Policy Matters Blog

Building Capacity for Safe and Successful Schools: 2019 Public Policy Institute Recap


Last week, an incredible group of school psychologists, special educators, graduate students, professors, and administrators from 32 states (plus the District of Columbia) participated in the 2019 GW/NASP Public Policy Institute! Attendees registered for the basic 3-day, advanced 5-day, or 2-day special topic training to build advocacy skills and learn about education policy from national experts in the field. 

This year's theme, "Building Capacity for Safe and Successful Schools: Policy Directions for the Nation," addressed one of the most critical issues that school psychologists deal with in their work every day: how to prevent school violence and ensure that students feel safe and supported in their learning environment. Participants spent the week exploring what policies and practices are effective for creating a safe and successful schools, learning how school safety impacts access to a high quality public education, and identifying some of the political and systemic barriers to advancing comprehensive school safety policy and practice. 

The experience began with a foundational keynote from former Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, Michael Yudin. Other highlights included a presentation on building safe and supportive schools by the Director of the Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, Paul Kesner, a featured session on behavior and learning support programs from the Director of the Research to Practice Division in the Office of Special Education Programs, Renee Bradley, and data workshops from representatives from Child Trends and Kids Count. Attendees also participated in invigorating discussions around balancing physical and psychological safety and equity and access.


On Wednesday, PPI attendees stormed the Hill! The day started with a panel of Capitol Hill staffers, who shared their experiences and offered advice to advocates who were soon to meet with their representatives' offices. In total, PPI participants had over 100 meetings with their congressional representatives and/or members of their staff - and over a dozen met their representatives directly! Advocates used the information and training in the first two days to craft their own messages based on research, data, and their personal experiences to urge support for evidence-based policies that will make schools more safe and welcoming for all students. In addition, advocates from across the country - 43 states, to be exact - sent nearly 800 letters to their congressional representatives during NASP's PPI Virtual Hill Day, urging them to support a comprehensive approach to school safety and climate.

NASP's advocacy efforts on school safety are based on the Framework for Safe and Successful Schools and related policy recommendations. The Framework, co-authored with the American School Counselor Association, School Social Work Association of America, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and National Association of School Resource Officers, has served as NASP's North Star for school safety advocacy since its release in 2013. Members of every office received a copy of the Framework and policy recommendations in the materials that were left.

As the sun sets on the Public Policy Institute, we look forward to seeing the advocacy and change that our 2019 PPI alumni will bring to their schools, districts, communities, states, and country! More information about PPI can be found here. See you next year!