HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (GOHS), Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), hosted a school safety conference today, Oct. 20, where they focused on preventing targeted violence at schools.

Implementations such as school safety investments, mental health supports, and building a culture of belonging are all topics that were brought up at the conference.

“Schools are safe spaces for learning, development, and socialization, so it is critical that we provide the resources and supports that our school communities need to keep students and teachers out of harm’s way,” said Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty. “By prioritizing mental health services in conjunction with investments and prevention efforts, we can ensure that students are free to learn, grow, and thrive in a protected and secure environment.”

The conference was open to school administrators and staff, school resource officers, mental and social health experts, law enforcement officers and first responders.

Eric Garner, the Head of the Digital Video Production Academy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, shared his experience from the mass school shooting that took place on Feb. 14, 2018. He also shared his experience working with Miami-Dade County on its emergency response team.

“Our federal, state and local law enforcement and educators work tirelessly every day to communicate and educate the public on the prevention and protection of our school-aged children,” said Acting Homeland Security Director Kristin Daniels. “This conference brought together experts in their field, such as the FBI on their threat assessment and threat management work throughout Pennsylvania, PSP’s Heritage Affairs Section on hate crimes in the state, PSP’s Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Team on assessing physical security for school facilities, and the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center on averting targeted violence. Attendees were also provided with a very timely and poignant presentation from the Capital Area Intermediate Unit on building communities of belonging, care, concern, and commitment.”

Governor Wolf has been committed to ensuring that all students in Pennsylvania can learn, grow, and achieve in a safe and healthy school environment.

A total of more than $41.5 million in Safe School Targeted grants have been awarded to local education agencies (LEAs) across the commonwealth since 2015. This year a total of $8 million in grants have been awarded to 303 LEAs to help increase the safety at schools. This money will go towards the purchasing of equipment, enacting new programs, and hiring security personnel and school resource officers.

There are a total of four types of targeted safety grants offered by the PDE Office for Safe Schools. The grants are listed below:

  • Equipment grants of up to $25,000
  • Program grants of up to $20,000
  • School Police Officer (SPO) grants of up to $40,000
  • School Resource Officer (SRO) grants of up to $60,000

These grants will help LEAs reduce unnecessary student disciplinary actions, as well as promote an environment of greater productivity, safety, and learning; as well as enhance anti-violence efforts between schools and parents, local governments, law enforcement, and community organizations.

Governor Wolf also secured $190 million for school entities in his final budget to address student mental health programming and physical security enhancements. This will help to support long-term success for Pennsylvania students.