities.

To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

Those in support of the bill can use an action alert to urge members of Congress to co-sponsor the EDUCATORS for America Act. Access the alert at: https://aacte.org/policy-and-advocacy/action-alerts/educators-for-america/

Note: NAPSA is the parent organization for PAPSA and advocates in our nation’s capitol in support of pupil services. You can support these efforts by joining NAPSA through a discounted joint membership. For more details, contact the NAPSA office at napsa@ptd.net.