Advocates urge lawmakers to get proactive about making Pennsylvania schools safer
Policy Committee identifies opportunities for legislature to strengthen reporting to prevent tragedies like the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
HARRISBURG, Feb. 16 – On the week of the fourth anniversary of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, parents of students lost during that tragedy joined lawmakers for a joint hearing with the PA House and Senate Democratic Policy Committees to explore how to prevent similar tragedies from happening in Pennsylvania.
“I know Parkland and the community around the school there and I pray that we never have such a heartbreaking occurrence here in Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery. “This hearing today provides a roadmap for what we should do in the legislature to make sure our students are safe.”
Max Schachter and Tony Montalto, two parents who lost children to the Parkland school shooting, shared their personal stories and research about what other states are doing to make schools safer.
Schachter outlined how the perpetrator of the school shooting in Parkland showed signs of violence that went unreported long before he committed his fatal acts of violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Since losing his son, Schachter has founded Safe Schools for Alex, a foundation that successfully advocated with organizations founded by other parents like Stand with Parkland for stronger laws in Florida and has created a tool for any school to use in reporting students who show signs of violence. During testimony today, Schachter shared research he has conducted outlining a lack of reporting in Pennsylvania that resembled what was seen before the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“Having just returned from visiting Parkland as its still-heartbroken community marked four years since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre and having the honor to get to know parents-turned-advocates who lost their precious children to preventable violence that day, I am all-in to do whatever it takes to stop similar tragedies from occurring in PA schools,” said Rep. Maureen Madden, D-Monroe. “Under-reported incidents of bullying and violence in our commonwealth’s schools show we have a lot of work to do, but heroic Parkland parents have shown us the blueprint to make our schools safer in a pragmatic, nonpartisan fashion.”
Testifiers from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the PA Office of the Attorney General, and representatives from school districts in Pennsylvania demonstrated that Pennsylvania’s system for schools to self-report instances of bullying or other flags needs some work.
Specifically, Brittney Kline, director of the Safe2Say Something Program, run by the Office of the Attorney General for schools to report student’s potential acts of violence against themselves or others, explained that it receives 1,500 tips a week from schools in Pennsylvania. Comparatively, the Department of Education noted fewer than 10 for the entire year last year.
“We must do everything in our power to prevent tragedies of school shootings from happening here in PA,” said Policy Committee Chairman Rep. Ryan Bizzarro. “I am grateful to the testifiers today who told their own tragic stories, shared efforts across the U.S., and gave us ideas for how we can prevent massacres from happening here in Pennsylvania.”
Information about this and other House Democratic Policy Committee hearings can be found at www.pahouse.com/policycommittee.