HANOVER, Md. – The Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) today held its first field visit at Frank Hebron-Harman Elementary School in Hanover, Maryland, to focus on school climate and prevention efforts implemented by local schools. The Commission heard from administrators, principals, teachers, students and a national expert about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a framework designed to improve social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students.

The Commission was represented by FCSS Chair U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos; Beth Williams, Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy at the Department of Justice; Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Department of Health and Human Services; and Christopher Krebs, performing the duties of Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.

The field visit began with a tour of several first grade classrooms. The Commission participated in Angela Snyder’s morning community circle activity where everyone welcomed their neighbor with a greeting and fist-bump, followed by several discussion questions to promote kindness. The group then visited Alexandra Lyons’ class to take part in a reading activity and finished the tour with a visit to Kimberly Chicca’s class where they worked with students on writing prompts for a book they were reading.

Following the tour, the Commission first heard from national PBIS expert Dr. George Sugai of the University of Connecticut, who gave an overview of how PBIS links school climate, social emotional development and character development and emphasizes a systems-based approach to organizing practices. Next, Kathy Lane, Dr. Virginia Dolan and Kathy Rockefeller presented on Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ implementation of PBIS within Hebron-Harman and throughout the school district.

After a lunch provided by the school cafeteria, there were three panels led by principals and administrators, teachers and a student. Participants of each panel are listed below.

Principal and administrator panel:

Rebecca Blasingame-White, Frank Hebron-Harman Elementary School
Paul DeRoo, Bates Middle School
Jason Williams, Northeast High School
Stacey Smith, Old Mill High School

Teacher panel:

Alicia Schnitzler, Frank Hebron-Harman Elementary School
Casey Hunt, Bates Middle School
Chessil Johnson, Northeast High School
Angela Bernholz, Old Mill High School

Student presentation:

Briah Barksdale, Glen Burnie High School

The field visit concluded with a question and answer session between the Commission and panelists. Secretary DeVos asked panelists how educators could ensure their PBIS practices remain fresh and flexible based upon students’ varying needs, and how administrators could best ensure effective implementation of the program in schools over time.

Secretary DeVos offered the following comments:

“Today’s field visit was a very useful look at how schools can take deliberate steps to help make students feel included and valued. Tools like PBIS can help improve school climate and, in turn, safety. We also benefited greatly from the presentations of the experts, educators and students. As the Commission’s work proceeds, we will continue to visit places where concrete steps have been taken to help keep our students safe.”

Video of the event can be found here.