In today’s society, sending children to school can cause anxiety and fear among parents. To curb these fears and return to classifying schools as safe environments a conference was held to better secure our schools and children.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE | To find solutions to targeted violence in schools a school safety conference was held by several Pennsylvania agencies. The conference discussed school safety investments, mental health support, and building a stronger culture. The conference was open to first responders, law enforcement, school staff, and social health experts.
“Schools are safe spaces for learning, development, and socialization, so it is critical that we provide the resources and supports that our school communities need to keep students and teachers out of harm’s way,” said Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty. “By prioritizing mental health services in conjunction with investments and prevention efforts, we can ensure that students are free to learn, grow, and thrive in a protected and secure environment.”
The Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (GOHS), the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) were the state agencies involved in the conference. Keynote speaker of the conference, Eric Garner, gave his accounts of the February 14, 2018 school shooting and shared his experiences working in with the Miami-Dade County emergency response team.
This year, $8 million has been awarded to 303 local education agencies (LEAs) through Safe Schools Targeted grants. This funding is to be used to purchase equipment, conduct new programs, and hire new security and resource officers. These grants are aimed to promote an environment of safety and productivity while also enhancing anti-violence efforts in the school, community, and local government. These grants are offered by the PDE Office for Safe Schools under four categories – equipment grants of up to $25,000; program grants of up to $20,000; School Police Officer (SPO) grants of up to $40,000; and School Resource Officer (SRO) grants of up to $60,000.
“Our federal, state, and local law enforcement and educators work tirelessly every day to communicate and educate the public on the prevention and protection of our school-aged children,” said Acting Homeland Security Director Kristin Daniels. “This conference brought together experts in their field, such as the FBI on their threat assessment and threat management work throughout Pennsylvania, PSP’s Heritage Affairs Section on hate crimes in the state, PSP’s Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Team on assessing physical security for school facilities, and the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center on averting targeted violence. Attendees were also provided with a very timely and poignant presentation from the Capital Area Intermediate Unit on building communities of belonging, care, concern, and commitment.”