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Pennsbury Leaders Support State's Student Mental Health & School Safety Efforts

Man standing at podium surrounded by other people.

Pennsbury superintendent Tom Smith talks about student mental health and school safety, supported by school board director Linda Palsky and PEA president Nicole Peirce.

Student mental health and school safety were the focus of a press conference held at Edgewood Elementary School on August 17.

Pennsbury superintendent Tom Smith, school board director Linda Palsky, and president of the Pennsbury Education Association, Nicole Peirce, joined State Senator Steve Santarsiero as he focused on the recently enacted state budget that provides schools in Pennsylvania with $200 million in state funding to address the two issues. Also in attendance were Mark Barden, founder and CEO of Sandy Hook Promise; Dr. Deb Carrera, Executive Deputy Secretary of the PA Department of Education; Bob Harvie, Bucks County Commissioner; Mary Worthington, Director of Prevention and Training, NOVA Bucks, and Senator Sharif Street.

"There was a time that the 'experts' told us that mental health was not a school's responsibility. Some may still feel this way, but for the well-being of our children, our classrooms and building practices have adapted to better support our students' needs. However, in order to best support our families, schools cannot bear this important work alone, and we appreciate and support Senator Santarsiero's bill," said Dr. Smith. 

Smith referred to PA Senate Bill 1263, also known as the Safety and Violence Education for Students (SAVE Students) Act which the senator introduced this past June. The bill would require schools to implement at least one hour or a standard class period per year of suicide prevention training, violence prevention training, and social inclusion training for students in grades 6-12.

"As a school district, we continue to focus resources on the social-emotional aspects of our students' lives," said Smith. "Our programming includes a variety of approaches relevant to specific age groups. These practices must start at a young age and carry on through high school."

Dr. Smith added that although Bucks County is a wonderful place to live, work, and raise a family, the community is not immune to mental and psychological health issues that plague any community. 

"We continue to see an alarming number of students and young adults in our community referred for mental health services, sent to crisis centers, or hospitalized for self-harming acts or ideations."

Smith said the efforts promoted through the school district can't end when school doors close.

"The importance of talking and learning about mental health must permeate throughout our lives and outside of the school day. This is a community issue, and we need your support to help our children and neighbors and to support those who support them as well. I have seen our community raise thousands of dollars for someone facing physical challenges, but with a mental illness, families often face these challenges alone," Smith continued.

"We must work together, so we don't let anyone suffer in silence."

School entities have until August 31 to apply for the School Mental Health & Safety and Security grants for the 2022-23 school year.