One subject we will likely see in the form of a bill this year is the “Safety Opportunity Scholarship”. This idea builds upon the concept that students in persistently dangerous schools can transfer to another school. According to a recent NewsOK guest editorial, since 2003 no school in Oklahoma has ever met our state’s definition of ‘persistently dangerous’. While most of us would interpret this as a positive statistic, it doesn’t assist those supporting school choice and public education dollars going to private schools. The author of the SOS model legislation suggests the following:
Under an SOS program, parents with a reasonable apprehension for their children’s safety — including instances of bullying — could transfer them immediately to safer schools of their choice within or beyond their resident school districts, including public, charter, virtual or private schools.
State Superintendent Barresi has also endorsed this model legislation via a spokesperson. It is strange, however, that this follows a decision not to renew our Safe Schools Helpline contract. This service was used in my district for students to anonymously call a hotline and report anything: bullying, suicidal thoughts, violence, drugs or other criminal activity. Beacuse my district was not made aware that the statewide contract was not renewed, the helpline number continued to be promoted to students through magnets endorsing a safety campaign. A Safe Schools Helpline employee notified the district we were no longer under contract after a student utilized the helpline service. It’s puzzling to show support for a state mandated “SOS” voucher, while not renewing a student safety program.
We must expect responsible, consistent actions regarding student safety from everyone involved, including our elected officials. Bullying is a horrible problem in our society, and the solution will involve the participation of students, parents, and educators within the district environment.
On a positive note, we had a fantastic PLAC meeting in Edmond last week. It was great to see the number of parents eager to be involved in these important discusions, and a next meeting in the OKC area will be announced soon. The following districts were represented: Edmond, Piedmont, Putnam City, Bethany, Yukon, Mid-Del, Moore, Norman, Millwood, Little Axe, and Harrah. We look forward to working with parents and educators across the state this year – thanks for your continued efforts!