Safe Schools

Talking To Kids About School Safety

Oregon Pride Survey - Curry County - 2009-2017
Signs that a child may need help
BHSD Policies
Crisis Prevention and Response - JHHA 6/17/15
Hazing/Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying/Menacing/Cyberbullying JFCF
Hazing/Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying/Menacing/Cyberbullying/Teen Dating Violence Complaint Procedures JFCF-AR
Sexual Harassment JBA/GBN 4/15/15
Threats of Violence - JFCM  3/18/15
Weapons in the Schools JFCJ 6/17/15

SafeOregon Tipline
Massachusetts “Safe and Supportive Schools” provisions signed into law, boosts trauma-informed school movement
Room Clears
The Safe and Supportive Schools Commission
LGBT Safe & Supportive Schools Project
FACT SHEET: Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for All Students
Talk With Your Children - Gordon Clay
School Culture

Talking To Kids About School Safety

School violence and the resulting intense media coverage bring school safety issues to the forefront for all of us. However, children, in particular, may experience anxiety, fear, and a sense of personal risk. Knowing how to talk with your child about school safety issues could be critical in recognizing and preventing acts of violence, and will play an important role in easing fear and anxieties about their personal safety.

To guide parents through discussions about school violence, Mental Health America offers the following suggestions:

Encourage children to talk about their concerns and to express their feelings. Some children may be hesitant to initiate such conversation, so you may want to prompt them by asking if they feel safe at school. When talking with younger children remember to talk on their level. For example, they may not understand the term “violence” but can talk to you about being afraid or a classmate who is mean to them.

Talk honestly about your own feelings regarding school violence. It is important for children to recognize they are not dealing with their fears alone.

Validate the child’s feelings. Do not minimize a child’s concerns. Let him/her know that serious school violence is not common, which is why incidents such as Columbine and Conyers, Georgia, attract so much media attention. Stress that schools are safe places. In fact, recent studies have shown that schools are more secure now than ever before.

Empower children to take action regarding school safety. Encourage them to report specific incidents (such as bullying, threats or talk of suicide) and to develop problem solving and conflict resolution skills. Encourage older children to actively participate in student-run anti-violence programs.

Discuss the safety procedures that are in place at your child’s school. Explain why visitors sign in at the principal’s office or certain doors remain locked during the school day. Help your child understand that such precautions are in place to ensure his or her safety and stress the importance of adhering to school rules and policies.

Create safety plans with your child. Help identify which adults (a friendly secretary, trusted teacher or approachable administrator) your child can talk to if they feel threatened at school. Also ensure that your child knows how to reach you (or another family member or friend) in case of crisis during the school day. Remind your child that they can talk to you anytime they feel threatened.

Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school. Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline.

Keep the dialogue going and make school safety a common topic in family discussions rather than just a response to an immediate crisis. Open dialogue will encourage children to share their concerns.

Recognize behavior that may indicate your child is concerned about returning to school. Younger children may react to school violence by not wanting to attend school or participate in school-based activities. Teens and adolescents may minimize their concerns outwardly, but may become argumentative, withdrawn, or allow their school performance to decline.

The following behaviors are signs that a child may need help:

  • Lack of interest or poor performance in school
  • Absence of age-appropriate anger control skills
  • Seeing self as always the victim
  • Persistent disregard for or refusal to follow rules
  • Cruelty to pets or other animals
  • Artwork or writing that is bleak or violent or that depicts isolation or anger
  • Talking constantly about weapons or violence
  • Obsession with violent games and/or TV shows
  • Lack of enthusiasm, energy or motivation
  • Carrying a weapon to school
  • Overreacting to criticism
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Bullying
  • Misplaced or unwarranted jealousy
  • Involvement with or interest in gangs
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities

Seek help when necessary. The more signs you see the greater the chance the child needs help. Contact a mental health professional or the school based health center. (541-251-1606) Don't wait. Start today.

Mental Health America’s toll-free Information Line can help parents and teachers find community resources. Mental Health America also provides informational brochures on children’s mental health issues, such as a Teen Survival Guide to Surviving Stress, Teen Depression, Coping with Loss, Youth Violence and What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health. If the person you care about is still in school, our Back To School (28 page PDF toolkit) or Life On Campus materials may better fit your needs. Youth Mental Health Emotions Matter (2 page PDF)

Massachusetts “Safe and Supportive Schools” provisions signed into law, boosts trauma-informed school movement

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today signed into law provisions to create conditions for “safe and supportive schools” intended to improve education outcomes for children statewide, and giving momentum to the state’s trauma-informed schools movement. They were included in The Reduction of Gun Violence bill (No. 4376). This groundbreaking advance was achieved when advocates seized the opportunity to add behavioral health in the schools to the options under consideration as state officials searched for ways to strengthen one of the nation’s more restrictive gun laws in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, CT.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo saw the connection between reducing gun violence and school achievement and was instrumental in the bill’s passage. When the original sponsor of a Safe and Support Schools Act, Katherine Clark, left the state legislature for the U.S. House of Representatives, some advocates were concerned the void would not be filled. Their fears were assuaged when Rep. Ruth Balser of Newton and Sen. Sal DiDomenico of Boston became lead sponsors.

The schools act supporters were jubilant that the legislation they labored on for years was incorporated in the gun violence bill now signed into law, and expressed deep relief and excitement about the achievement. They also said the hard work of statewide implementation now begins.

The law requires the state education department to develop a framework for safe and supportive schools, first developed by a task force established by the legislature in 2008, that provides a foundation to help schools create a learning environment in which all students can flourish. The framework is based on a public health approach that includes fostering the emotional wellbeing of all students, preventive services and supports, and intensive services for those with significant needs.

Within the framework, schools are encouraged, but not mandated, to develop action plans that will be incorporated into the already required School Improvement Plans. The law also provides a self-assessment tool to help in the creation of the plans.

Under the leadership of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI), a coalition of the Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School, the “Safe and Supportive Schools Coalition” was formed to move the legislation forward. A campaign was created that included an advocacy site and regular communication with legislators. (For the text of the legislation and other information on the bill and the campaign to enact it, go to

Susan Cole, director of the TLPI, says the framework will help schools integrate services and align initiatives so that students feel safe — emotionally, socially and physically — and connected at school, and are able to succeed. The legislation, she says, emphasizes overall school operations rather than specific programs such as anti-bullying and truancy reduction. The framework, according to Cole, promotes a whole-school approach to help all children, including those who have or are experiencing adversity.

Susan Cole, director of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative

The bill also had the “wholehearted support” of the Boston Teachers Union according to Angela Cristiani, political director for the union and a school psychologist. She said the safe and supportive schools’ provisions that address prevention in schools provided the “missing piece” in the gun violence reduction legislation. Cristiani described Boston as an early adopter of the safe and supportive schools framework and said the law makes “real reform” possible statewide and provides a model for states across the nation. The new law, she says, will provide the tools for schools to support children to achieve their full potential and to act when a child is having difficulties. When tragedies occur, Cristiani says people often reflect back to the time a child was in school and trouble signs were present but not acted upon.

The bill continues a small grant program, funded at $200,000 in FY 2014, to support “exemplar schools” that are models for creating safe and supportive schools, and authorizes technical assistance to help schools use a self-assessment tool and develop school action plans. It also creates a commission to assist with statewide implementation of the framework and make recommendations for additional legislation. Advocates will have to return to the legislature to secure funding for staffing and other costs related to the initiative. According to Cole, this is “doable” since the funds to implement the law are relatively modest.

Cole says it has been an iterative process leading to the enactment of the law, one that will continue with its implementation. The early research conducted in the state by Bessel van der Kolk on psychological trauma and later the CDC’s ACE Study were part of the foundation for the initiatives the state undertook, including the Trauma-Sensitive Schools grants starting in 2000 and subsequent studies and reports that followed. The “hard part” as described by advocates will now begin with the law’s implementation.

The summary of the bill on the TLPI website highlights what they describe as a “groundbreaking” definition of safe and supportive schools:

“… 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 thatpromote 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 site summarizes the key provisions (in italics):

  • Requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop state-wide Safe and Supportive Schools Framework consistent with the Framework recommended by the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force. (The Task Force issued an interim report in December 2009 that included the original framework.)
  • 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; (This citation refers to the Education Reform Act.)
  • 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; (A small grant program with an appropriation of $200,000 is currently underway.) 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.


The Safe and Supportive Schools Commission

The Safe and Supportive Schools Commission was established as part of the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework law (link opens pdf of law), which has now been codified in M.G.L Chap 69 Sec 1P, Safe and supportive schools framework (link opens pdf of the Massachusetts General Laws).

The Safe and Supportive Schools Commission First Annual Report is now available. To view the final report clicker here. (24 page PDF)

This Commission will play a crucial role in fulfilling the law’s vision of supporting schools across the Commonwealth to create safe and supportive school environments that serve as a foundation for learning for all students. Specifically, it was created to collaborate with and advise the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) on statewide implementation of the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework. One of the Commission’s most important jobs will be to investigate and make recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) on a process for updating, improving and refining the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework and Self-Assessment Tool. (The Commission will begin with the Self-Assessment Tool developed by a statewide Task Force in 2011 and expand these to include all of the activities and initiatives involved in creating safe and supportive school environments.)

In addition to its work on the Framework and Self-Assessment Tool, the Commission is also charged by the law with several other specific duties. These include:

  • identifying strategies to increase schools’ capacity to carry out the administrative functions involved in creating safe and supportive school environments;
  • proposing steps to improve schools’ access to clinically, culturally and linguistically appropriate services for their students;
  • identifying and recommending evidenced-based training and professional development for school staff on creating safe and supportive learning environments;
  • identifying federal funding sources that can be leveraged to support statewide implementation of the framework;
  • developing recommendations on best practices for collaborating with families; and
  • examining and recommending model approaches for integrating Safe and Supportive Schools action plans into already existing school improvement plans and for using the Framework to organize school and district improvement plans.

The law requires many important education stakeholder groups to appoint members to serve on the Commission. Currently, the members include:

  • Amy Kelly, Massachusetts School Principals Association
  • Andria Amador, MA School Psychologists Association
  • Angela Cristiani, American Federation of Teachers- Massachusetts
  • Anne Silver, Parent/Professional Advocacy League
  • Donna Brown, Massachusetts School Counselors Association
  • Ellen Holmes, Massachusetts Association of School Committees
  • Jean Fay, Massachusetts Teachers Association
  • Katherine Lipper, Secretary of Education (Executive Office of Education Designee)
  • John Doherty, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
  • Judith Styer, Massachusetts School Nurse Organization
  • Kristine Camacho, Massachusetts School Psychologists Association
  • Melissa Pearrow, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Former BHPS Taskforce Member and Tool Developer/Evaluator
  • Rachelle Engler Bennett, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Richard Whitehead, Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education
  • Sara Burd, Reading Public Schools, Practitioner of the Framework
  • Susan Cole, Massachusetts Advocates for Children
  • William Diehl, Massachusetts Organization of Educations Collaboratives

TLPI’s Director Susan Cole was elected to serve as co-chair of the Commission. The other co-chair of the Commission is the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education’s designee, Rachelle Engler Bennett. The Commission meets regularly and all meetings are open to the public. For more information, visit the Safe and Supportive Schools page on DESE’s website.

LGBT Safe & Supportive Schools
nterim Evaluation Summary - 17 pages
Toolkit: Creating schools that are fully inclusive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Young People - 29 pages
Interim Evaluation Creating schools that are fully inclusive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Young People - 41 pages
Rapid Assessment Tool - 13 pages
Growing Up Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender A Resource for SPHE and RSE Monitoring Form - 2 pages 

FACT SHEET: Ensuring Safe and Supportive Schools for All Students

“Despite structural barriers of race and gender, women and girls of color have made real progress in recent years. The number of black women-owned businesses has skyrocketed. Black women have ascended the ranks of every industry. Teen pregnancy rates among girls of color are down, while high school and four-year college graduation rates are up. That’s good news. But there’s no denying that black women and girls still face real and persistent challenges.” – President Barack Obama, Remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner, September 20, 2015

Today, The White House Council on Women and Girls, together with the U.S. Department of Education, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, and The National Crittenton Foundation, is hosting a conference titled “Trauma-Informed Approaches in School: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline.” The Obama Administration is committed to promoting policies and practices that support the needs and potential of underserved populations, including marginalized girls, young women and their families. Despite progress made over the recent years in academic achievement, access and school support, girls -- and particularly girls of color – still disproportionately face barriers in education. This convening will help participants focus on improving school systems’ discipline practices and developing approaches that better serve students who have experienced trauma.

All too often, girls of color experience disproportionately high rates of school suspensions. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) black girls are 8 percent of enrolled students, but represent 14 percent of students receiving one or more out-of-school suspensions. By adopting supportive school discipline practices, schools foster success for all students and increase the likelihood that students will stay engaged and stay in school.

Trauma from sexual assault may also impede a young girl’s success in school. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 8 percent or an estimated 10 million girls experienced rape or attempted rape during youth. When the trauma of sexual assault is not addressed, it can have a devastating effect on a girl’s physical and mental health, leading to serious problems in school. Like colleges and universities, K-12 school districts must comply with legal obligations under Title IX to respond to allegations of sexual assault of a student. K-12 school districts must also provide support for student survivors of sexual assault to ensure they can receive equal educational opportunities.

As part of today’s conference, the White House is announcing additional supports from the U.S. Department of Education and the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault to help address sexual assault misconduct in schools:

  • Safe Place to Learn: Prevent, Intercede, and Respond to Sexual Harassment of K-12 Students: Today, the U.S. Department of Education will release Safe Place to Learn, an online, interactive resource package to support efforts to create a positive school climate and healthy learning environment. This package highlights strategies and instruments with which many schools are already working to create a school community committed to preventing discrimination based on sex and its most extreme corollary, sexual violence. The materials in the package aim to help three primary staff groups: administrative leadership; all building staff; and staff responsible for interceding and responding to students. The resource package contains guidance, e-learning training modules, and information about trauma sensitivity, resources to support current and ongoing conversations and efforts to prevent bullying, sexual harassment and violence, and provide safe, supportive learning environments for all students, in age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate ways.
  • Considerations for School District Sexual Misconduct Policies: Today, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault will release a document highlighting issues for K-12 districts to consider when bringing together a multi-disciplinary team to develop sexual misconduct policies as part of their overall response to sexual misconduct. By using this document as a guide, it will enable K-12 teams to include the essential components of a comprehensive sexual misconduct plan. The document covers reporting options, support services for victims, definitions, confidentiality, the grievance process, and other critical areas. It also provides links to Federal government resources for those wanting further detail on a particular topic.

In addition, the following external commitments are being made to support trauma-informed approaches to school discipline:

  • Online Community Support for Educators: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Connection network invites states to join the newly restructured ACEs in Education online community group to share resources on schools that want to become trauma informed. ACEs Connection Network has two parts: is a news site for the general public that covers research about the consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and how people, organizations, systems and communities are implementing practices based on ACEs science. It has a companion social network,, which has more than 10,000 members who are implementing trauma-informed and resilience-building practices based on ACEs science across sectors. has several community groups, including ACEs in Education, which has 300 members, mostly educators. ACEs in Education is the go-to place for trauma-informed, resilience-building education. It has resources, such as webinars, tutorials, books, articles, and lists of organizations that provide whole-school training for schools that want to become trauma-informed.
  • Fellowship focused on best practices in school discipline reform efforts: The Communities for Just Schools Fund (CJSF) will announce a new fellowship, which will soon be accepting applications, jointly hosted by CJSF and the Southern Education Foundation, to develop a best practices institute to support school discipline reform efforts and remedy racial injustice in schools. Education Anew Fellow (EAF) will be housed at the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) for a 12-18 month fellowship period. The Fellow will work closely with CJSF staff and community partners, and with SEF’s staff and fellows, including SEF’s soon-to-be launched Racial Equity Fellow, to develop the CJSF Best Practices Institute (BPI) and to support conversations and collaborations between the community organizers CJSF supports and the educators with whom SEF works, all for the greater benefit of education justice advocates and school discipline reform efforts nationwide.
  • Georgetown Law Center on Poverty to launch follow-up effort on trauma-informed schools for girls of color: The Center on Poverty will build on the momentum of this conference by pivoting from its role as co-host to serving school system reformers who seek to implement trauma-informed approaches that are responsive to the unique needs of girls of color. The Center will invite the state teams present at the conference and others to provide more in-depth information about their needs in creating trauma-informed schools, with the ultimate goal of serving as a central convener of these groups.

Today’s conference will bring together educational teams from 15 States and 23 school districts around the country, as well as key researchers and experts in this topic, and nonprofit partners who have demonstrated a strong commitment to improving supports and outcomes for this vulnerable population.

Participating States and districts include:

  • Colorado - Denver Public Schools
  • District of Columbia - District of Columbia Public Schools
  • Illinois
  • Maryland - Baltimore City Public Schools
  • Massachusetts - Reading Public Schools
  • Michigan - Flint Community Schools, River Rouge School District, Detroit Public Schools Community District
  • Minnesota - St. Paul Public Schools
  • Montana - Billings Public Schools
  • New Jersey - Lawrence Township Public Schools
  • New York - NYC Department of Education, Rochester City School District
  • Ohio - Youngstown City Schools, Cleveland Metropolitan School District
  • Oregon - Portland School District
  • Pennsylvania - School District of Philadelphia, School District of Lancaster
  • Tennessee - Shelby County Public Schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Virginia - Richmond City Public Schools, Norfolk City Public Schools, Petersburg City Public Schools

The conference builds on the Administration’s commitment to fostering school success for all youth, and reducing unnecessary exclusionary school discipline practices, including:

  • This month, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice released letters to states and school districts encouraging communities to use school resource officers (SROs) only under appropriate circumstances and not for the administration of routine discipline. To assist school districts in the appropriate use of SROs, the Departments jointly released the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics. These new resources can help education and law enforcement agencies revise SRO-related policies to better align with common-sense action steps that will lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students.
  • In follow-up to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice’s school discipline guidance package from 2014, the Department of Justice released new resources at a White House Conference in July 2015 to assist school leaders in reducing rates of exclusionary discipline, including: Addressing the Root Causes of Disciplinary Disparities: An Educator’s Action Planning Guide and Rethink School Discipline: Resource Guide for Superintendent Action. At the convening, the Department of Education launched its #RethinkDiscipline campaign and assembled leadership teams from more than forty school districts with each district committing to move away from exclusionary school discipline practices. As a part of the day the Department of Education released story maps—disaggregated by race, gender, and disability status— highlighting the extent to which exclusionary discipline is used in certain parts of the country, particularly among students of color and students with disabilities
  • In July 2015, the Department of Justice also launched the National Resource Center for School Justice Partnerships. This technical assistance portal is designed to assist juvenile courts, schools, and law enforcement agencies in supporting school discipline reform and addressing disparities.