#18in18 – The Hashtag That Took Missouri By Storm

We all want our voice to be heard and being a member of the Missouri Parent Teacher Association gives each of us a voice that is 44,000 strong. This is the story about an idea that evolved into a movement in less than six months. This is the story about a student who became a voice to create change. This is the story of #18in18.

2017 was an eventful year in Missouri, but 2018 offered a chance for Missouri to further its reputation as a leader in juvenile justice. SB 793, also known as Raise the Age Missouri, broke through the cloud covering our capital city and offered a ray of sunshine that brought excitement and strength to a grassroots cause.

Missouri PTA has been a proud member of the Raise the Age Coalition, but it was at a meeting with our partners that campaign plans began with a focus on the use of student members to promote and bring awareness. Raise the Age SB793 could propel Missouri forward to match 44 other states with similar laws protecting minors from being prosecuted as adults and serving time in adult facilities. Without this piece of legislation, a child as young as nine (9) years old could be housed with an adult offender in the same cell.

“Youth housed in adult jails are four times more likely to commit suicide than youth in juvenile detention. Youth in adult prisons face high risks of violence and sexual assault, and they often spend up to 23 hours every day in solitary confinement, leading to physical and psychological harm.” – Raise the Age Missouri

Missouri PTA members found this gap in our state’s justice system to be reprehensible and its members chose to be part of the solution. The Missouri PTA Legislation and Advocacy Department utilized one of our most valuable assets, our Student Representatives, and brainstormed ideas to get involved and support this vital piece of legislation. Will Wiese, former Student Representative and current Advocacy Chair for MO PTA, proposed a social media campaign. The campaign was discussed with the coalition, and #18in18 was mutually agreed upon. The grassroots movement that began as a conversation quickly grew, and by the end of 2017, there were hundreds of #18in18 social media posts from school officials to students. The tagline: Because 17 is too young was also trending.

Parents were sharing stories of shock and horror as they imagined their young children in this vulnerable situation. Educators and community advocates publicly supported Raise the Age Missouri, passionately pleading with their communities to take a stand with them. Missouri’s students and youth spoke up and shared the social media posts and news articles, creating even more buzz.  

By the time Missouri PTA representatives attended the National PTA Legislative Conference in March 2018, #18in18 had reached advocates nation-wide, bringing attention to the large impact of a simple campaign.

On May 10, 2018, SB 793 was truly agreed upon and passed by a nearly unanimous vote. On May 30th, 2018, it was signed by both the Senate President Pro Tem and the House Speaker and delivered to the Governor’s desk. On June 1, 2018, less than 6 months after the bill was prefiled, SB 793 – Raise the Age Missouri- was signed by the Governor.

We all want our voices to be heard. This is the story with a happy ending because we spoke up, spoke loudly, and became part of the change that now protects Missouri’s children and their future.

Kristina Wilmoth
Vice President and Director of Legislation & Advocacy
Missouri PTA

National PTA Statement on Senate FY2019 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Bill

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Aug. 23, 2018)—The following statement can be attributed to National PTA President Jim Accomando:

“This evening, the U.S. Senate passed a spending bill that would fund labor, health and human services and education programs for Fiscal Year 2019. The bill includes a $541 million increase in funding for public education overall. It also dedicates $10 million for the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) program as well as includes $125 million increase for the Title IV-A block grant, which provides funding to states to support safe and health students, provide students with a well-rounded education and support effective use of technology in schools.

“While National PTA is pleased that funding is increased for public education overall as well as allocated for family engagement in education, our association is disappointed that the bill does not include an amendment introduced by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) that would have clarified and ensured that Title IV-A funds cannot be used to purchase guns or provide firearm training for educators. The Title IV-A block grant helps schools provide students with important resources, such as comprehensive mental health programs and drug, violence and bullying prevention programs, and is not intended to be used to put guns in schools.

“National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators. Teachers and administrators are there to educate our children and should not be acting as armed security in classrooms. Our association opposes any attempt to use federal funds to arm or provide firearm training for educators.

“National PTA urges Congress to enact a legislative solution in the appropriations process that ensures schools have the resources and capacity to provide a positive and healthier environment for all students. It is critical that Title IV-A funding is not diverted away from essential student support services to put guns in schools.

“National PTA’s board of directors adopted a new position statement on safe and supportive schools during its August board meeting. The statement outlines our association’s belief that teachers and administrators should not be armed and calls for a multi-faceted approach to address school safety that involves all stakeholders, especially students, parents and families.”

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health and welfare of children and youth. For more information, visit PTA.org.

Media Contact
Heidi May Wilson, National PTA
hmay@pta.org, (703) 518-1242

JC/DC Action Alert from National PTA

Please contact your Senators NOW!  This is an urgent matter and we need all our voices advocating with the same message: Oppose the use of these funds to arm teachers and support Senator Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) amendment prohibiting the use of Title IV-A funds to arm teachers.

Please read the full letter from National PTA below, familiarizing yourself with PTA’s Position Statement on Safe and Supportive Schools.

Don’t forget to call your Senator today!

For ALL children,

Kristina Wilmoth
VP Legislation & Advocacy
Missouri PTA


Dear Public Education Advocate,

Right now, the U.S. Department of Education is considering a proposal that would allow money that was intended to be used for mental health services and bullying prevention to be used to purchase guns. These funds under Title IV-A of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are designed to provide resources to support ongoing mental health and drug and violence prevention programs, not the one-time purchase of firearms.

Time is of the essence as the Senate is considering legislation today on this matter, so we ask that you urgently send a letter to your Senators urging them to oppose the use of these funds to arm teachers and support Senator Chris Murphy’s (D-CT) amendment that would prohibit the use of Title IV-A funds to arm teachers.

All you need to do is click on the “Take Action” button below to send a letter to your Senators. Thank you for your continued support to protect students and our nation’s schools.

For more information on National PTA’s position on school safety, please check out our position statement on Safe and Supportive Schools.
Thank you,
National PTA

Raise the Age SB 793 passed!

It’s all because of YOU!

SB 793, also known as #RaiseTheAgeMO, passed by a nearly-unanimous vote!  This bill changes the the age from 17 to 18 at which youth are automatically charged as adults.

Previously, Missouri law incarcerated children who were charged as adults in adult prisons.  While they have been charged with serious offences, these children have not yet been convicted of a crime. SB 793 requires children to be prosecuted in juvenile courts unless the child is certified as an adult or is being prosecuted for a traffic or curfew violation. Additionally, the bill specifies that no person under the age of 18 may be detained in an adult jail unless the person has been certified as an adult. This bill does NOT change the ability of the court to certify youth as adults for heinous crimes and hold these offenders in adult facilities.

“This is a good decision that is both obvious (better age-appropriate treatment, protection from the extreme dangers of incarceration with adults) and far-reaching (reduced recidivism, increased employment). It will bring with it long-term economic benefits for the state as a whole.

When the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, Missouri will join 45 states and Washington, D.C., that consider 18 the age of criminal responsibility.” -Kansas City Star May 28, 2018

Thank you to all who sent emails, calls, and advocated on social media. You made a difference for Missouri youth!

For all children,

Kristina Wilmoth, Vice President Legislation & Advocacy

JC/DC Action Alert: Gun Violence Prevention

This Friday, 6/1/2018, is Gun Violence Awareness Day.  National PTA is a partner in Everytown for Gun Safety’s Wear Orange Weekend, a weekend where people all over the country will show their support for gun violence prevention both online and at community events.

Missouri PTA encourages all of our membership to take a picture of yourself in your orange and post on social media using the hashtags #PTAProud #Enough and #EndGunViolence.  Make sure you tag Missouri PTA and National PTA so we can share the message nationally.

I think National PTA said it best in their position statement.

“School safety is a critical priority for all parents, educators, students and community members that cannot be taken for granted. We must make every attempt to reduce violence, especially incidents that involve firearms. National PTA recognizes the importance of parent involvement in the decision-making process in the development and implementation of school safety policies, including crisis response plans.
National PTA recognizes the importance of a safe learning environment in attaining the highest level of student learning and achievement. National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate to be gun-free but defers to local collaborative decision-making to allow for the presence of law enforcement deployed in community-oriented policing.”

Join me and PTA advocates around the country this weekend and wear orange!  Show your support for gun violence prevention and share your story!

For every child,

Kristina Wilmoth, VP Legislation & Advocacy
Missouri PTA