Act 44 of 2018: School safety and security
Quick summary: Act 44 of 2018 was Senate Bill 1142, printer’s number 1911, in the 2017-18 legislative session. It was introduced on April 20, 2018, and approved by the on Senate June 6. The bill was amended and passed by the House of Representatives on June 22, and Senate concurred with the House amendments on the same day. Senate Bill 1142 was signed by the governor also on June 22, 2018.
Act 44 amends the Public School Code to include various topics related to school safety and security. The law also implemented the $60 million grant program for school districts under the 2018-19 state budget.
Effective date: Act 44 became effective immediately upon the date the governor signed it into law.
Provisions of Act 44
Office for Safe Schools: Previously, the Office for Safe Schools was authorized to make grants in two categories, with 40% of funds appropriated to be used for programs which address school violence, and the other 60% of funds for grants to school entities, municipalities, local law enforcement agencies and approved vendors for programs which address school violence by establishing or enhancing school security, including costs associated with the training and compensation of school resource officers and school police officers. Act 44 changed the percentage split to 25% and 75%, respectively. In addition, any grant funding for the 75% category above the amount in 2017-18 may be prioritized for nonpublic schools.
School Safety and Security Committee: Act 44 established the School Safety and Security Committee within the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) that is tasked with establishing best practice criteria for school safety security assessments and administering the safety and security grant program. The committee was required by Sept. 30, 2018, to establish best practices criteria to be used when conducting school safety and security assessments. These must include criteria for a physical assessment, a policy and training assessment, and a student assistance and behavioral health support assessment. The committee must review these criteria at least every three years and make revisions as needed.
No later than Oct. 31, 2018, the committee was required to establish criteria for certification of individuals to conduct school safety and security assessments and to develop a survey to distribute to school entities to measure school safety and security preparedness. The committee must review these surveys and provide feedback to each school entity
School safety and security grant program: The committee will administer this program using money from the state School Safety and Security Fund. The grants must be geographically dispersed throughout the state and be used by school entities to supplement, not supplant, existing school spending on safety and security. No school entity may receive more than 10% of the funds available for the program, and each school district that submits a meritorious application shall receive a minimum grant allocation of $25,000 annually. Grant money must be allocated each year by Oct. 31. The grants may be used by school entities to address school safety and security concerns for the following specific purposes:
- Safety and security assessments that meet the best practices criteria.
- Conflict resolution or dispute management.
- School-wide positive behavior support.
- School-based diversion programs.
- Peer helper programs.
- Risk assessment, safety-related, violence prevention curricula.
- Classroom management.
- Student codes of conduct.
- Training to undertake a districtwide assessment of risk factors.
- Development and implementation of research-based violence prevention programs.
- Districtwide school safety, emergency preparedness and all-hazards plans.
- Security planning and purchase of security-related technology.
- Institution of student, staff and visitor identification systems.
- Provision of specialized staff and student training programs.
- Counseling services for students.
- A system for the management of student discipline.
- Staff training programs in the use of positive behavior supports, de-escalation techniques and appropriate responses to student behavior that may require immediate intervention.
- Costs associated with the training and compensation of school resource officers and school police officers.
- Costs associated with the training and compensation of certified counselors, social workers, and school psychologists.
- Administration of evidence-based screenings for adverse childhood experiences.
- Trauma-informed approaches to education.
- Programs designed to reduce community violence (not more than 12.5% of the fund may be allocated for these grants annually).
School safety assessments: Act 44 requires the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to establish three Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Teams to operate within three regions geographically designated by the PSP in consultation with the committee. The teams will conduct school safety and security assessments when school is in session at school entities within the team's region on a systematic basis free of charge. The teams must give priority to school entities based upon the ranking of their market value/income aid ratios from high to low. The teams must annually report to the Committee on which school entities have been assessed and what the critical security and safety needs are.
School safety coordinators: The chief school administrators of school entities were required to appoint a school administrator as the school safety and security coordinator for the school entity by Aug. 31, 2018. The role of the coordinator is to oversee all school police officers, school resource officers, school security guards and policies and procedures in the school entity and report directly to the chief school administrator. Act 44 also includes more specific duties, including annual reporting requirements and the duty to regularly coordinate tours of the school entity’s buildings for local law enforcement and emergency responders.
Mandatory training: School entities must provide their employees with mandatory training on school safety and security. This training may be provided through the Internet or other distance communication systems and must be a minimum of three hours every five years. Training that has been approved by the Department of Education in consultation with the Committee will count towards continuing professional education requirements.
School police officers and school resource officers: Act 44 eliminates two sections of the School Code (Section 617 concerning intergovernmental agreements for school security and safety, and Section 778 concerning school police officers) and establishes substantially similar provisions within a new article XIII-C on school police officers and school resource officers.
Among the new provisions added are definitions for various school security personnel. A school police officer is a law officer employed by a school district whose responsibilities, including work hours, are established by the school district. A school resource officer is a law enforcement officer commissioned and employed by a law enforcement agency whose duty station is located in a school entity and whose stationing is established by an agreement between the law enforcement agency and the school entity. A school security guard is an individual employed by a school entity or a third-party contractor who is assigned to a school for routine safety and security duties and is not engaged in programs with students at the school.
School entities and nonpublic schools are permitted to contract with individuals who are retired federal agents or retired state, municipal or military police officers or sheriffs to provide school police and security services. The individuals must be considered independent contractors of the school entity or nonpublic school and must be compensated by the school entity or nonpublic school on an hourly basis and receive no other compensation or fringe benefits. The school entity or nonpublic school must ensure that the independent contractors comply with all training and criminal background check requirements. This article also further enumerates the powers and duties of school resource officers and the services a school security guard may provide.
Safe2Say Something program: Act 44 establishes the Safe2Say Something program, to be administered by the Office of the Attorney General and implemented by January 2019. The program must ensure anonymous reporting concerning unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities in a school entity or the threat of such activities at a school entity. Records from the program may also be disclosed pursuant to judicial procedures established in the act. Procedures must be established to promptly forward information received by the program to the appropriate law enforcement agency, school official or organization, as determined by the office. No later than Aug.1 of each year, the Attorney General must submit a report to the General Assembly on the program.