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School Safety: Working together to ensure students’ physical and emotional safety 

 

There’s one thing on which we can all agree: Every school must be a physically and emotionally safe learning environment.

In recent weeks, students across the nation have pushed this critical public policy to the top of many minds, and it has given Pennsylvania leaders a new forum for ideas and conversation. Topics have included the quality of relationships between staff and students and their families; adequately trained staff; support from the community, including law enforcement and social service agencies; and safe physical buildings and grounds.

This issue of Partners Post focuses on ideas for keeping students and educators safe and secure, in hope that more Partners will join in the conversation and help to prevent future violence.


Safe school recommendations from school employees

The PA State Education Association (PSEA) encouraged its members to share their ideas to make our public schools safe from violence in the aftermath of the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. PSEA President Dolores McCracken has shared those suggestions with lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf.

Suggestions ranged from addressing the physical safety of school buildings to investing in school safety grants to creating crisis and threat assessment teams.

Learn more

 PA school leaders speak out

Organizations representing the teachers, support professionals, principals, and school administrators who work in schools, and the school boards who support them and are responsible for their safety, have teamed up to address issues related to school violence. Here are just a few ways they’re speaking out:

Arming teachers isn't the way to keep students safe: In an op-ed, representatives of PSEA, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Pennsylvania Principals Association, and Pennsylvania School Boards Association wrote that there is a difference between knowing how to use and care for a firearm and knowing how to use it like a first responder or a soldier in an active shooting crisis.

School safety and student activism: In a joint statement, these organizations urged students who wish to participate in student rallies in response to school violence to work within the structure and rules of each school district so that their voices may be heard without undue disruption to the educational process.

 

Policymakers take steps on school safety

School safety was the focus of a hearing before the PA House Education Committee on March 15. Several speakers laid out ideas for addressing the problem.

A few days later, Gov. Tom Wolf and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced the creation of a School Safety Task Force that will conduct hearings around the state with the goal of developing recommendations to enhance safety at schools.

Learn more

Resources for caring adults

Here are some resources to help caring adults who want to talk to their children in difficult and scary times like these:

  • When your child is feeling anxious – Reassure your child but don’t deny the feeling. Caring adults should listen and explain that they will help the child work through their anxiety. It’s also important to set a routine and stick to it as much as possible. See Partners' anxiety resource for more.
  • Crisis Text Line – Crisis Text Line offers free 24/7 support to people in crisis, helping people with issues ranging from eating disorders to family crises to suicide and depression. Just text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Never again – Did you know that an analysis of 30 school shootings found the attackers had told others about their plans in advance four out of five times? Imagine if more people spoke up about threats of violence before they happened.

The Sandy Hook Promise is urging parents and caring adults to teach the children in their lives to be “better bystanders” and to “say something” when they get wind of such threats.

The group’s ”Say Something“ campaign offers resources to help adults have conversations with the teens and preteens in their lives about this often difficult subject. These potentially lifesaving conversations can teach young people to:

  • Recognize the signs and signals of potential threats;
  • Take action with that information; and

Know that when they “Say Something,” they save lives.

  
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