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Act 44 Resources

On June 22, 2018, The Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949 was amended via Act 44 of 2018 (Act 44). This law specifically requires school entities to:

  1. Appoint School Safety and Security Coordinators;
  2. Establish mandatory school safety training for school entity employees, and
  3. Establish standards for school police, school resource officers, and school security guards. 

Act 44 also created the School Safety and Security Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), and established the Safe2Say Program in the Attorney General's Office. An overview of Act 44 can be found on the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency's (PCCD) website. 

Act 44 further requires the development of school safety and security assessment criteria. PCCD established a School Safety and Security Committee and developed a guide with specific school safety and assessment criteria. An overview of these criteria and related resources is as follows:

Situational Awareness

Situational Awareness is defined as being aware of what is happening around you in terms of where you are, where you are supposed to be, and whether anyone or anything around you is a threat to your health and safety.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) provides school resources and trainings, including an All Hazards Planning Toolkit for Schools.  This toolkit is designed to assist schools in developing an All Hazards School Safety Plan, also referred to in some schools as:

  1. Comprehensive disaster response and emergency preparedness plan;
  2. School emergency plans;
  3. School Safety Plans; or
  4. School Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

Trauma-Informed Educational Awareness

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) defines a trauma-informed child and family system as "…one in which all parties involved recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress on those who have contact with the system including children, caregivers, and service providers. Programs and agencies within such a system infuse and sustain trauma awareness, knowledge, and skills into their organizational cultures, practices, and policies. They act in collaboration with all those who are involved with the child, using the best available science, to maximize physical and psychological safety, facilitate the recovery of the child and family, and support their ability to thrive. (NCTSN, 2019). 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has identified four "R's" that incorporate the premise that in a trauma-informed approach, systems have a basic realization about trauma, recognize the signs of trauma, respond by applying principles of a trauma-informed approach, and resist re-traumatization of clients and staff. 

Six key principals fundamental to a trauma-informed approach (SAMHSA)

  1. Safety
  2. Trustworthiness and Transparency
  3. Peer Support
  4. Collaboration and Mutuality
  5. Empowerment, Voice, and Choice
  6. Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues

Act 18 of 2019 revised the Pennsylvania school code to include a requirement that schools add professional development to include information on a trauma-informed approach.  A trauma-informed approach was defined as:

"…includes a school-wide approach to education and a classroom-based approach to student learning that recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, professional learning, procedures and practices for the purposes of recognizing the presence and onset of trauma, resisting the reoccurrence of trauma and promoting resiliency tailored to a school entity's culture, climate and demographics and the community as a whole."

Additional resources including trainings and programs can be found at the Office for Safe School website.

Behavioral Health Awareness

Behavioral Health is also referred to as Mental Health. Mental Health is defined as "our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act." Behavioral health determines how we learn, handle stress, engage in social interactions, and make choices. The School Safety and Security Committee within PCCD established assessment criteria and guidelines for the behavioral health assessment, which can be found in their Safety and Security Assessment Criteria.

Best Practice Elements when determining the appropriate Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) program for your school/district include

    1. Engage diverse stakeholders in the program selection process.;
    2. Implement evidence-based SEL programs in the context of systemic district and school programming.

Evidence based SEL programs provide practitioners with clear research-based guidance on practices that foster improved social and emotional skills development. Best practice programs also assist schools with having a unifying framework, common language, and coordinated programs for promoting SEL.   District teams often include central office administrative leaders, including the chief academic officer; supervisors and staff from curriculum and instruction, professional development, student-support, research-evaluation, and finance; school board members; building administration; teachers; parents; and community members. School teams typically include building administrators, teachers, counselors, school psychologists, social workers, nonprofessional staff, parents, students, and community liaison members.

Suicide Prevention/Awareness  

Act 44 and Act 71 mandate Suicide Awareness training for school entities to occur every five years.  These courses should include

    1. Prevalence of suicide;
    2. Risk factors;
    3. Warning signs;
    4. School-related epidemiology;
    5. Protective factors; and
    6. Prevention

Act 71 also requires schools to adopt a Youth Suicide Awareness and Prevention Policy and provide on-going professional development.  Best Practices for Suicide Awareness in schools include:

    1. Providing training through a structured model of suicide prevention that addresses the areas in Act 71;
    2. Provides on-going training throughout the 5 year period;
    3. Engaging in evidence-based practice; and
    4. Selecting or developing evidence-based programs.

Training information can be found under Laws on the Pennsylvania Department of Education: Office for Safe Schools Website.

Bullying Prevention and Awareness

Act 44 mandates training related to Bullying Awareness for employees of school entities to occur every five years.  Comprehensive bullying prevention includes the following 10 best practices (HRSA, Human Resources and Services Administration) including:

    1. Focus on the social environment of the school;
    2. Assess bullying at your school;
    3. Garner staff and parent support for bullying prevention;
    4. Form a group to coordinate the school's bullying prevention activities;
    5. Train your staff in bullying prevention;
    6. Establish and enforce school rules and policies related to bullying;
    7. Increase adult supervision in hot spots where bullying occurs;
    8. Intervene consistently and appropriately in bullying situations;
    9. Focus some class time on bullying prevention;
    10. Continue these efforts over time.

In addition, there is a growing emphasis on multi-tiered approaches (Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy and Practice (2016), National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine).

The Safe2Say Program was also established by Act 44.  The Safe2Say Something is a youth violence prevention program run by the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.  The program teaches youth and adults how to recognize warning signs and signals, especially within social media, from individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others and to "say something" before it's too late.

Substance Use Awareness

Act 44 mandates training related to substance use prevention and awareness for school staff.  Act 55 requires public school students in grades 6-12 to receive instruction related to prevention of opioid abuse.  Training resources and information regarding best practice programs, opioid and other drug prevention, and training can be found on the Office for Safe Schools Website.

Emergency Training Drills

Emergency Preparedness is defined as the steps taken to be ready to respond to and survive in an emergency. Emergency training drills are defined in Act 44 as including fire, natural disaster, active shooter, hostage situation, and bomb threat.

Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) provides school resources and trainings, including an All Hazards Planning Toolkit for Schools.  This toolkit is designed to assist schools in developing an All Hazards School Safety Plan, also referred to in some schools as:

    1. Comprehensive disaster response and emergency preparedness plan;
    2. School emergency plans;
    3. School Safety Plans; or
    4. School Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).

The Governor's Office of Homeland Security: Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Domestic Security Division administers free risk and vulnerability assessments through the Pennsylvania State Police Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Team (RVAT). RVAT teams are trained on assessment procedures related to physical security, explosive effects on structural design, threat analysis, and practical target hardening techniques.