Articles in the School Climate category

School boards urge U.S. appeals court to provide flexibility for schools in promoting a safe environment

The National School Boards Association (NSBA), joined by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), filed a “friend of the court” (amicus) brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the case of Doe v. Board of Education of Prince George’s County. At issue in the case is the standard that courts should use to hold a school district liable for money damages under Title IX for the alleged harassment and sexual assault of a student by another student. Title IX is a federal civil rights statute that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal funds.

A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, developed a clear and stringent standard in peer-on-peer sexual harassment cases that only when school officials are deliberately indifferent to severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive harassment of which they have actual knowledge are school districts liable for monetary damages.

“School officials who know their students and local circumstances are in the best position to respond to reports of sexual harassment in a way that makes sense,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “The Davis standard recognized the importance of school officials retaining the flexibility to make professional judgments about how to address discriminatory peer harassment.” In its amicus brief, NSBA and MABE seek the Fourth Circuit’s support of the judiciary’s long-standing deference to school officials’ decision-making about maintaining safe, harassment-free learning environments for students.

The parents offered guidance documents from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) – along with “expert” reports and testimony – to support their claim that the school district did not do enough to investigate the reports of harassment and would have been able to prevent the alleged subsequent assaults had they done so.

“The legal argument for liability in this case is contrary to existing law,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “Unfortunately, this argument relies in part on confusing statements from OCR, which NSBA has warned previously would lead to more lawsuits needlessly filed against school district based on an incorrect legal standard.”

In their brief, NSBA and MABE make clear that the parents’ approach departs from established legal doctrine on deliberate indifference and is one that the Supreme Court has rejected. The effectiveness of the district’s response as judged in hindsight, based solely on “expert” evaluations made after the fact and recurrence of harassment is insufficient to establish deliberate indifference.

“We have to get this important case right,” added Gentzel. “School personnel who have exercised appropriate professional judgment in carrying out their day-to-day responsibilities cannot live in fear of lawsuits that second-guess their decisions, especially when those decisions are based on Supreme Court precedent.”

Alexis Rice|June 6th, 2014|Categories: School Boards, School Climate, School District Reorganization, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

NSBA calls for equity in education with the upcoming 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) honors the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling by calling on America’s school boards, parents and communities to continue to ensure that public education is a right made available to all students on equal terms.

“The 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision catalyzed education reform and reminds us to be ever vigilant in challenging segregation to maintain a civil society,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “School boards believe that every child in America should be able to attend a great public school where they live—no exceptions, no excuses.”

The urgency of the 60th anniversary is that segregation is not an issue of yesteryear – it is a growing concern today. While the Brown v. Board decision made clear the inherent inequality of a separate educational system based on race, today the data show that many areas have been resegregating. NSBA is particularly concerned about the impact of resegregation for schools in underserved communities. Research shows that students learn more—both academically and socially—in settings where their peers may be of a different race and have different life experiences.

In a special report on the Brown decision, NSBA’s flagship magazine, American School Board Journal (ASBJ), reports that the number of schools with a minority enrollment above 90 percent has climbed precipitously. In a video segment, ASBJ shows the legacy of Brown and the challenges that the Pittsburgh school district currently faces in integrating its schools when most of its neighborhoods are highly segregated.

ASBJ also has created a timeline documenting major events and court cases involving racial issues in public education.

NSBA is encouraging public schools across the country to mark the anniversary with an appropriate ceremony and remembrance. Through a resolution issued by our Board of Directors on behalf of this nation’s 90,000 school board members, NSBA and its state associations are promoting district-level activity that activates students’ personal commitment to democracy and recognizes the contributions of civil rights leaders.

NSBA’s Council of Urban Boards of Education also is commemorating this important anniversary with a year-long focus on special programming focusing on excellence, equity, and unity to advance urban education.

“The mission of the National School Boards Association to advocate for equity and excellence remains ever-vigilant as we mark the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision,” said NSBA President Anne M. Byrne, a school board member from New York’s Nanuet Union Free School District. “School board leadership is essential to protect our public schools and demand that equitable funding and equitable resources be made available so that each child has the opportunity to achieve, no matter where they live.”

Alexis Rice|May 13th, 2014|Categories: CUBE, Diversity, Multimedia and Webinars, School Boards, School Climate|Tags: , , , |

Call for proposals for NSBA’s 2015 Annual Conference

2015 NSBA Annual Conference

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is requesting proposals for breakout sessions to be conducted during our 75th Annual Conference in Nashville, Tenn., March 21-23. The conference will draw thousands of attendees, exhibitors, and guests representing nearly 1,400 school districts, and will feature distinguished speakers and hundreds of workshops, presentations, and other events that will help school board members develop leadership skills, boost student learning, and improve school districts’ operations.

If your school district or organization has an idea for a high-quality breakout session that focuses on a topic of critical interest to school board members for presentation at this conference, please complete a proposal online by the deadline of Monday, June 16 at 5 p.m. EDT. Only proposals submitted through the online process  will be considered. Breakout sessions will be 30, 45, or 75 minutes in length and will be scheduled throughout the conference.

Proposals are being solicited for the following focus areas:

• Innovations in District Management
• Legal and Legislative Advocacy
• Professional and Personal Development
• School Board/Superintendent Partnerships
• Student Achievement and Accountability
• Technology + Learning Solutions

NSBA offers sympathies for victims in school stabbing incident

According to news reports, a teenage student went on a stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville, Pa., seriously injuring at least 20 people. At the request of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) released the following statement on April 9:

“Our deepest sympathies go out to the 20 students and staff seriously injured in today’s stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional Senior High in Murrysville,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “As the police, school and local community begin to piece together facts on what led to this horrific crime, it is important to emphasize how rapidly the school district mobilized to keep district students at all levels – middle, high school, and elementary – safe.”

“While such violence is unimaginable, parents, families and the Pittsburgh community should take comfort in the rapid responses of the school principal and the school resource officer to contain the high school sophomore identified as the suspect. While America’s public schools are still one of the safest places we can send our children, this shows why when the unimaginable occurs, having strong safety plans and procedures in place has the power to save lives and protect communities.”

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 9th, 2014|Categories: Announcements, Crisis Management, School Climate, School Security, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA’s COSA Seminar examines civil rights, school choice issues

Civil rights enforcement, vouchers, employment, bullying, and disability law are the hot topics this week at the National School Boards Associations’ (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) annual School Law Seminar in New Orleans taking place April 3-5. The hashtag for the seminar is #COSANola.

In the opening discussion, Catherine Lhamon, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, will cover the scope of civil rights issues in our nation’s schools and the work that Office of Civil Rights (OCR) is doing to ensure equal access to high-quality education for all students. Lhamon will cover the latest OCR research and the charge to protect our nation’s students against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, and age in K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions nationally. Lhamon will be joined by Anurima Bhargava, Chief, Educational Opportunities Division, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice, who will take questions on the recent guidance issued by both departments on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline.

“The annual School Law Seminar gives COSA attorneys and attendees the chance to get updated on crucial school law trends and challenges our school board clients are facing,” said Greg Guercio, the 2014-2015 COSA Chair and Seminar Committee Chair.  “This is our largest Seminar.  It brings in 350+ school attorneys.  We really look forward to connecting with our colleagues and getting updated on the legal advocacy work of NSBA, as well.”

COSA sessions will be led by experienced school attorneys on relevant issues such as “What the Louisiana Voucher Litigation Means for You and Your Clients,” “Your Top Ten FERPA Questions – Asked and Answered,” and “The Alpha and the Omega: An Anti-Christ to Yoga Update on Litigation Affecting Student Religious Rights in Public Schools.”

Alexis Rice|April 1st, 2014|Categories: Leadership, School Climate, School Law, Special Education, Teachers|Tags: , , , |

NSBA and AASA express concern about new restraint and seclusion bill in U.S. Senate

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), and Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, issued a joint statement today in response to new legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Chairman, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The new bill would reduce the authority of states and local school districts to decide the appropriate use of restraint and seclusion in public schools. Restraint and seclusion are used as a last resort in situations that may endanger the safety and welfare of students, teachers and other school personnel.

We agree with Harkin that routine use of restraint and seclusion is indeed inappropriate. However, we believe this legislation is a federal overreach—it fails to recognize the need for local school personnel to make decisions based on their onsite, real-time assessment of the situation. This includes school officials’ consideration of lesser interventions before making the decision to use restraint or seclusion. Our primary concern must be the safety of all students and school personnel.

Seclusion and restraint are only exercised to protect students and school personnel when other measures fail. A 2011 survey of AASA members found that 70 percent of districts invest local funds in annual training to ensure that school personnel use seclusion and restraint judiciously, first engaging in de-escalation techniques and other nonviolent crisis intervention strategies.

Of equal importance, we’re also concerned that the bill would allow parents to go to court without first exercising administrative procedures afforded to them under the current Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This bypass encourages litigation and diminishes congressional intent that parents and school districts collaborate to address student special needs. We’re also concerned that the federal court system does not have the capacity to take on these additional cases.

Even with limited funding, local school board and school administrator policies continue to demonstrate best practices beyond state requirements on the use of seclusion and restraint. This is further supported by a 2011 survey, in which nine out of 10 superintendents said their school districts would benefit from additional funding to implement school-wide positive behavioral support and intervention systems and nonviolent crisis interventions.

We urge Harkin to reconsider his position and work closely with local school boards and superintendents to develop legislation that ensures maximum authority to local school districts while ensuring safety for all students.

Alexis Rice|February 12th, 2014|Categories: Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA: School board involvement critical to addressing discipline issues

The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice have issued a four-part guide designed to address disparities in discipline practices and improve school climate. The guide, which includes data showing that minorities and students with disabilities are disproportionately affected by harsher punishments, is the first time the federal government has dealt with these issues through guidance.

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), responded to the guidance and noted that  local school board and community involvement is essential in addressing concerns of discipline and race.

“Our nation’s school boards share the Education and Justice departments’ concerns for ‘safe, inclusive and positive school climates,’ with zero tolerance for discriminatory practices in public schools,” he said. “NSBA is generally pleased with the documents’ emphasis on positive interventions, but it is vital to underscore that school discipline must acknowledge the various levels of resources available to public schools and communities. It is critical that the guidelines not impose any type of unfunded mandate on local public schools and not be misused as a loophole to fund private educational placements at taxpayer expense. A one-size fits all approach is not appropriate, since public schools, communities, and resources differ.”

Further, he added, “NSBA is concerned that part of the Education and Justice departments’ legal framework may constitute an expansive interpretation of the law. We are studying the agencies’ legal analysis and will likely issue further comment.  We invite the agencies to confer further with NSBA to ensure that guidelines released incorporate school boards’ perspective on these critical topics.”

The guide could be helpful to local school boards because it provides a detailed process of how the Education and Justice departments will approach investigations with respect to student discipline and race, he added.

On a related topic, NSBA released a report, “Addressing the Out-of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members,” in April 2013. The document examines discipline policies and the disproportionate impact on students of color. It recommends that school disciplinary measures should not be used to exclude students from school or deprive them of educational services, and suspensions should only be used as a last resort for school safety.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|January 9th, 2014|Categories: Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, Governance, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , |

Sandy Hook tragedy teaches lessons on school security

Thomas J. Gentzel, the Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), reflected on the first anniversary of the Dec. 14, 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. with this statement:

“The tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary one year ago shook the nation. Our hearts go out to the families and friends who lost loved ones and to all those in Newtown who were affected on that horrific day.

“One year later, the nation continues to memorialize the 26 adults and children who were killed at the school, support their survivors, grieve, and move forward. For school board members, the urgency of making schools around the country safer and more responsive to future threats is an ongoing imperative and legacy of the Newtown shootings.

“As part of their duties, school boards must ensure that school buildings keep children and school personnel safe without becoming fortresses. In cases of natural disasters and man-made situations, school buildings – equipped with high-occupancy gymnasiums and cafeterias – are often the first shelter, serving as community safe havens and command posts. School boards recognize that even the best emergency preparedness policy is perishable, and they are monitoring and improving their districts’ policies on a routine basis.

“School districts can ensure that parents and the community have a clear and actionable understanding of emergency response plans. One example is parental notification – to clear the path for first responders and their emergency vehicles, parents are often directed to a designated area away from the school where they can safely receive real-time updates.

“Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, there has been much debate on whether armed security guards should be used to protect the nation’s schools, or whether teachers or other school staff should be armed. In cases when a community deems school security is essential, NSBA believes that only sheriff’s deputies and police officers should be hired as school resource officers. Trained to deploy their weapons in the safest way possible and to take action that minimizes collateral damage, sheriff’s deputies and police officers have ‘qualified immunity’ that affords school districts the legal protection they need in case of any unintended consequences that could arise in carrying out their duties.

“As we approach this first anniversary, NSBA joins world and national leaders, state and local governments, community leaders, and people across the country in remembering those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy. Times like these give us great pause because they remind us not only of the fragility of life but also of the bravery and resilience shown by Newtown’s teachers and school administrators, the students and parents, and the first responders on Dec. 14, 2012. Our nation’s 90,000 school board members will honor them as we continue our efforts to educate and protect our school children and school personnel who work in America’s public schools each day.”

 

Joetta Sack-Min|December 11th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Crisis Management, Environmental Issues, NSBA Opinions and Analysis, Policy Formation, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

Schools reversing Zero Tolerance policies

It was called the “broken windows” theory, and it shows — quite tragically, in some cases — how taking a social policy that might make sense in one context and applying it to another can have disastrous consequences.

The theory, popular with police departments and big-city mayors in the 1980s and 1990s, was that if police ignored petty crime – the broken windows of a neighborhood – these incidents would grow to create a climate where more serious crimes would occur.

Was the policy successful? That depends on whom you talk to. But big problems resulted when it was applied to the public schools.

“Some of the same crime policies filtered into the school system,” said Dwanna Nicole, Policy Advocate for the Advancement’s Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Program, who gave a webinar Thursday sponsored by her organization and NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members.

That policy, also spurred by the Columbine shootings and a mistaken fear that youth violence was increasing, has spawned the kind of zero tolerance policies that have resulted in huge spikes in the number of suspensions and expulsions for all students, but particularly for African-American and Hispanics students, students with disabilities, and gay students.

Now, however, in places like Denver, Buffalo, N.Y., and Broward County, Fla., those numbers are starting to turn around as more school districts embrace discipline polices that put the long-term needs of students first. The Denver Public Schools now have one of the most progressive discipline codes in the nation, Nicole said. This has been augmented by a recent state Smart School Discipline law and a brokered Memorandum of Understanding between law enforcement agencies and the school district.

While black students in Denver are still suspended at greater rates than whites, these numbers are going down. In 2010-2011 86 percent of black students did not have out-of-school suspensions. By 2012-13, 90 percent had no  suspensions.  Attendance rates for black and Hispanic students have also increased steadily since 2008.

Districts such as Denver are explicitly addressing racial disparities in suspensions, expulsions, and other forms of discipline and collecting better discipline records, Nicole said.

Lawrence Hardy|December 6th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Data Driven Decision Making, Discipline, Diversity, Dropout Prevention, High Schools, School Climate, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , |

Missouri businessman, MSBA announce $1 million incentive for Baldrige school district award

A Missouri couple will donate $1 million to the first public school district in their state that can win a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which recognizes organizations for achieving performance excellence. The award will be announced at the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) conference this weekend.

Larry Potterfield said he and his wife, Brenda Potterfield, are making the donation because they want to help improve public education in Missouri. “This is for the children,” he said. “We want to impact the educational system, to make the school districts more accountable, to better prepare and educate the next generation so that our nation can continue to compete in the global marketplace.”

The gift challenge will reinforce current efforts for measurable educational improvements among Missouri’s 520 school districts as they strive to achieve “role model status,” as defined by the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence. Each year, the President of the United States honors American organizations in business, health care, education, non-profit, and government that win a Baldrige Award, the nation’s only award for performance excellence.

Anne L. Bryant, who sits on the board of the Baldrige Foundation and is a former executive director of the National School Boards Association, said that Larry and Brenda Potterfield’s million dollar challenge has called upon the entire state of Missouri to “show the way” by encouraging every school district across the state to consider taking up the Baldrige quality and excellence program.

“Like all Baldrige Award winners, a school district that goes through the process is demonstrating to its students, faculty, staff, parents and entire community that it wants to be the best,” Bryant said. “I watched my neighboring district, The Montgomery County Public Schools (MD) go through the process and reach the national award with such pride and excitement. It reinforced to the community and the entire state that this public school district could be an example for all.”

Moreover, Bryant said that the Baldrige community is “thrilled by the Potterfield’s generosity but, even more importantly, by their foresight to focus on education…which indeed is the cornerstone of a state’s economy and future.

The $1 million gift will be stewarded by the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award until it is awarded.

“The million dollar unrestricted gift will be an obvious benefit to the school district that demonstrates outstanding performance,” said Potterfield, who is CEO of Midway USA, a company that sells hunting and gun supplies. “The school district will receive tremendous recognition for winning the Baldrige Award. Most importantly, the winner will have to demonstrate an improvement in educational outcomes because the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are results-driven.”

The Potterfields’ official announcement will be made at the 2013 MSBA Annual Conference on Oct. 5, 2013. The conference is held in cooperation with the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA).

“We’re delighted Larry and Brenda Potterfield chose the MSBA Annual Conference to announce their gift,” said Dr. Carter Ward, the MSBA executive director. “MSBA strongly supports school districts interested in utilizing the Baldrige Criteria to create a culture of continuous improvement ultimately aimed at providing the finest possible education for the students in our public schools.”

Dr. P. George Benson, chair of the Board of Directors of the Baldrige Foundation, called it “gratifying” for the Potterfields to link their donation to the Baldrige National Award for Performance Excellence.

“It demonstrates the faith and confidence that Larry and Brenda Potterfield have in the Baldrige Program,” Dr. Benson said. “For 25 years, we helped organizations in the public and private sectors reach their peak level of effectiveness, and honored the very best with a Baldrige Award. With their generous donation, the Potterfields are challenging Missouri school districts to provide a better education to their students.”

School districts must reach the highest level in the Missouri Quality Award, the state Baldrige-based program, to apply to the National Baldrige Performance Excellence Award Program. School districts will need to demonstrate performance results that are national benchmarks and better than their peer groups at comparably-sized school districts across the country. In so doing, they will be improving their budget and operations, as well as the education they provide in the classrooms.

“Schools and districts interested in pursuing a Baldrige award can access resources through the recently launched Missouri Network for Educational Improvement (MNEI),” says Daniel L. Clay, dean of the University of the Missouri College of Education. “The network will help schools and districts strategically coordinate continuous improvement efforts.”  The MNEI is led by the Hook Center at the University of Missouri College of Education, in partnership with MSBA, MASA and districts around the state.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|October 4th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Educational Research, School Board News, School Boards, School Climate, School District Reorganization, School Reform, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , |
Page 1 of 1012345...10...Last »