Whereas, the deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to create safe and supportive school environments, therefore, it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
WHEREAS, a paramount goal of the Commonwealth is to ensure that all children receive a high quality education that enables them to reach their full potential and become responsible citizens who positively contribute to their communities and the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, a safe and supportive learning environment is a necessary foundation for increasing academic achievement, enhancing healthy development, and improving educational outcomes for all children; and
WHEREAS, the Massachusetts Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force developed a framework and accompanying self-assessment tool that facilitates the creation of safe and supportive learning environments in schools;
THEREFORE, it shall be the policy of the Commonwealth to support and promote the statewide implementation of the safe and supportive schools framework in order to create safe, healthy and supportive learning environments in schools and districts across the Commonwealth.
SECTION 1. Chapter 69 of the General Laws, as amended by section 2 of chapter 240 of the acts of 2012, is hereby amended by adding after section 1O the following section:-
Section 1P. (a) As used in this section the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:--
“Behavioral health”, the social, emotional, mental and behavioral wellbeing of all students.
“Board”, the board of elementary and secondary education.
“Department”, the department of elementary and secondary education.
“Framework”, the safe and supportive schools framework established under subsection (b).
“Safe and supportive school environment”, 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, the education of foster care and homeless youth, the inclusion of students with disabilities, positive behavioral approaches that reduce suspensions and expulsions and other similar initiatives.
“Self-assessment tool”, the safe and supportive schools self-assessment tool established under subsection (b).
(b) The behavioral health and public schools framework developed under section 19 of chapter 321 of the acts of 2008 shall henceforth be known as the safe and supportive schools framework. The framework shall provide guidance and support to schools to help them create safe and supportive school environments that improve education outcomes for all students, and shall be organized according to central elements of school operations which shall include but not be limited to: (i) leadership; (ii) professional development; (iii) access to resources and services; (iv) academic and non-academic supports; (v) policies and protocols; and (vi) collaboration with families. Each school district and individual public school shall implement the safe and supportive schools framework in order to: (i) organize, integrate and sustain school and district-wide efforts to create safe and supportive school environments and (ii) coordinate and align student support initiatives.
The self-assessment tool developed by the behavioral health and public schools task force under section 19 of chapter 321 of the acts of 2008 shall henceforth be known as the safe and supportive schools self-assessment tool. The self-assessment tool shall be organized according to the elements of the framework and shall be used by schools to: (i) assess their capacity to create and sustain safe and supportive school environments for all students; (ii) identify areas where additional school-based action, efforts, guidance and support are needed in order to create and maintain safe and supportive school environments; and (iii) create action plans to address the areas of need identified by the assessment.
The board shall develop procedures for updating, improving or refining the safe and supportive schools framework and the safe and supportive schools self-assessment tool, in consultation with the safe and supportive schools commission established under subsection (f).
(c) Each school shall develop and update an action plan to create and maintain a safe and supportive school environment for all students. The action plan shall be developed by the school principal, in consultation with the school council established under section 59C of chapter 71, and shall be incorporated into the annual school improvement plan required under section 1I; provided, however, that the district superintendent may approve an alternative process and schedule for developing school action plans. Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the ability of the school principal to appoint a team for the purpose of developing the school’s action plan; provided, however, that such team shall include a broad representation of the school and local community and the principal shall make every effort to include teachers and other school personnel, parents, students and representatives from community-based agencies and providers.
School action plans shall be designed to address the areas of need identified through the use of the self-assessment tool described in subsection (b), and shall include the following: (i) action steps and strategies for addressing the areas of need identified by the assessment; (ii) a timeline for implementing the action steps and strategies; (iii) outcome goals and indicators for evaluating the effectiveness of the initiatives and strategies set forth in the plan, which may include attendance and graduation rates, bullying incidences, number of student suspensions, expulsions and office referrals, truancy and tardiness rates, time spent on learning and other measures of school success; and (iv) a process and schedule for reviewing the plan annually and updating it at least once every 3 years.
(d) Each school district shall include in its 3 year district improvement plan required under section 1I a description of the steps the district will take to support the district-wide implementation of the safe and supportive schools framework and to facilitate regional coordination with behavioral health providers and other community organizations.
Each district shall publish on its website all school action plans created under subsection (c) for each school in the district.
(e) The department shall facilitate and oversee the statewide implementation of the safe and supportive schools framework. The department shall: (i) provide technical assistance to schools on using the self-assessment tool and developing school action plans, and to districts on coordinating with community service providers and developing strategies to facilitate the district-wide implementation of the framework; (ii) develop and disseminate model protocols and practices identified in the framework; (iii) establish a “Safe and Supportive Schools” grant program, subject to appropriation, wherein grantees shall pilot and share with other schools an effective process for developing and implementing school action plans; (iv) update its website to include the framework, the self-assessment tool, best practices and other information related to the implementation of the framework; (v) host regional trainings for schools and districts, subject to appropriation; and (vi) provide administrative support to the safe and supportive schools commission established under subsection (f), subject to appropriation. Nothing in this section shall be construed as limiting the ability of the department to contract with individuals, external partners or other entities to support the functions established under this section; provided, however, that the department shall consider opportunities for education collaboratives or other regional service organizations to coordinate and disseminate training, technical assistance and information to school districts on the implementation of the framework.
(f) There shall be a safe and supportive schools commission to collaborate with and advise the department on the statewide implementation of the framework. The commission shall also support and provide feedback on the statewide implementation of the framework by the department. The commission shall consist of 17 members: 1 of whom shall be the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, or his designee, who shall serve as co-chair; 1 of whom shall be the secretary of education, or his designee; 1 of whom shall be a school superintendent appointed by the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents; 1 of whom shall be a school committee member appointed by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees; 1 of whom shall be a school principal appointed jointly by the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators’ Association and the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association; 1 of whom shall be teacher appointed jointly by the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts; 1 of whom shall be a director of special education or director of student support services appointed by the Massachusetts Administrators for Special Education; 1 of whom shall be an executive director of an education collaborative appointed by the Massachusetts Organization of Education Collaboratives; 1 of whom shall be a school psychologist appointed by the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association; 1 of whom shall be a school social worker appointed by the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers; 1 of whom shall be a school adjustment counselor or guidance counselor appointed by the Massachusetts School Counselors Association; 1 of whom shall be a school nurse appointed by the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization; 1 of whom shall be an advocate with experience in education, behavioral health and the impact of trauma on learning appointed by Massachusetts Advocates for Children; 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Parent/Professional Advocacy League appointed by the Parent/Professional Advocacy League; and 3 members to be appointed by the secretary of education: 1 of whom shall be a former member of the behavioral health and public schools task force who participated in the development and statewide evaluation of the self-assessment tool; 1 of whom shall be a former member of the behavioral health and public schools task force with experience implementing the framework; and 1 of whom shall be a representative from a community-based organization that provides services as part of the children’s behavioral health initiative and that provides mental health services in schools. The commission shall select a co-chair from among its appointees. In selecting commission appointees, priority shall be given to individuals who either were members of the behavioral health and public schools task force or who represent schools that have experience implementing the framework.
The commission shall: (i) investigate and make recommendations to the board on updating, improving and refining the framework and the self-assessment tool as appropriate; (ii) identify strategies for increasing schools’ capacity to carry out the administrative functions identified by the behavioral health and public schools task force; (iii) propose steps for improving schools’ access to clinically, culturally and linguistically appropriate services; (iv) identify and recommend evidenced-based training programs and professional development for school staff on addressing students’ behavioral health and creating safe and supportive learning environments; (v) identify federal funding sources that can be leveraged to support the statewide implementation of the framework; (vi) develop recommendations on best practices for collaboration with families, including families of children with behavioral health needs; and (vii) examine and recommend model approaches for integrating school action plans, required under subsection (c), with school improvement plans and for using the framework to organize other school and district improvement processes.
The commission may collect and review data and feedback from schools as they complete the self-assessment tool and develop school action plans, and may convene stakeholders to facilitate solutions to challenges as they arise during the implementation process. The commission may request from the department such information and assistance as may be necessary to complete its work.
The commission shall consult with and solicit input from various persons and groups, including, but not limited to: (i) the office of the child advocate; (ii) the department of early education and care; (iii) the department of children and families; (iv) the department of mental health; (v) the department of public health; (vi) the department of youth services; (vii) the department of developmental services; and (viii) any other parties or entities the commission deems appropriate.
SECTION 2. Subsections (b) through (d), inclusive, of section 1P of chapter 69 of the General Laws shall be effective as of June 30, 2016.
SECTION 3. The department of elementary and secondary education shall begin providing technical assistance required under subsection (e) of section 1P of chapter 69 of the General Laws on or before September 1, 2014.
SECTION 4. The safe and supportive schools commission established under subsection (f) of section 1P of chapter 69 of the General Laws shall conduct its first meeting not more than 90 days after the effective date of this act, and shall meet no less than 4 times annually. The commission shall prepare and submit an annual progress report concerning the commission’s activities with appropriate recommendations, together with drafts of legislation necessary to carry out such recommendations, if any, on or before December 31 each year. The commission shall submit such annual report to the governor and the clerks of the senate and the house of representatives, who shall forward the same to the chairs of the joint committee on education, the chairs of the joint committee on mental health and substance abuse, the chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities, and the chairs of the house and senate committees on ways and means. The first 3 annual reports shall include recommendations regarding: (i) federal funding sources that can be leveraged to support the statewide implementation of the safe and supportive schools framework; (ii) training programs and professional development for school staff on creating safe and supportive learning environments; (iii) improving access to clinically, culturally and linguistically appropriate services; and (iv) addressing the administrative functions necessary to carry out the implementation of the safe and supportive schools framework. The commission shall continue to submit such annual reports through December 31, 2023, after which the commission shall be terminated.
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