PTA Safety Advocacy

PTA Safety Advocacy

Safety is a key part of PTA's contribution to the school and larger community.

Our organizational guidance is largely drawn from the annually-issued California State PTA Toolkit (see here).

This page describes the relevent Toolkit components, and gives brief current status of our accomplishments in Palo Alto. 

Quick links: Top-Level Mission
School Safety Mission and Recommended Actions

Disaster Preparedness, Crisis Response Mission and Recommended Actionsf

 

Top-Level Mission

The Toolkit describes PTA's top-level mission as follows:

To promote the welfare of children and youth in home, school, community, and place of worship....
[Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 1, Section 1.1.1, p 3]

We believe our responsibility includes advocating for the safety and welfare of all children and the opportunity for a quality public education for each child...

[Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 1, Section 1.1.3, p 3]

The organization shall work with the schools and community to provide quality education for all children and youth and shall seek to participate in the decision-making process establishing school policy, recognizing that the legal responsibility to make decisions has been delegated by the people to boards of education, state education authorities, and local education authorities.  

The organization shall work to promote the health and welfare of children and youth and shall seek to promote collaboration between parents, schools, and the community at large....

[Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 1, Section 1.1.5, p 4;  also CA State Bylaws Article III]


School Safety Mission

With regard to school safety:

PTAs have a responsibility to identify and promote awareness of safety problems in the school community and, in collaboration with others, to help develop solutions.

Safety is a growing concern for the public. Preparedness for emergencies and disasters, as well as the prevention of unintentional injuries (accidents), is a serious concern of those who care for children in the home, at school, and in the community. Activities to promote safety are related closely to and can be incorporated in all PTA interests.

[Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 7, Section 7.27, p 337]

 

Recommended Activities for School Safety

The Toolkit gives a number of specific recommendations for activities [Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 7, Section 7.27, p337].  Here's a listing of those recommendations for school safety alongside a brief summary of our local progress on each:

School Safety Activity Recommendation

Status as of Fall, 2004

Establish an ongoing working relationship with the school district and safety agencies within the community (i.e., local branches of the National Safe Kids Coalition).

Attend safety workshops, conferences, and clinics.

Accomplished and on-going.

Research the facts on safety problems and regulations in the school and community.

Interview school officials, student leaders, local police, fire officials, and members of health departments, safety councils, automobile clubs, medical societies, and other groups involved in keeping the community safe.

Not accomplished.
Determine what safety instruction is included in the school curriculum, K-12, and adult education programs. Not accomplished.
Become familiar with the school district’s and school site’s state-mandated disaster preparedness program. Is it up-to-date, adequate and enforced? Familiarity: accomplished.   Efforts in progress to bring these up to date, assure adequacy, and promote compliance.
Suggest a neighborhood survey to discover toxic substance hazards, and follow up with proper authorities for correction and implementation of safety programs. Not accomplished.
Cooperate with school authorities to inform the public of these programs ... Partly accomplished.  PTA preparedness was featured at a community-preparedness fair in Spring, 2004.
Cooperate with PTA program chairman to plan a safety program for at least one PTA meeting during the year. Secure guest speakers from community safety agencies. Make announcements and arrange displays, exhibits, and posters at meetings. Not accomplished.
Sponsor parent education safety awareness programs. Not accomplished.
Keep informed about all safety legislation in local, state, and federal government. Study measures regulating schools and residential areas. Partly accomplished.
Share all information with unit, council, and district PTA and California State PTA. Not accomplished.

 

Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response Mission

 

With regard to Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response:

The PTA disaster preparedness chairman works to increase the awareness of and provide information
for the school community on emergencies that might arise and about the importance of being prepared. This chairman works with school staff and other PTA members to ensure parent involvement in the development and implementation of the school’s disaster preparedness plan.

[Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 7, Section 7.11, p 304]

 

Recommended Activities for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response

Here's the list of recommendations [Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 7, Section 7.11.1, p 304] for Disaster Preparedness and Crisis Response activities:

 
Disaster Prep and Crisis Activity Recommendation Status as of Fall, 2004

Become acquainted with the school district’s state-mandated policies and procedures on disaster preparedness and crisis response.

A

Find out how the school has prepared for the unexpected by asking these questions:
– What emergency situations have been identified that might threaten the school or its surrounding community? What is the response for each threat?
– Have school staff and students received training or participated in drills using emergency procedures?
– How do new teachers or staff learn and practice emergency procedures?
– Does each student remember the training provided and have a sense of what he or she is supposed to do?

N
Seek support from the principal and staff for PTA involvement in the planning and implementation of the school’s disaster preparedness plan. N
Ask the school principal for permission to form a PTA committee to evaluate a disaster drill at the school and share the results with the principal, staff, unit, and council. Evaluation should be based on established policies and procedures. If necessary, make recommendations that would make the school safer in the event of a disaster. F
Assist the school in providing information to parents about what to expect from the school in case of a disaster. N
Work with other community groups to increase awareness of the school’s responsibilities in case of a disaster and to solicit community cooperation in both the planning and implementation of preparedness. These efforts might include the donation of supplies and/or funds to purchase supplies. Remember — solicitation of funds must be in accordance with local and state regulations, and any funds deposited in a PTA account must be handled in accordance with established PTA policies and procedures. P

Consult with school district officials and council and district PTA for opportunities to increase personal knowledge of disaster preparedness and crisis response.

Attend workshops and conferences.

N
Inform parents, through PTA newsletter, meetings and/or a program, how they can prepare their homes for disaster. N
Work with school district and other local agencies on increasing public awareness of the importance of home planning for disaster. Use local media (i.e., newspaper, radio, television). P
Encourage home review, planning, and supply storage. N

PTA's mission does not stop at the schoolyard boundary.   Here are the toolkit recommendations for Family Disaster Preparedness Plan and Emergency Kit [Toolkit - 2004, Chapter 7, Section 7.11.1, p 304]:

Toolkit  Family Disaster Plan Activity Recommendation Status as of Fall, 2004

Check with schools about the plan for children to return home if disaster occurs during school hours. Ask to see the school district’s disaster preparedness plan.

  • Learn about the natural disasters that could occur in the community from the local emergency management office or American Red Cross chapter.

 
  • Learn whether hazardous materials are produced, stored or transported near the area.

 
  • Learn about possible consequences of deliberate acts of terror.

 
  • Ask how to prepare for each potential emergency and how to respond.

 
A

Plan for parent(s) safe return home from work.

  • Post emergency telephone numbers by telephones. Teach children how and when to use 911.

  • Make sure everyone in the household knows how and when to shut off water, gas and electricity at the main switches. Consult with local utilities if there are questions.

  • Take a first aid and CPR class. Local American Red Cross chapters can provide information. Official certification by the American Red Cross provides “good Samaritan” law protection for those giving first aid.

  • Reduce the economic impact of disaster on personal property and the household’s health and financial well-being.

  • Consider ways to help neighbors who may need special assistance, such as the elderly or the disabled.

  • Make arrangements for pets. Pets are not allowed in public shelters. Service animals for those who depend on them are allowed. Plan what children should do if at home when disaster strikes:

  • Earthquake (Stay away from windows and outer walls; duck, cover and hold.)

  • Toxic spills or explosions (Close windows, turn on radio and listen for instructions)

  • Evacuate if necessary.

N

Plan where family will meet; where children will go if parents are not home; how to evacuate from second floor or higher in case of earthquake, fire or flood.

Establish an out-of-town contact person.

N

Seek help for emotional needs of children and adults, if necessary. Get back to the family’s regular routine as soon as possible (this gives children a feeling of security).

F

Prepare a complete plan for the family and home.

N

Do not unnecessarily frighten young children.

P

Make a game of the plans.

P

 

 

School Safety Requirement School Site Role Districts/COE Role
Assess current status of school crime Review current CSSA reports or law enforcement statistics Provide crime data to schools
Establish Child Abuse Reporting procedures Procedures for notifying appropriate authorities Proved district-level policies/procedures to schools.
Establish disaster preparedness and response procedures Incorporate district disaster planning Provide SEMS-consistent district disaster plan to schools
Set policies for serious acts that may result in suspension or explusion Include district policy on student discipline Develop and provide policies to schools.
Establish a sexual harrassment policy Incorporate district policy Develop and provide policies to schools.
School-wide dress code Incorporate district policy Develop and provide policies to schools.
Safe and orderly school environment Develop a School Safety Plan Provide statistics, information on legal requirements, and policies.
Rules and procedures for school governance and discipline Update school rules and include these in safety plan Review rules for compliance
Hold a public meeting Announce and conduct meetings at school site prior to submitting plan to district Develop a district calendar of dates and times for school site public meetings

FAQs

When did you discover all this material?

Honestly, after the fact.  But the organizational mandate is implicit in the organizational structure, and within many of the activities of the PTA at the site, district, and levels beyond.

Is State PTA aligned with current laws on Comprehensive School Safety?

Not specifically, but in practice, there's no disagreement.  We should pursue improvements in this.

Why does State PTA cover only some of the Hazards listed?

Unknown.  We'll find out.

Why aren't more of the Toolkit Recommended Actions accomplished?

School safety isn't exactly a front-line priority, and there's only one of me.

 

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