Pittsburgh Public Schools is entering into a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] with the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police with an aim to foster a relationship of cooperation and mutual support to maintain a safe school environment.
PPS board members approved the MOU during Wednesday’s legislative meeting.
The purpose of the memorandum is to establish procedures to be followed when specific incidents occur on school property, in school-sponsored activities or on a conveyance, such as a school bus providing transportation, as described in the state’s Safe Schools Act.
It requires that the district notify the police of incidents involving various offenses under the state’s crimes code, including possession of weapons, aggravated assault, kidnapping and stalking, among others.
It does not, however, require reporting of terroristic threats, as some MOUs between the city and other schools do.
“I hope everyone understands that this MOU is supposed to protect our students from harm. That could be caused when police are involved in student discipline. We don’t want our children to get entangled in the justice system. So it puts some protections in place. And I’m glad that we’re finally getting that done,” said board member Pam Harbin during the meeting.
The MOU says that law enforcement authorities will prioritize helping the school district prevent delinquent acts through preventative measures such as support services or restorative practices while minimizing disruption to learning environments.
The MOU asks law enforcement to consider the reasonableness of making arrests and instructs school authorities to invite law enforcement representatives to behavior-support trainings.
PublicSource reported in June that the district and the city’s Bureau of Police lacked an MOU, in defiance of state law. Emails later obtained by PublicSource revealed that in 2020 and 2021 Harbin was working toward an MOU with Lindsay Powell, then assistant chief of staff to then-Mayor Peduto.
The school board also approved a revised policy that prohibits the possession of weapons, any look-alike items or self-defense items in school settings. The policy requires all students, staff, parents or guardians to be informed about the policy annually. Superintendent Wayne Walters said that the district will work on communicating about the policy revision.
The board also passed the general fund budget for 2023 on a 5-4 vote. Board members Kevin Carter, Tracey Reed, Jamie Piotrowski and Gene Walker voted against passing the budget.
The $675.9 million budget is an increase of 1.5% from the previous year. The district’s revenue projection remains at $666.7 million, creating an operating deficit of $9.2 million.
Lajja is the K-12 education reporter at PublicSource. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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