Celebrating Handwashing Awareness Week

By California State PTA’s Health and Community Concerns Commission

The holiday season is upon us along with cold and flu season! California State PTA’s Health and Community Concerns Commission wants to remind you that December 5-11 is National Handwashing Awareness Week — so wash your hands!   

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular hand washing is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. Whether you are at home, at work, traveling, or out in the community, handwashing with soap and water can protect you and your family.

How to wash your hands:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

When to wash your hands:

You can help yourself and your loved ones stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Do you have questions about when to wash with soap versus using hand sanitizers? Click this link to the Centers for Disease Control website for a handy guide. 

Family Engagement Monthly Activities – September Family Walking Challenge

By Family Engagement and Health & Community Concerns Commissions

Each month the Family Engagement Commission is going to share an activity that you can do with your school, council, or district.  The goal is simple– let’s get families having fun and discovering new things together. 

For September, we are partnering with the Health and Community Concerns Commission to encourage families to participate in our Family Walking Challenge.  Gather the entire family to take a nightly stroll or an early morning power walk to end or start your day.  Walkthrough your neighborhood, walk to school, or even walk the aisles of the grocery store– anything where the family is being active together. 

Every week we will be asking you to share your progress with us (and we might even send some surprises to folks who participate)!  If you would like to join us on this challenge please visit https://forms.gle/RLZS4NnQeebrRQk16 .  We will put you on the mailing list for future challenges AND we will give you weekly inspiration to help you stick with it.

So put on a good pair of shoes, grab the family and embark on this month-long walking challenge.

Family Walking Challenge Image

Link to Unit/ Council/ District Leader Information Sheet

Family Walking Challenge Parent Guide (flier)


Step Tracker

Color Calendar

B&W Calendar


Advice on Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle – During COVID-19, and Year-Round

Although we’ve all learned a lot over the last eight months about how to stay healthy in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, we wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle year round.

Exercise Regularly. Keep your families’ bodies moving! Encourage your children to exercise. Staying physically fit can boost endorphins and help you feel more optimistic while sheltering in place. There are plenty of exercises and activities you can all do from the comfort of your own home, or out together as a family, while still maintaining social distancing:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Workout videos
  • Dancing
  • Video game workouts

Eat Healthy. Fuel your body with healthy foods. Moving our bodies is only half the battle when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Provide your family’s immune systems with food that will fight back, especially since the Coronavirus is still a big risk:

  • Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and help increase white blood cells, which are key in fighting infections.
  • Red bell peppers contain almost 3 times the amount of vitamin C of an orange.
  • Garlic adds flavor to your food and has valuable immune-boosting properties thanks to its sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
  • Yogurt has live and active cultures that help stimulate the immune system. Plus it’s also packed with vitamin D which helps fight diseases.

Be Mindful of Mental Health.

  • Find ways to interact with others while complying with social distancing rules. Lack of everyday social interaction can take a toll on our mental health.
  • Check in with your children with regard to their mental health on a daily basis, and be proactive about managing emotions.
  • Schedule online meet-ups with friends and family members on a regular basis.
  • Make sure your family is maintaining hobbies that they enjoy. An idle mind has the potential to wander to a negative space, so have your children fill that time with something they love to do. Then, better yet, have them teach you about it!
  • Staying educated about your family’s health is a lifelong process.

For more information, visit:

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Protecting Our Children from Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking of youth has been escalating over the past decade and is prevalent in all major California cities. Sexual and labor exploitation are problems that touch our schools, as victims can be students or their family members. Recruiters can be people they know, relatives or people they meet online. Youth can also be trafficked while attending school and recruitment can happen on campus, making this a critical school safety issue.

Youth from the foster care systems and those who are fleeing abuse are at the greatest risk of commercial sexual exploitation, but young people of any background can meet a sex trafficker online, on a bus or at the mall. The trauma can be so great that many may not identify themselves as victims or ask for help.

Human trafficking education is now a required component of the health education framework for California public schools. The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act of 2018 mandate specifies that human trafficking education is provided at least once in middle and at least once in high school. But it is equally important to discuss this issue at home.

Technology Enables Sex Trafficking

Traffickers can use social media and gaming sites to recruit unsuspecting youth. Predators can learn about our kids through their social feeds then manipulate them through fake profiles. Pedophiles and sex buyers have their own social media site in the dark web to share photos and tips on how to go undetected when buying children for sex.

Apps and sites like KIK, Instagram and Snapchat and video games like Fortnite make it easy for predators to target youth while hiding behind a wall of anonymity. By sharing and chatting with strangers, youth can come in contact with the wrong person who says just the right thing to ensnare them.

What Parents Can Do…

Ask “What if” Questions

Role playing is a powerful way to teach kids how to handle difficult situations.  Discuss potential situations that could occur in different scenarios like sports practice, walking to a friend’s house, outdoor festivals, Halloween, the movie theater, etc. These “what would you do” conversations can take place at the dinner table or on the drive to school, and may help ease apprehension about the topic.

Ask questions like:

  • “What would you do if a good-looking older guy came up to you and said he thought you were pretty enough to be a model? Would you give him your phone number?”
  • “Is it okay for a stranger to take pictures of you?”
  • “Do you know anyone at school that has an older boyfriend?”
  • “Have any of your friends ever talked about getting paid to go on dates?”
  • “Has anyone ever sent you a picture that made you feel uncomfortable?”
  • “What would you do if someone sent you an inappropriate picture or asked you for one?

The conversation can also continue with a talk about internet safety and “stranger danger”.

Know the Signs

Traffickers often pose as friends or boyfriends and groom their victims prior to commercially sexually exploiting them. By informing children about the commonly tactics used by traffickers to recruit victims, such as dating “Romeo pimps”, peer recruiting and fake modeling or acting jobs, we can help reduce their vulnerability.

Know your Child’s Friends and Whereabouts

Install a safety app on your phones. There are many safety apps available for IOS and Android phones. Here are some apps to consider.

Educate Yourself

Know How to Respond

What Schools Can Do…

  1. Trauma-informed training on commercial sexual exploitation of children for school staff
  2. Referral protocols for school staff
  3. Human trafficking education for students and supports groups for high-risk youth
  4. Abuse education for elementary schools
  5. Family information nights
  6. Posters and awareness campaigns to encourage youth to seek help

Learn more from the U.S. Department of Education: Human Trafficking in America’s Schools

Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation: Training Tool for School Administrators




Youth Mental Health Awareness

Mental health affects the way our children think, feel, relate to others and behave. Like physical health, mental health can and does evolve throughout life.

Symptoms of mental health conditions are often invisible and can be easy to miss.  It may be difficult to distinguish age-appropriate thoughts, feelings and behaviors from those that may be signs for concern and warrant professional intervention.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Intensity – How intense are your child’s behaviors, thoughts or emotions?
  • Frequency – How often does your child feel or behave this way?
  • Duration – How long do these individual episodes or periods last?
  • Functionality – Most of all, how well is your child functioning at home, at school or with friends?

Emotions or behaviors that are more intense, frequent or longer lasting than most other children your child’s age and that are causing difficulties in their daily functioning may be signs for concern and might warrant a discussion with your pediatrician or a mental health professional.

Teach your children that mental health is as important as physical health by modeling that there is nothing wrong with seeking help when there are signs for concern.  The earlier you intervene, the more likely your child can receive the help they need and prevent a larger issue down the road.

For more information on healthy developmental markers in children and youth and signs for concern, see the booklet from The Youth Mental Health Project at http://ymhproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Booklet_2018_updated.pdf.

Promoting Good Nutrition

Take a look around your school building or campus. How does your school promote good nutrition?

Take Action 

Nutrition promotion should happen in multiple settings throughout the school building. Reinforce nutrition messages to students by using these strategies from Action For Healthy Kids:

  • Hang posters in classrooms, hallways, the office and the cafeteria that promote healthy eating. Get approval from your school administration to ensure posters will not be removed
  • Host a taste test. A taste test is a great way to promote healthy options and garner enthusiasm around trying new foods
  • Plan a fun and interactive family event around nutrition promotion. Take advantage of events like parent-teacher conferences, when you have a built-in audience, to provide healthy snacks and nutrition tips
  • Plan a health & wellness fairto bring in community partners to provide nutrition resources
  • Infuse nutrition messages into all school communication channels when possible
  • If your school does not have a school newsletter, create a wellness-focused one to promote healthy eating and physical activity to families
  • Share short nutrition and physical activity tips during the morning announcements.
  • Allow students to visit the water fountain throughout the school day and to carry water bottles in class. Send a letter home to parents to encourage them to participate in this practice
  • Promote a healthy topic each month on a healthy bulletin board in the main office
  • Spruce up your cafeteria with murals, artwork, posters and table tents to promote good nutrition during breakfast and lunch.


  • Be a healthy role model for your kids
  • Be consistent. Make sure celebrations, rewards and family events promote healthy or non-food options
  • Children learn best when they receive information through multiple communication channels. At a minimum, promote nutrition in the classroom, cafeteria and at home
  • If displaying posters, make sure messages are age appropriate so all students can understand
  • Work with your school’s art teacher to create posters, signs and other artwork that reinforce healthy eating messages. Display the art all around your school building
  • Consider dedicating a student group to promoting healthy eating throughout the school.
  • If creating materials from scratch, contact local community artists, graphic designers and/or high school/college students to help design and develop materials.

Additional Resources

Free, printable healthy bulletin board templates (Iowa Department of Education)

Team Nutrition: Free nutrition curricula, posters and other resources (United States Department of Agriculture)

Tips for Teachers to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)

Nibbles for Health: A free nutrition newsletter than can be printed and mailed home to parents (United States Department of Agriculture)


Talking to Children About School and Community Shootings

Just like adults, children and teenagers are better able to cope with upsetting news when they understand more about an event and how it might impact them. Often what children and teens need the most is to have someone they trust listen to their questions and concerns, accept their feelings, and be there for them.

Tips from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement on how to talk to your child:

  • Don’t worry about knowing the perfect thing to say
  • Listen to your child’s thoughts and concerns
  • Answer their questions with simple direct and honest responses. Remember that answers and reassurance should be at the level of the child’s understanding
  • Provide appropriate reassurance and support
  • Know when to seek outside help such as when your child continues to be upset for several days or seems unable to recover from their fears or is having trouble in school or home or with their friends.

National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement flier: Talking to Children About Terrorist Attacks and School and Community Shootings in the News


Impact of Heat on Student Health and Performance

It may technically be autumn, but many communities in California are still experiencing a heatwave, and the number and severity of extreme heat events is increasing. Poorly maintained and older HVAC systems in schools may not be able to respond to higher outdoor temperatures, putting our kid’s health and school performance at risk.

Children are more sensitive to the effects of heat, according to a bulletin from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Children have:

  • Higher physical activity levels
  • Higher core body temperatures
  • Higher metabolic rates
  • Larger surface to body mass ratings

These factors can increase a child’s chance of experiencing heat stress. High temperatures and humidity can have adverse impacts on physical education by triggering coughs and asthma. Heat impacts cognitive function including reaction time, information processing, memory and reasoning, effecting a child’s performance in school.

Cooling the air during extreme heat events can be limited by aging infrastructure and high energy bills on tight school budgets!  Here are some other things schools can do to reduce indoor temperatures:

  • Use shades to block direct sunlight from heating indoor spaces.
  • Reduce indoor heat sources such as artificial lighting and machinery.
  • Limit outdoor activity during peak temperatures.
  • Provide clean drinking water to keep students hydrated during extreme heat events
  • Build a green roof or paint the roofs white to reduce thermal gain.
  • Use plants along south facing windows to provide shade and reduce direct sunlight.
  • Keep air vents clear of blockage and maintain HVAC systems to reduce energy usage.
  • Use cool pavement in your school parking lot to reflect more solar energy.

EPA Bulletin: How Temperature Impacts Students

Is Your Child’s School Drinking Water Safe?

A new law that went into effect in California in January requires that schools have their drinking water tested for lead contamination by July of 2019. Schools built after 2010, private schools and those already required to test their drinking water are exempt.

Lead poses a health risk for children and vulnerable adults such as pregnant women, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even low levels of lead in the blood have been shown to affect cognitive abilities, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.

The new law requires schools to test up to five water sources, not a thorough examination when lead contamination can vary widely from water fixture to water fixture. Water outlets with lead levels over 15 parts per billion must be shut down or repaired. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

For information on how your school can request free lead testing, please see this flier. Requests must be received before November 1, 2019.

Flier: How to request Free Lead testing in your K-12 school

EdSource Flier: Lead in California School Water: What You Need To Know

Interactive Map: Sampling Results for Schools Tested for Lead

EdSource Special Report: Tainted Taps: Lead Puts California Students at Risk