October is Fire Safety Month

Fire Prevention Week is scheduled for October 8-14, with Home Fire Drill Day on October 14.

While no school is immune from the risk of a fire, the chances of it happening can be reduced or, if it does occur, losses can be kept to a minimum by following a few tips:

  • Conduct fire drills regularly
  • Ensure all exits are properly marked and nothing blocking the exit
  • On the day of a drill, sound the alarm so students and staff get familiar with the sound
  • Each classroom should have a map displayed showing the closest exits. Staff should review on a monthly basis with students.
  • Predetermine an exterior location where everyone meets until an all clear signal has been given to reenter.

How can PTAs be involved with promoting fire safety?

  • Ask local administrators to speak at a future meeting to discuss fire safety plans for the building.
  • Partner with local fire departments to bring in speakers, host smoke detector inspections, or give away smoke detectors.
  • Ask Administration to include PTA members on safety committees.
  • Share fire safety tips with families and school personnel via newsletters, bulletin boards, emails, and social media.
  • Encourage families to practice fire drills at home.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Car

Next week, September 17-23, is Child Passenger Safety Week, with September 23 being National Seat Check Saturday. Here’s some information on how to keep your child safe in the car and what PTAs can do to support child car safety.

Did You Know?

  • Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. Many times, deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.
  • Illinois requires all children under the age of 8 be property secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. This includes the use of booster seats, which must only be used with a lap/shoulder safety belt. A child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat without a booster seat, secured with a lap belt only.
  • The Illinois Secretary of State’s office provides child safety seat inspections by certified child safety seat technicians at many Driver Services Facilities throughout the state through its Keep Me in a Safe Seat Program. To schedule a child safety seat inspection, please call 866-247-0213 or complete a Child Safety Seat Inspection Form.

Child Safety Seat Guidelines

  • Read and follow the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions for installation and height/weight guidelines.
  • Newborn to 12 months and weighing less than 20 pounds should always ride in a rear0facing infant seat.
  • Ages 1 to 4 years: Children should remain in rear-facing safety seat until age 2, or until they are at the upper height or weight limit of the seat. Once they out-grow a rear-facing safety seat, they may transition to a forward-facing seat with harness system.
  • Ages 4 to 8 years: Children should be secured in a forward-facing safety seat with internal harness system until they reach the upper height or weight limit allowed by car seat manufacturer. Once they out-grow the forward-facing seat, they may transition to a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • Ages 8 to 12: Children should stay in belt-positioning booster seat until they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt.

Parents and Caregivers

  • Set an example by wearing seat belt on every trip no matter how short.
  • Make sure children are properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
  • Have all children age 12 and under sit properly buckled in the back seat. If possible, properly buckle children in the middle back seat because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.
  • Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an air bag.

What PTAs Can Do

  • Partner with local emergency personnel, hospitals, or other organizations to schedule a “Safety Seat Check”
  • Contact the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to do a Child Passenger Safety Presentation for your parents and community. To schedule a presentation call 866-247-0213 or complete a Traffic Safety Program Request form and select “Child Passenger Safety Presentation.”

Additional Resources

Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: Juvenile Justice

The 2017-18 Federal Public Policy Agenda Checklist of the National PTA calls for the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), reducing the number of youth unnecessarily involved in the justice system. Reauthorization must include that the juvenile justice system:

  • Incentivize family and community based alternatives to incarceration
  • Eliminate certain exceptions to the Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders core requirement
  • Extend the Jail Removal and Sight and Sound Separation core requirements to all children under the age of 18 during all forms of detainment
  • Require states to establish solutions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities

Item 11 of the Illinois PTA Legislation Platform addresses Juvenile Justice issues, calling for adequate programs on both state and local level for:

  • The prevention of juvenile delinquency
  • Services for early intervention for juvenile offenders
  • Treatment and separation of dependent and delinquent children in institutions and in Juvenile Court, as well as original exclusive jurisdiction over children and youth under age 18 to be in the Juvenile Court
  • Support of laws and regulations in our justice system that address the differing needs of youth as they continue to mature from age 18 to age 25

In addition to these items found in the platform, the Illinois PTA holds continuing positions on the support and supervision of youthful offenders in residential facilities; support for the federal Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention Act, including adequate appropriations to facilitate the Act; a strong Juvenile Court System in Illinois recognizing that youthful offenders should not be treated in the same manner as adult offenders; and a Juvenile Justice system that is focused on rehabilitation.

These positions highlight a number of legislative successes. Illinois has raised the age of majority from 17 to 18 for the juvenile justice system. Juvenile offenders are now separated from adults when incarcerated. Redeploy Illinois, a program supported by Illinois PTA, is successfully reducing the rate of recidivism of youth also reducing costs by avoiding incarceration. During the state budget crisis, Illinois PTA pointed out that closure of Redeploy Illinois programs in 23 counties meant that 275 youth served by the program at a cost of $1.6 million would need to be incarcerated at a cost of $30.5 million. Illinois PTA’s report on consideration of how to handle “emerging adults,” (19 to 25) differently has received attention across the United States.

Just this year, with Illinois PTA support, Illinois now requires:

  • Restorative Justice training for all Dept. of Justice personnel (PA100-157)
  • Expansion of the ability to expunge juvenile arrest records (PA100-285)
  • Forbidding expulsion of children from pre-school programs (PA100-105)
  • Forbidding of booking stations in schools (PA100-204)

For further explanation, please refer to the 2017 National PTA Federal Public Policy Agenda, the Illinois PTA Report on Young Adults Involved in the Justice System, Ten Years of Progress (2009), and the complete Illinois PTA Legislation Platform.

 

News from National Convention: Resolutions

PTA resolutions are a way for the membership of the association to express its opinion and intent to address issues affecting the lives of children and youth. They focus and formalize the position of the PTA on a variety of issues. At the 2017 National PTA convention in Las Vegas, the delegates adopted one resolution and added one more resolved clause to an existing resolution.

Resolution on Healthy Sleep for Adolescents

Any parent of a teenager knows how hard it can be to get them in bed at a decent hour, much less get them out of bed the next morning to get them to school. Research confirms this, noting that adolescents have their sleep patterns shift from those of their younger years, having difficulty falling asleep before 11:00pm and functioning at their best when allowed to sleep until 8:00am.

Unfortunately, many teens are not getting the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep that they need each night. More than two-thirds get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights. The reasons for this chronic sleep deprivation in teens is varied, but include large amounts of homework, busy extracurricular and work schedules, poor sleep routines (including using cell phones and other backlit screens shortly before bed that can disrupt the ability to fall asleep), and early school start times. Approximately 40% of high schools in the United States start at 8:00am or earlier.

The result of this sleep deprivation in teens results in increased risks in many aspects of their lives, including an increased likelihood of accidents due to impaired driving, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and other physical health problems in adulthood.

Early school start times have been identified as a key, but easily modified, component of adolescent sleep deprivation. Schools that have moved start times later for their older students have seen not only decreases in tardiness, absences, and discipline issues but also increases in student performance and greater participation in extracurricular activities.

To address these issues, the resolution calls on PTAs to educate youth, parents, educators, school personnel, school boards, athletic coaches, athletic organizations, state board of education members, and the community about the positive impact that sufficient, quality sleep has for teens’ health, safety, academic success, and future earnings.

PTAs are also encouraged (modified by the delegates from “urged” in the proposed resolution to address areas of the country with limited daylight hours during part of the year) to collaborate with other stakeholders and policymakers to develop solutions and policies that allow teens to get sufficient, quality sleep. National PTA is directed to work with the Department of Education to encourage states and school districts to incorporate standards regarding sleep needs and patterns, potential risks of insufficient sleep, signs of sleep related difficulties, and healthy sleep habits into existing health, science, physical education, and other appropriate curricula.

Proposed Amendment to Resolution on Sale, Resale and Destruction of Firearms

In 1996, the National PTA passed a resolution on the sale, resale, and destruction of firearms. Later that year, the Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included the Dickey Amendment, an amendment that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds for injury prevention and control to advocate or promote gun control. In the same bill, $2.6 million, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearms research the previous year, was earmarked for traumatic brain injury research.

The Dickey Amendment has been interpreted to mean that the CDC cannot conduct research into gun violence, and appropriations for the CDC since 1996 have continued to include the amendment. The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress attempted to remove the amendment in 2015, but were unsuccessful. It is also important to note that Jay Dickey, the representative for whom the amendment is named, has since stated that the CDC should be allowed to research the causes of gun violence, noting that “doing nothing is no longer an option.”

The amendment to the 1996 resolution inserts a new resolved clause that states: “That the National PTA and its constituent bodies shall seek and support legislation for state and federal funding initiatives for the research of the causes and effects of gun violence.” The delegate body voted to split the amendment into two resolved clauses, one directing the National PTA to work for federal legislation and funding and one directing state PTAs to do the same on the state level.

The National PTA legislation team that submitted the amendment stated that the reason for amending rather than submitting a completely new resolution was that the 1996 resolution specifically mentioned CDC research, but since that time, there has been extremely limited research to fully support a new resolution.