HARRISBURG – The Senate approved a bill today designed to improve school safety by focusing on behavioral health, and provide new resources for students facing extended absences from school due to injury or illness, according to Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35).
Senate Bill 144, sponsored by Martin along with Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36) and Senate Democrat Leader Jay Costa (D-43), would make telepresence technology available to more students so they can continue to participate in classroom activities through the use of mobile robotic devices that resemble an iPad mounted on a Segway unit.
“It is already difficult for young people to deal with a serious illness or injury without the added stress of missing out on valuable time with classmates and instructional time with their teachers,” Martin said. “This bill would ensure more students can continue to learn and grow along with their classmates even when they cannot physically attend school.”
An amendment to the bill added a number of critical school safety measures, with a specific focus on mental and behavioral health. Several of the components of the bill address trauma-informed education, which studies the effect of traumatic events on students.
The School Safety and Security Committee, on which Langerholc serves, would be required to develop model plans to help school districts implement best management practices for trauma-informed education. The committee would also be expanded to include more experts in behavioral health and trauma-informed education to offer new perspectives on how to protect students.
“As a member of a panel dedicated to school safety, I have continued to meet with teachers, administrators, law enforcement and other experts to determine the next steps we can take to make our schools safer,” Langerholc said. “Addressing the mental health challenges of students is a critical component of keeping our schools safe. By providing these additional resources, we can continue to ensure our classrooms are a safe environment for learning.”
The amendment provides for $60 million in funding for the School Safety and Security Grant Program and makes improvements in the program to ensure more schools receive the funds they need to keep students safe. The grant program was created last year by a bill that Martin sponsored.
In addition, the legislation requires schools to create a threat assessment team to ensure students who could potentially pose a safety risk are able to receive necessary evaluations and treatment. It also encourages greater cooperation between schools and county agencies in determining the best course of action for at-risk students.
Following Senate approval of the legislation, Senate Bill 144 was sent to the House of Representatives. If the House agrees to the Senate amendment, the bill will be sent to the governor to be signed into law.
CONTACT: Terry Trego (717) 787-6535 (Senator Martin)
Gwenn Dando (717) 787-5400 (Senator Langerholc)