Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee voted to add a new subcommittee on civil rights and human services. The formation of the new subcommittee is in response to the Trump Administration’s controversial decisions regarding civil rights in education and the alarm they have precipitated.
The School Safety and Security Committee of the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) sent a memo dated January 31, 2019 informing school entities that filed for the Part B competitive grants of a three (3) week period for the revision and re-submitting of their applications beginning February 4, 2019 and ending February 25, 2019. The memo can be viewed at https://www.psba.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/School-Safety-and-Security-Program-Grant-.pdf
The committee decided to grant allow applicants to revise their grant requests due to the large response and competitiveness regarding the application process.
On Thursday, January 17, 2019 U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is launching an initiative to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in partnership with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), will oversee this initiative, which aims to protect students with disabilities by providing technical assistance and support to schools, school districts, and state education agencies, while strengthening enforcement activities.
USDE’s initiative will include three components, which are: Compliance Reviews conducted by OCR focusing on recipients’ use of restraint and seclusion on children with disabilities; CRDC Data Collection; and Support for Recipients.
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.
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.