National PTA’s New Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools

As schools across the country are increasingly impacted by violence and natural disasters, National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on safe and supportive schools during its August board meeting. The statement calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.

“School safety is a critical priority for all parents, families, educators, students and community members that cannot be taken for granted. Every child has a right to learn and grow in a safe and supportive environment,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for each community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

As outlined in the position statement, National PTA promotes the establishment of and support for school safety policies and procedures that emphasize family engagement, adequate funding for student supports and services, and conditions that create and foster positive and welcoming school environments. The association also promotes the implementation of evidence-based policies and best practices articulated in A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools, which was written and has been endorsed by the nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners.

The position statement further states that National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators—but defers to local, collaborative decision-making regarding the presence of law enforcement for school building security. If the decision is made to have a Student Resource Officer (SRO) or other security agency within a school building, the association believes there must be a clearly defined memorandum of understanding between the law enforcement agency and the school that articulates the role of the SRO.

“National PTA believes teachers and administrators are there to educate our children and should not be acting as armed security in classrooms,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “Families, students, educators, administrators, counselors, law enforcement, community leaders and elected officials must work together to ensure students feel safe and schools and communities have the resources and capacity to provide a positive and healthier environment for all students.”

How Do You Tell Your PTA’s Story?

At this year’s National PTA Convention, Illinois PTA President Brian Minsker was speaking with PTA members from Tennessee about their efforts in raising the age for juvenile courts there. He shared the Illinois PTA report on Young Adults Involved in the Justice Systemwith them. One of them asked him to join their PTA, which he did. [Membership Tip: Many people will happily join your PTA just to support your work and the kids you serve if you just ask.]  

Shortly after convention, he received an e-mail that was sent to all of their new members highlighting what Frayser Community PTSA had done in the previous year in three videos. Whether it is video of an event, a movie made from pictures taken during an event, or a simple PowerPoint with pictures running in a loop, this is a great way to share what your PTA is doing for children to get people to join. Consider having a laptop at your PTA table at school registration or Open House night showing a video or slideshow. Far too often people are afraid to join PTA because they think you will ask them to volunteer. Instead, don’t stress the need for PTA volunteers and show them how your PTA is making a difference for kids—then they’ll want to volunteer. The rest of this post is courtesy of Regenia Dowell, President of Frayser Community PTSA in Memphis.

Frayser Community PTSA STEM + Families Night

Frayser Community PTSA received a grant from National PTA to host a STEM + Families event. As part of the event, community members from local businesses joined in as volunteers, including a chemist from PMC, workers from Charms Candy Company, and engineers from Federal Express. They helped with activity stations where family could have hands-on experiences doing experiments.

Student Storm the Hill

Student Storm the Hill is an annual event hosted by Tennessee PTA. Frayser Community PTSA was able to take middle and high school students from district, charter, and private schools in their community to the statehouse. PTSA members and teachers served as chaperones. The PTSA provided transportation, breakfast, and lunch, all at no cost thanks to a Community Enhancement grant from two of their County Commissioners.

Students were given packets that explained how a bill becomes a law. They gathered in the state House of Representatives and sat in the members’ seats. The students conducted a mock legislative session, voted on the bill they had discussed, and got to watch the votes tabulated on the light up voting board. The students were also able to meet with their representatives to share their concerns about what was important to them.

 

MLK 50 Celebration

The 50thanniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a big event in Memphis. Frayser Community PTSA partnered with WKNO PBS Kids to have a free community event for people in the neighborhood to come together to celebrate and honor the legacy of Dr. King. The PTSA brought in community service agencies, entrepreneurs, schools, and faith-based groups to ‘Invest in the Dream”—the children of Frayser Community PTSA. Information booths were set up with trivia games that provided a free book to each child correctly answering questions. There was a petting zoo, train rides, inflatables, a rock climbing wall, and a balloon artist to keep kids entertained. The PTSA also had an essay contest for middle and high school students.

 

How does your PTA tell its story? Share it with your district or region director so Illinois PTA can highlight the great things your PTA is doing for kids.

Key Questions to Ask at Your Child’s School

The start of the new school year is fast approaching. The US Department of Education has created I Have a Question…What Parents and Caregivers Can Ask and Do to Help Children Thrive at School: A Parent Checklistto help you fulfill an important part of your child’s education—engaging with your child’s school in a way that truly matters.

The booklet was created with help from National PTA, America Achieves, the National Council of La Raza, and the United Negro College Fund. In it, you’ll find key questions to ask at your child’s school, including:

  • How will you keep me informed about how my child is doing on a regular basis?
  • How can we work together if my child falls behind?
  • What programs are in place to ensure that the school is a safe, nurturing, and positive environment?
  • How much time is there for recess or exercise?
  • How much time do teachers get to collaborate with one another?
  • How does the school make sure that all students are treated fairly?

The booklet also provides information on what to do beyond asking questions and tips from teachers to support your child’s success. The booklet concludes with resources from National PTA and other organizations, as well as specific information on bullying, finding additional academic support, children with delays or disabilities, financial aid for college, and homeless children. Download the PDF today.

News from National Convention—Membership

Membership is at the heart of PTA, so it’s not surprising that membership was the focus of several workshops and one big announcement at the 2018 National PTA Convention in New Orleans. The announcement? Every PTA leader who registers or logs in to the Local PTA Leader Kit(formerly the Back-to-School Kit) will receive a new DIY Kit for Membership Growth by mail while supplies last.

The kit contains everything local PTA leaders need to develop a Do-It-Yourself membership plan. Included in the kit are promotional posters, customizable membership resources, and a Design Your PTA/PTSA Membership P.L.A.N. booklet. PLAN stands for:

  • Pictureways to reach and attract possible PTA/PTSA members.
  • Listento what matters most to them and align your PTA’s efforts.
  • Askpossible members to join PTA by sharing PTA’s focus on what matters most to them.
  • Nurturerelationships year-round by communicating the impact your PTA/PTSA is making for your students, school, and community.

The guidebook walks you through each of the steps with examples, questions to consider, and brainstorming prompts for you and your fellow PTA leaders to develop a membership plan tailored to your PTA, your school, and your community. The guidebook is printed in both English and Spanish. Get yours today!

Workshops

The new DIY Kit for Membership Growth was a big focus of most of the membership workshops at the 2018 National PTA Convention. The other workshop focused on attracting more parents, students, and educators to PTA in middle and high schools. The latter featured Illinois PTA’s South Suburban Cook Region Director Darvel Stinson as one of the panelists.

Among the ideas floated at the workshop were events that would attract students such as a car care night (learn how to check and change your oil, change a tire, etc.) or a sexual violence awareness event. Consider partnering with business classes at your high school to handle running and marketing PTA Reflections at the school. If your PTA offers grants to teachers, require teachers applying for a grant to be PTA members, and offer extra consideration points for teachers who have attended PTA meetings or based on the number of PTA parent and student members in their homerooms. For teachers without a homeroom class, offer extra consideration points for their doing a project with the PTA that engages families.

The workshop also provided a handout with links to the following resources: