Feds Release Emergency Planning Guide for Schools (September 27, 2019)

As a result of their  involvement on the Federal Commission on School Safety a new emergency planning guide has been jointly created and released by the U.S. Departments of Education, Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services in order to aid school districts in developing customized emergency response plans. The document is titled The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans. It directs districts to make sure that plans include all types of hazards, including natural disasters and gun violence. It also includes a checklist of actionable items such as developing a fact sheet on possible threats and training staff with regard to the emergency plan. In December 2018, the commission also issued 100 policy recommendations aimed at protecting students at school. 

Along with many possible strategies, some school districts are training staff, including school resource officers, in providing social-emotional support as a preventative approach.

For more information on this topic visit Education Dive.

HR2527 Would Make School Vaccinations Federally Mandated (September 1, 2019)

In the wake of the largest outbreak of measles in the US in two-and-a-half decades, H.R. 2527 has been introduced to the US House of Representatives by Rep. Fredrica Wilson (D-Fla). Wilson’s proposed legislation, titled the “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019,” would make it mandatory for children enrolled in public schools to be vaccinated. The bill would become federal law, usurping state authority in the matter of required vaccinations.  Failure to comply with the law would result in a state’s ability to receive certain federal grants.

However, if a physician determines that a child’s health would be jeopardized by a required vaccination, an exception could be made as long as the school district’s physician or other designated school health official would need to concur with any such determination.

As of September 1, 2019, the bill is in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. 

GAO Blasts USDE/OCR Data Collection on Restraints, Prompting Procedures Overhaul (August 31, 2019)

report made public on June 18, 2019 and revised on July 11, 2019, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that the US Department of Education (USDE) knowingly and repeatedly uploaded incorrect data to the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which occurs every two years.  According to USDE figures, 70% of school districts reported no incidents of special education students being restrained or secluded in 2015-16. However, in nine of 10 large school districts that listed no incidents, the GAO found restraint or seclusion incidents that were not reported or no data was collected on them. Further, a system error in 2015-16 resulted in the final collection being released with either incomplete or no information for more than 400 of the nation’s 600 juvenile justice schools.

On August, 23, 2019, as a result of the GAO report USDE posted a press release announcing that the “Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will work collaboratively to improve the information collected in the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC). The partnership between OCR and NCES will help to ensure that the CRDC data is valid, reliable and authenticated in a manner that provides a more accurate picture of key civil rights issues in education.”

The need to make the data more reliable has become highly important, since states must now provide detailed report cards as per requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), including civil rights data on such things as disciplinary disparities. 

Federal Agencies to Create School Safety Clearinghouse (August 11, 2019)

According to Education Dive, in response to pressure from parents who lost children in the February 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, federal agencies will release a clearinghouse of school safety best practices this fall, allowing administrators to learn from their peers. However, stakeholders are disagreeing when it comes to how to keep schools safe. Policymakers support security devices like cameras, locking mechanisms, and other physical safety features. Researchers lean towards preventative measures to address such things as student depression, bullying, and suicidal tendencies. Also, local schools are encouraged to conduct a security assessment of their premises to facilitate informed decision making. Regardless, federal agencies plan to launch a school safety clearinghouse in the fall of 2019 to bring together “best practices” for schools seeking to maintain a safe school environment and to prevent and/or deter student violence. To read more on this issue, click here.

PDE Receives Tentative Approval of Amended ESSA Statewide Implementation Plan (July 27, 2019)

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) has tentatively approved Pennsylvania’s revisions to its plan for statewide implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Revisions include aggregating racial and ethnic group student data by public schools in which no particular racial or ethnic student group meets the minimum n-size of 20 in any single year; additional specificity regarding Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) designations that must occur annually beginning with the fall of 2019; and examining academic achievement and academic growth in determining annual meaningful differentiation.