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GUEST BLOG: Keeping Students Safe and Promoting Inclusion in Schools

By: Secretary Pedro A. Rivera, Department of Education

April 11, 2017

Each morning, after you’ve packed your child’s book bag and walked them to the bus stop or dropped them off at school, you know your child is going off to learn and experience new things and to grow into the person they’re meant to become. You expect that while they’re out of your care, they’ll be somewhere safe, protected, and nurtured.

It’s our job to make that commitment to you and your family.

After a rise of bias-related incidents occurred in schools across the state, the Wolf Administration and PDE knew we must act. Our goal was to provide guidance and resources to schools, allowing them to fulfill their duty to you, the parents. We immediately began creating the Equity and Inclusion Toolkit, a project we’re proud of and pleased to release to the public this week.

The toolkit advances existing efforts at the state and local levels to create and maintain supportive settings that celebrate diversity and teach students the importance of respect for self and others. It was a joint effort, developed in collaboration with other state agencies, organizations, and partners, and focuses on strategies and actions that schools can take to address bias and discrimination in a proactive and effective manner.
PDE’s Office of Safe Schools partnered with agencies like the Human Relations Commission (PHRC), the Center for Schools and Communities, intermediate units, and others to ensure schools are equipped to protect students and respond to incidents of hate.

We created a hotline for districts to report bias-related incidents to streamline the collection of information about an incident and connect a district with services and supports more quickly.  PDE also provided resources, including a crisis plan template and curriculum guides, available online to educators. Additionally, in 2016, PDE introduced a toll-free bullying prevention consultation line (1-866-716-0424) available to students, parents/guardians, and educators.

In a 60-second PSA we released online, we assured you that no matter your race, religion, gender identity or expression, Pennsylvania has your back. It’s critical that every student knows that when they’re in school, they’re free to express themselves and they’re able to thrive in a supportive, positive environment.

That promise remains, and our work continues.

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