Articles in the Bullying category

Experts show best practices for school safety plans in NSBA webinar

One week after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, school officials again are asking whether they have enough measures in place to try to prevent a similar tragedy.

Two school safety experts showed best practices and answered urgent questions during a Dec. 21 webinar, “Planning For and Managing the School Crisis You Hope Never Comes,” sponsored by the National School Boards Association’s Office of General Counsel and the Council of School Attorneys (COSA). The webinar was designed to be an overview of tactics and resources to prevent and respond to a wide range of catastrophes, from natural disasters, shootings and other crimes, or technological and medical emergencies, such as a pandemic flu.

School safety practices have evolved tremendously since the Columbine High School shootings 13 years ago, said presenter Shamus O’Meara, a partner with the Minneapolis law firm Johnson Condon, Attorneys at Law P.A., who represented and advised the Red Lake and Rocori school districts, both in Minnesota, in their school shooting incidents. The second presenter, Rick Kaufman, was the communications director for Colorado’s Jefferson County School District during the Columbine shootings and is executive director of community relations and emergency management for the Bloomington Public Schools, also in Minnesota.

School safety plans no longer involve a simple grid that lives in a drawer—instead, they are comprehensive plans that address strategies for prevention and mitigation, preparedness, recovery, and response. The presenters encouraged school districts to build such a plan in partnership with other agencies, including law enforcement, local government, and public health. School climate and programs to deal with issues such as bullying are key to preventing incidents as well.

Out of more than 180 participants on the webinar, 86 percent reported having reviewed their school districts’ safety plan in the past year, which is a good sign, O’Meara said.

An important consideration is community involvement and recognizing the community’s values when making choices within a comprehensive plan, he added.

School officials should also practice those crisis plans regularly and ensure all new staff are adequately trained. An outside safety audit can correct weaknesses and a safety team can address ongoing needs and new issues that arise.

The speakers did not make any recommendations on the issue of allowing school administrators or teachers to carry guns. Another issue that surfaced on Friday was a proposal by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for a national school safety program that would pay for armed school safety officers at any school that wanted one. Major issues to consider include how to train school staff and how frequently, how the guns would be carried or stored, and whether the money could be better spent on other violence prevention programs, O’Meara said.

If a disaster does occur, Kaufman offered these–and many other–recommendations for communications with parents, school staff, and the media:

  • Mobilize a response team that shields the site, students, and staff from outside forces;
  • Make a call for assistance before it’s too late;
  • Understand it’s not “business as usual”;
  • Act in the short-term, but think in the long-term;
  • Know key messages and stick to them;
  • Don’t allow media to dominate school officials’ time, attention.

School districts looking for resources to update or revamp their existing school safety plans should first contact their state school boards association, COSA Director Sonja Trainor suggested.

An audio recording of the webinar is available on NSBA’s school safety resources website. Other resources that the speakers recommended include:

OSHA Statutory Requirement

National Fire Protection Association; NFPA 1600 Emergency Preparedness Standard: Voluntary standards for prevention, mitigation, preparation, response and recovery from emergencies for public, non-profit and private entities

National Incident Management System (NIMS)

The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States; U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education

Prior Knowledge of Potential School-Based Violence: Information Students Learn May Prevent a Targeted Attack U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education

 U.S. Department of Education guidance on FERPA, October 2007

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Healthy Students

FEMA

U.S. Department of Education Emergency Planning

Emergency Response and Crisis Management Technical Assistance (TA) Center

Practical Information on Crisis Planning

“Emergency Exercises: An Effective Way to Validate School Safety Plans,” ERCM Express Newsletter, U.S. Department of Education

 A Guide to Vulnerability Assessments: Key Principles for Safe Schools, U.S. Department of Education

Action Guide for Institutions of Higher Learning, U.S. Department of Education

School Safety: Lessons Learned, U.S. Attorneys Office, Minn.

Complete Crisis Communication and Management Manual, National School Public Relations Association, Rick Kaufman (2009)

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 21st, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Bullying, Council of School Attorneys, School Security|Tags: , , , |

NSBA to Court: School officials must be given flexibility in handling student harassment

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to rule that school districts should not be held financially liable for harassment related to a student’s disability if school officials took appropriate steps to stop it.

NSBA, along with the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), the Alabama School Boards Association, and the Georgia School Superintendents Association, has filed an amicus brief in Long v. Murray County School District asking the court to uphold the standard set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court case Davis v. Monroe when determining whether school officials are liable under federal civil rights laws for peer harassment. The Davis precedent allows victims to collect monetary compensation when school officials are deliberately indifferent to known harassment based on a protected category that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive harassment that it denies the victim access to the educational program.

“It is important that the court recognize that local school officials, who work closely with students and parents on a regular basis, are knowledgeable about community resources, and understand their students’ educational and emotional needs, know best how to prevent and respond to harassment in their own schools,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

The parents’ legal arguments rely on informal guidance given by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) through a October 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter that stated school district officials could be held responsible for claims of unreported harassment. In a December 2010 response to that letter, NSBA warned that the guidance overstepped the Supreme Court standard set by Davis and that it vastly expanded the definition of discrimination and harassment, circumventing precedent established by the courts. In a March 2011 letter to NSBA, OCR officials dismissed concerns that the guidance would lead to numerous and costly lawsuits against school districts; however, this case has proven otherwise.

“The federal government wants a one-size fits-all approach, but such a rule would require school districts to implement strategy after strategy even when the misconduct was isolated or minimal,” said Negrón. “The federal government’s approach creates an illusion of safety that would subject thousands of school districts to costly and unnecessary lawsuits diverting vital resources away from the classroom.”

Among other claims, the case will determine whether the Murray County school district in Georgia should be held liable under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act for money damages as a result of the suicide of a student with Asperger’s Syndrome. After the student reported incidents of peer bullying during his freshman and sophomore years, school officials responded effectively to all known occurrences at school. The student committed suicide at home during his junior year.

A date for oral argument date in the case has not been set yet. Phil Hartley and Martha Pearson, members of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys, and partners in Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, LLP, are representing the Murray County school district. Hartley also serves as General Counsel for the Georgia School Boards Association.

Joetta Sack-Min|November 30th, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Council of School Attorneys, Crisis Management, Discipline, Policy Formation, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference to feature Geena Davis, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Diane Ravitch

Registration and housing for the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) 73rd Annual Conference, to be held April 13 to 15 in San Diego, is now open. Join more than 5,000 school board members and administrators for an event with hundreds of sessions, workshops, and exhibits that will help your school district programs and help you hone your leadership and management skills.

General Session speakers include Academy Award winning speaker Geena Davis, who will be speaking about her work off-screen as founder of the non-profit Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media. Davis works with film and television creators to reduce gender stereotyping and increase the number of female characters in media targeted for children 11 and under. She will explain how media plays a key role in children’s development, and how her organization is making a difference.

Television star Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the world’s most engaging and passionate science advocates, will headline Sunday’s General Session. From PBS to NASA to Presidential Commissions, organizations have depended on Tyson’s down-to-earth approach to astrophysics. He has been a frequent guest on “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report”, R”eal Time with Bill Maher”, and “Jeopardy!”. Tyson hopes to reach “all the people who never knew how much they’d love learning about space and science.”

Monday’s General Session features acclaimed researcher and author Diane Ravitch, who has become one of the most passionate voices for public schools. Her most recent book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, makes the case that public education today is in peril and offers a clear prescription for improving public schools.

Learn more about the common core standards, new research on differentiated learning styles, and teaching “unteachable” children at the Focus On lecture series. Learn about new technologies for your classrooms as part of the Technology + Learning programs.

Special discounted rates are available for early registrants who sign up by Jan. 10, 2013. NSBA National Affiliate and Technology Leadership Network Districts save even more.

View the conference brochure for more details. Be sure to check the Annual Conference website for updates and more information.

 

 

NSBA’s General Counsel shows strategies to address school bullying

“The one common thread from the many perspectives on school bullying is that advocates on all sides care deeply about kids,” National School Boards Association (NSBA) General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. writes in a blog for “Transforming Learning.”

Negrón discusses a recent guide that shows ways to host and facilitate respectful discussions and recognize other individuals’ and groups’ differences without engaging in bullying. The guide, “Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools,” is a project of the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Education Project/First Amendment Center, which collaborated with NSBA and other education, civil rights, and legal advocacy groups.

The issue of school bullying is fraught with emotion and also can lead to lawsuits and legal action against school officials. It’s important that teachers and school recognize forms of bullying, but also know how to use those instances as teachable moments for all students, Negrón notes.

Transforming Learning is a project of the Learning First Alliance and is hosted by Education Week, the nation’s leading education news source.

Joetta Sack-Min|August 2nd, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Reports, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , , |

Guidelines offer “teachable moment” for tough First Amendment issues

A coalition that includes NSBA and 16 other education, religious, and civil liberties groups has released new guidelines for school districts to combat harassment and bullying while upholding student’s First Amendment rights to express views that may be upsetting to others.

“It is important to distinguish between speech that expresses an idea, including religious or political viewpoints — even ideas some find offensive — and speech that is intended to cause, or school officials demonstrate is likely to cause, emotional or psychological harm to the listener,” says Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools. “Words that convey ideas are one thing; words that are used as assault weapons are quite another.”

Simply put: The former is protected by the First Amendment, the latter is not. But while that principle may seem simple in the abstract, it is anything but straightforward in the real world.  Indeed, as NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. said Tuesday at a news conference in Washington, both the U.S. Department of Education and the courts have struggled with this issue.

While the guide “relies on our contemporary understanding of the state of the law, it is not of itself a legal document,” Negrón said. “To the contrary, it is more of a policy guide that roots itself in the best interests of students.  In this context, it means taking the natural tension between the right to be safe and secure and the right to freely express one’s self and identifying the teachable moment that makes sense for students. “ 

The project was organized by the American Jewish Committee and the Religious Freedom Education Project  Education Project and endorsed by NSBA along with American Association of School Administrators; ASCD; Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School; Christian Educators Association International; Christian Legal Society; Hindu American Foundation; Islamic Networks Group and its affiliates; Islamic Society of North America; Muslim Public Affairs Council; National Association of Evangelicals; National Association of State Boards of Education; National Council for the Social Studies; Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.  

According to the guidelines, students should be able to attend public schools where they are free to share their views and engage in discussions about religious and political differences while simultaneously attending safe schools that prohibit discrimination, bullying, and harassment.  

Negrón noted: “This guidance framework will allow educators and schools not to simply legislate prohibitions of conduct or speech or ideas, but to engage students about the importance of civil discourse, respect for the safety and rights of others and teach the value of thoughtful discussion particularly about very deeply held personal views and beliefs.“

Lawrence Hardy|May 22nd, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Discipline, Diversity, Religion, School Law|Tags: , |

The week in blogs: Who’s got the most determined students?

Here’s a little quiz about cultural norms, brought to you with the help of education blogger Joanne Jacobs. Match the three hypothetical comments – which have to do with how young people view luck, talent, opportunity, destiny, etc. – with students in North America, Europe, or China:

  1. 1.     “My father was a plumber, so I’m going to be a plumber.”
  2. 2.     “I’m [either] born talented in mathematics or I’m born less talented, so I’ll study something else.”
  3. 3.     “[My progress] depends on the effort I invest, and I can succeed if I study hard.”

If you said No. 3 must be North America because of its work ethic, democratic institutions, or social mobility – well, you would be wrong, according to Andreas Schleicher, who runs the international test known as PISA. The correct answer is China. (For the record, Europe is 1, and North America is 2.)

At least, that’s Schleicher’s opinion, expressed in a BBC article, China: The World’s Cleverest County, by Sean Coughlan.

We’ve heard about — and perhaps over-generalized about — the Asian work ethic. But Jacobs is skeptical that simply working hard and believing you can succeed is enough to get you ahead in an authoritarian nation where students, like everyone else, are routinely sorted, and where the well-connected have a distinct advantage over the poor.

Speaking of China and its education system, read the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss on the latest efforts by ambitious Chinese students and teachers to raise standardized test scores: Hooking up students to IVs of amino acids, which they believe enhance memory.

Moving across the ocean: Was Mitt Romney a prep school bully some four decades ago? Does it matter? Read This Week in Education’s Alexander Russo about a provocative Washington Post article on the presidential candidate’s years at Michigan’s Cranbrook School.

On Tuesday, NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant will speak at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce forum on school boards and the role of businesses with them, notes Eduwonk

Lawrence Hardy|May 11th, 2012|Categories: 21st Century Skills, Assessment, Bullying, Comparative Education, High Schools, Student Achievement|Tags: , , |

The week in blogs: School violence, in many forms

School violence was in the news this week after a 17-year-old boy opened fire at a suburban Ohio high school and killed three students. One of the more provocative blogs on the incident, found in Time magazine, is titled: Ohio School Shooting: Are Parents to Blame? It noted that across the United States approximately 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms.

“We are not saying that every time a kid does something wrong, a parent must be held responsible or be blamed,” write the authors, Erika and Nicholas Christakis. “But a system that focuses its attention for kids’ failings everywhere but at home is equally blind. We hold hosts liable when a driver drinks at their home and kills someone while driving drunk. Having an unlocked, loaded gun in a home with a child under 16 should be a crime.”

As tragic as school shootings are, they aren’t nearly as common as another form of school violence: sexual abuse, writes Eduwonk blogger Andrew Rotherham in another Time piece. According to a 2007 investigation by the Associated Press, “2,570 educators were found to have engaged in sexual misconduct between 2001 and 2005 and more than 80 percent of those cases involved children.”

While 2,570 is miniscule compared to a national teaching force of more than 3 million, it’s still a large number, Rotherham said. And it means that states, school administrators, and school boards, must be vigilant in screening employees and protecting students.

“… Here’s the uncomfortable reality: people who want to molest children go where children are, and schools are an obvious place,” Rotherham writes. “After the last decade, anyone who is surprised that big institutions are vulnerable to sex-abuse scandals — think the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church — just hasn’t been paying attention.”

On another note, homeschooling has been much in the news recently, with GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s denunciations of public school and the federal and state role in education. Then, on Friday, a so-called “Tebow Bill” that would have allowed homeschooled students in Virginia to play interscholastic sports was narrowly defeated by a senate committee from that state. To find out more about homeschooling, where it’s been and where it’s going, see the excellent Feb. 29 blog in The Educated Reporter.

Finally, here’s a wonderful video of a innovative middle school math teacher who substitutes 40 cent note cards for an expensive whiteboard (her district can’t afford the latter) in an effort to help them correct common mistakes. Thanks to blogger Joanne Jacobs and The Teaching Channel.

Lawrence Hardy|March 2nd, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Curriculum, High Schools, Student Achievement, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , |

Boards face federal and state bullying rules

The national media has been highlighting incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, and for good reason – statistics show that many children are being bullied, electronically or otherwise.

Federal and state policy and lawmakers are trying to stop bullying of children through policies and legislation, which was the topic of a National Issues session of the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference on Monday. NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. and Jay Worona, general counsel of the New York State School Boards Association, outlined to audience how those state and federal actions could affect school boards and districts.

At the federal level, the Obama administration has focused on the topic of bullying and harassment. President Obama “is using the bully pulpit to make connections that are not made under the law,” said Negrón. “That spells untested liability.”

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR), part of the U.S. Department of Education, sent out a “Dear Colleague” letter in October 2010. The letter had several problems, which NSBA responded to, saying it had “fuzzy standards of liability,” said Negron.

Those problems included:

# shifts the “actual knowledge standard” to “knows or should have reasonably known.”

# redefines Title IX requirements from responding to peer harassment in “a reasonable manner” to “eliminating harassment and a hostile environment.”

# requires school districts to publicly label incidents as “harassment,” which could violate students’ privacy rights if they are identified.

State legislatures also have been working in this area, including New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana. Worona told the audience about his experience with what is now the Dignity for All Students Act. He said that NYSSBA’s lobbyists respond to all education legislation that includes unfunded mandates: “If it’s unfunded, we don’t like it.”

Worona realized that a more nuanced approach would be required after he met with the head of the New York Civil Liberties, who asked him why the association was opposing the bill. Worona told her the training requirements would cost money and “our districts are broke.” She answered: “But kids are killing themselves.”

That’s not where school boards should be in these types of conversations, he said. “You need to be thinking about what your reaction will be that kind of legislation. Take some steps back to see what it’s all about.”

The OCR held a briefing on the bullying issue in May 2011. NSBA submitted testimony stressing the common goal of preventing and addressing bullying and harassment but cautioned that OCR’s approach was too broad. Federal initiatives can overburden districts when state and local initiatives appear to be working well.

Last September, OCR issued its findings and sent them to the president and Congress. NSBA’s testimony was included in those finding. “People get to see your perspective and why it’s important,” said Negrón. “A one-size-fits all federal mandate is not the answer.”

Kathleen Vail|February 6th, 2012|Categories: Bullying, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2012, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation|Tags: , , , |

The week in blogs: Making elementary school feel safe for all

By its very title, the report suggests that playgrounds, as well as other places in elementary schools, aren’t viewed as  “safe” by many students.

Titled Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States, the report was released this week by the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. (GLSEN). It found, among other things, that 75 percent of elementary school students “are called names, made fun of, or bullied with at least some regularity.”

“Most commonly this is because of students’ looks or body size (67%), followed by not being good at sports (37%), how well they do at schoolwork (26%), not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles (23%) or because other people think they’re gay (21%),” the report said.

Along with the report, GLSEN also released Ready, Set, Respect! a toolkit for helping teachers understand bullying, gender nonconformity, and family diversity. Board members should also see NSBA’s extensive information on bullying and visit Students on Board, which recommends that school board members get critical information from some of the best sources around – students themselves.

“Honest conversations with students can be the quickest way you can move toward practical steps to sustain or improve school climate,” the Students on Board website says.

Also of interest this week is the National Journal’s Education forum on the push for more comprehensive education in civics. And NSBA’s Center for Public Education looks at a comprehensive study showing that teacher evaluations based on multiple criteria  – including well-designed and regular classroom observations – can be highly effective and accurate.

Lawrence Hardy|January 21st, 2012|Categories: Board governance, Bullying, Data Driven Decision Making, Diversity, Educational Research, Teachers, Week in Blogs|Tags: , , , |

NSBA’ s president discusses school climate on Education Talk Radio

Mary Broderick, president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), recently appeared on Education Talk Radio and discussed school climate and NSBA’s Students on Board initiative. Broderick talked about how school boards are addressing  and finding solutions to improve school climate.

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio


In August, Broderick discussed school climate on Comcast Newsmakers, check out the video.

Alexis Rice|November 8th, 2011|Categories: Arts Education, Bullying, Center for Public Education, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, School Boards, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers|Tags: , , |
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