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Fox Chapel Area students behind idea for new legislation

November 24, 2018

Outgoing state legislator Dom Costa has proposed a new school safety law drafted largely by Fox Chapel Area students.

The legislation would require schools to conduct annual drills to help students practice emergency response protocols in the absence of an adult -- finding a classroom phone, calling designated contacts and describing locations for rescue.

“We often wonder what we can do to protect our children, but we rarely ask what students can do to protect themselves,” freshman Elizabeth Crookston said. “There are plenty of emergency drills at schools, but these drills are focusing on... fires, school shooters and emergency weather.”

Crookston said students are taught to rely on teachers for emergency instructions but teens should know how to solve problems themselves.

“Many students don’t even know where the phone is in their classrooms,” she said.

Crookston and other district students were inspired to a new level of activism following gun violence around the country, she said. Specifically, in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Fox Chapel Area’s Social Activism Club solicited 1,000 letters of support for gun control from the community which were delivered to local politicians.

Members of the group met with their representatives both in Washington and across the Lower Valley.

They met with Costa, D-21st, in May and he challenged them to devise legislation to improve school safety. The former Pittsburgh Police Chief said public safety issues remain a priority to him.

“One of our most essential roles as parents is to send our children out into the world as prepared for life as possible,” said Costa, who was defeated in his bid for reelection during the May primary.

“Schools further carry this out by enriching their minds and preparing them for the worst through fire, natural disaster and security drills. While such drills better equip our children to handle some safety threats, they do not prepare them for emergency situations in which an adult is not present or responsive.”

Costa introduced House Bill 2748 earlier this month but there are no more voting days left in the current session. He plans to transfer the bill to another senior member of the House for reintroduction in the next legislative session.

Fox Chapel Area’s Social Activism Club, founded in 2017, has 135 members dedicated to social justice and inclusivity. For more, visit fcasd.edu.

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