WEST CHESTER (June 26, 2018) – New legislation to improve and enhance safety in Pennsylvania schools was recently signed into law, state Senator Andy Dinniman announced today.
Act 44 of 2018 (Senate Bill 1142) restructures and improves current school safety funding programs to provide increased support for police, school resource officers and school psychologists. It also establishes a new grant program to help prevent, reduce and address school and community violence.
“This represents a comprehensive and wide-reaching approach to school security and safety that includes not only physically shoring up our school buildings and providing more security and police officers, but also ensuring that we have the staff and resources necessary to identify young people who may need help,” Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “Our goal is to prevent school violence before it occurs by identifying students with emotional, psychological or behavioral issues and getting them access to the services and attention they need.”
Act 44 calls for the following:
- Establishing a 17-member School Safety and Security Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to adopt new criteria for completing school safety assessments, including physical plant, policy recommendations, and behavioral health support.
- Creating a $60 million Safety and Security Grant Program to fund a variety of programs and initiatives including, safety and security assessments, conflict resolution and dispute management, school-based diversion programs, training, security planning, and additional school resource officers, counselors, social workers, and psychologists.
- Setting aside $7.5 million from the grant program to specifically fund community violence prevention programs, including trauma-informed support services and foster communication between school entities and law enforcement.
- Requiring the Pennsylvania State Police to create Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Teams (RVAT) to work with school districts.
- Requiring schools to appoint a School Safety and Security Coordinator to review policies, coordinate training and resources, coordinate assessments, and serve as the school liaison with the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
- Requiring schools to expand safety and security training to personnel and allowing schools to expand the roles of school police and school resources officers to assist in planning efforts, policy development, crime prevention and safety education, and community justice initiatives.
- Establishing the Safe2Say Program in the Attorney General’s Office to accept anonymous reporting concerning unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent, criminal, or threatening activities in schools. Reports will be sent to identified school personnel and law enforcement. The program will accept phone or electronic reports and will be up-and-running by January 14, 2019.