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Monday, August 4, 2014

MA Safe and Supportive Schools Act Passes

From Massachusetts Advocates for Children

August 1, 2014

The Massachusetts legislature adopted provisions of An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools as part of An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. This language establishes a statewide  “safe and supportive schools framework” to assist schools to create safe and supportive learning environments “that improve educational outcomes for students.”

The language begins with a  groundbreaking definition of “safe and supportive schools” as:
“… schools that foster a safe, positive, healthy and inclusive whole-school learning environment that (i) enables students to develop positive relationships with adults and peers, regulate their emotions and behavior, achieve academic and non-academic success in school and maintain physical and psychological health and well-being and (ii) integrates services and aligns initiatives that promote students’ behavioral health, including social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, trauma sensitivity, dropout prevention, truancy reduction, children’s mental health, foster care and homeless youth education, inclusion of students with disabilities, positive behavioral approaches that reduce suspensions and expulsions and other similar initiatives.”
In addition to the new definition, the law:
  • Requires DESE to develop a state-wide Safe and Supportive Schools Framework consistent with the Framework recommended by the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force.
  • Enables and encourages all schools to develop action plans for implementing the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework; the action plans would be  incorporated  in the School Improvement Plans that are already required under MGL c. 69 § 1I;
  • Provides a self-assessment tool to help schools create their action plans and, subject to appropriation, provides technical assistance to schools and districts;
  • Establishes a Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program to fund exemplar schools that serve as models for creating safe and supportive schools; and,
  • Establishes a commission to assist with statewide implementation of the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework and to make ongoing recommendations and propose drafts of legislation.
A special thank you to the lead sponsors, Rep. Ruth Balser and Sen. Sal DiDomenico, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray for their leadership.

Read Section 6 of the bill adopted by the legislature.
Read more about the advocacy of MAC’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative.

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