Quick summary: Act 18 of 2019 was Senate Bill 144, printer’s number 1078, in the 2019-20 legislative session. It was introduced to establish the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant program and was amended to include numerous changes to Act 44 of 2018 as well as set new provisions regarding school safety and security.
Effective date: Effective dates vary by provision.
Provisions of Act 18
Trauma informed education: The bill establishes requirements for schools to recognize the signs and impact of trauma in students and to provide support.
- School board director training — Requires a minimum of one hour of training on trauma-informed approaches for both newly elected school board directors (from four to five hours) and for reelected directors (from two to three hours) Similar requirements are set for charter school trustees.
- Professional development — Requires the professional education plan of each school entity to include at least one hour of training in trauma-informed approaches.
- School leaders – The PA School Leadership Standards must include information on trauma-informed approaches
Safety and security training changes: The current list of training topics that schools must provide their employees is amended to add trauma-informed approaches, and recognition of student behavior that may indicate a threat to the safety of others. In addition, language clarifies that districts can provide training on one or more of the topics on the list based on their needs; training is not required on every topic.
School safety and security coordinators: The coordinators duties are amended to reflect trauma-informed approaches.
PCCD School Safety and Security Committee: Four additional members are added to the state committee, including a school director, a principal, a school nurse and someone from a state-related institution of higher education. Regarding its survey of school safety, it allows the committee to release aggregate data at its discretion, and requires the survey be administered at a minimum of every two years. Further, the committee is required to develop a model trauma-informed approach plan to be used by a school entity applying for a school safety and security grant. The legislation includes details on what the plan should include
School safety grants: Several changes have been made to the existing program.
- Grants will now be awarded by March 1 rather than October 31.
- The committee will conduct training for applicants outlining the grant priorities and completion of applications.
- School entities are permitted to apply for a grant in a subsequent year for the same purpose and amount as awarded in a prior year. The minimum grant award is increased from $25,000 according to the following schedule:
- For a school district with an average daily membership (ADM) greater than 3,900, a minimum award of $45,000.
- For a school district with an ADM greater than 2,100, but less than or equal to 3,900, a minimum award of $40,000.
- For a school district with an ADM greater than 1,200, but less than or equal to 2,100, a minimum award of $35,000.
- For a school district with an ADM less than or equal to 1,200, a minimum award of $30,000.
- Grants awarded to a cyber charter school are limited to the safety and security needs of students at facilities where tutoring, testing, supplemental programs and services or instruction for students with disabilities occur.
- The committee may use its discretion to use information from the survey to prioritize the allocation of grants.
- The state auditor general shall not perform audits related to school safety and security assessments, survey instruments and grant applications.
PSP risk assessment teams: Increases the number of teams from three to six that must be established by the PA State Police (PSP) to conduct risk and vulnerability assessments for schools free of charge. The PSP must make an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly on the activity of these teams.
Safe2Say Something: Changes are made concerning how records from the Safe2Say program may be accessed through a judicial proceeding. Other changes specify that the annual report of the Safe2Say Something program will breakdown reports by intermediate units using only aggregate data.
Threat assessment teams: Requires each school entity to establish at least one threat assessment team for the assessment of and intervention with students whose behavior may indicate a threat to the safety of the student, other students, school employees, school facilities, the community, or others. The bill establishes membership qualifications, training, and reporting requirements for the threat assessment teams. The duties of the threat assessment team may be assigned to an existing team established by the school entity, which may be the student assistance program.
The article also establishes notification and referral requirements and procedures when a team makes a preliminary determination that a student’s behavior may indicate a threat to the safety of the student, other students, school employees, school facilities, the community or others. In order to carry out its duties, the threat assessment team must be given access to certain student data that is usually kept confidential, to the extent such access is permissible under federal law.
Local juvenile probation departments and other county agencies are required to consult with the threat assessment team in order to help the team carry out its duties, to the extent such agencies can do so in compliance with various state and federal laws.
The School Safety and Security Committee must develop threat assessment guidelines, training and information materials to assist threat assessment teams with their training and operations.
Confidentiality, transference and removal of health records: Allows school entities to disclose information from records to appropriate parties in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
Duties of department: The Department must encourage the integration of trauma-informed approaches into the program curriculum and the professional development curriculum of personnel of the eligible provider who have regular contact with children.
School safety programs for nonpublic schools: Requires intermediate units to provide requesting nonpublic schools with school security programs/enhancements that fall within the categories of programs approved for public school safety grants. The IU will apply for the grants at the request of any nonpublic schools within its borders. The Office of Safe Schools is allocated $3.2 million for these grants to IUs.
State Board of Education: Requires the State Board of Education to adopt policies encouraging the inclusion of trauma-informed approaches in professional education curriculum in teacher preparation programs. Adds education and training in trauma-informed approaches to the topics for board’s councils of basic and higher education to consider.
Keystone Telepresence Education Grants: Establishes the Keystone Telepresence Education Grant, which will give the state’s 29 intermediate units access to a maximum of $300,000 in funds to purchase telepresence equipment to support homebound students facing serious medical conditions.