The Flexible Framework in Law and Policy
Much of TLPI’s policy advocacy has focused on incorporating the Flexible Framework into education laws and policies in the state of Massachusetts. The goals of this strategy are 1) to ensure that new education reform initiatives have a focus on the “whole school environment,” as opposed to a narrow programmatic focus; 2) to ensure that reforms “cover all the bases” of school operations and do not leave anything critical out; and 3) to help schools align the many initiatives they are asked to implement by giving these initiatives a common structure based on the core operational functions of schools. Below are examples of state-level laws and policies that have incorporated the structure of the Flexible Framework.
An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools — provisions signed into law on August 13, 2014!!
This law establish the Framework as the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework, which will serve as the overarching statewide infrastructure to assist schools to create safe and supportive environments where all children can learn and succeed. Click here for the latest information.
“Trauma Sensitive Schools” Grant Program
MGL c. 69, § 1N instructs the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to establish a grant program to assists school districts with “the development and establishment of in-school regular education programs and services to address within the regular education school program the educational and psycho-social needs of children whose behavior interferes with learning, particularly those who are suffering from the traumatic effects of exposure to violence.” Pursuant to this law, DESE has established the Safe and Supportive Learning Environments (SSLE) Grant Program, which has come to be known as the “Trauma Sensitive Schools” Grant Program. DESE has used the Flexible Framework to structure both the RFP and the grantee assessment tool for this program.
Massachusetts Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force
Section 19 of Chapter 321 of Massachusetts Acts of 2008 established a task force on behavioral health and public schools. The Task Force’s mandate was to “build a framework to promote collaborative services and supportive school environments for children, to develop and pilot an assessment tool based on the framework…and to make recommendations for improving the capacity of schools to implement the framework.”
Over two and a half years the Task Force developed and piloted a Framework and Assessment Tool (based on TLPI’s Flexible Framework) designed to help schools create safe and supportive environments with collaborative services. In August 2011, the Task Force issued its final report and recommendations to the Governor and the legislature. An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools aims to implement these recommendations.
Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan
The comprehensive bullying prevention law enacted in Massachusetts in 2009—Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2010—required the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a statewide Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan. The law required that plan “shall be consistent with the behavioral health and public schools framework developed by the department in accordance with section 19 of chapter 321 of the acts of 2008.” The Model Plan has been used by many schools and districts as a blueprint for developing their own bullying prevention and intervention plans. Much of Chapter 92 is permanently codified at MGL c. 71, §37O.
Guidance on Bullying Prevention and Special Education Students
The Massachusetts anti-bullying law requires that special education teams include provisions related to bullying prevention in the IEPs of certain students. In order to assist educators and parents with IEP development for these students, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education published a resource guide entitled Addressing the Needs of Students with Disabilities in the IEP and in School Bullying Prevention and Intervention Efforts. This resource guide is organized according to the six elements of the Flexible Framework and weaves together suggestions and considerations at the whole school level and for particular children as their families and educators complete the IEP process.
Guidelines for the Implementation of Social and Emotional Learning Curricula
The Massachusetts anti-bullying law also required the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to “publish guidelines for the implementation of social and emotional learning curricula in kindergarten to grade 12.” The law defined social and emotional learning as “the processes by which children acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and constructively handle challenging social situations.” DESE has used the Flexible Framework to organize these guidelines for schools.
Truancy Prevention Program Certification Process
In 2012, the Massachusetts legislature passed a comprehensive reform of the commonwealth’s Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system. Among the law’s many provisions, it encouraged schools to establish truancy prevention programs that “evaluate the level of out-of-school support for students and families and address conditions that make students more likely to become truant.” It also required the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education “to adopt regulations establishing a truancy prevention program certification process” and required that the process be “consistent with the behavioral health and public schools framework developed pursuant to section 19 of chapter 321 of the acts of 2008.” (The relevant section of the law is permanently codified at MGL c. 69, § 1O.)