Articles in the School Climate category

Education Talk Radio previews NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference

Kanisha Williams-Jones, Director of Leadership & Governance Services at the National School Boards Association (NSBA), was a guest today on Education Talk Radio providing a preview of NSBA’s 2013 Annual Conference. Thousands of school board members, administrators, and other educators will be coming to San Diego to take part in the April 13-15 event.

Listen to the broadcast:

Listen to internet radio with EduTalk on Blog Talk Radio

The conference will feature more than 200 sessions on timely education topics, including federal legislation and funding, managing schools with tight budgets, the legal implications of recent court cases, new research and best practices in school governance, and the Common Core State Standards. A series of sessions will focus on school safety and security.

Expanded education technology programming will include site visits to the University of San Diego and Qualcomm’s Mobile Learning Center to explore its research laboratory on mobile learning; Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to examine the technology in science education and STEM; Encinitas Union School District to view its One-to-One Digital Learning Program; and the San Diego Zoo to learn about the cutting-edge learning tools used to teach at-risk students. U.S. Navy SEALs will show leadership and team building skills during another workshop.

The meeting also includes one of the largest K-12 educational expositions, with some 300 companies showcasing their innovative products and services for school districts.

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.

It’s not too late to register, visit the Annual Conference website for  more information.

NSBA works with White House on school safety issues

President Barack Obama issued 23 executive actions today that he says will strengthen school safety and prevent gun violence. He also called on Congress to pass tougher gun-control measures, including banning some assault rifles and magazines and requiring  background checks for purchasing all guns, one month and two days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) was represented by Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel at the White House event. Obama announced a campaign entitled “Now is the Time” that outlines his plans for preventing gun violence.

The executive actions pertaining to school safety include:

  • Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers;
  • Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship, and institutions of higher education;
  • Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations;
  • Launch a national conversation on mental health with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

The orders and proposals were “based on an emerging consensus from all the groups we heard,” said Vice President Joe Biden. At the request of the president, Vice President Biden oversaw a task force designed to field recommendations from key stakeholder groups to curb gun violence in the United States. The White House has emphasized that local school leaders would be able to choose the safety measures for their schools as they see fit.

“We commend President Obama for his efforts to ensure that all schools are safe places,” Gentzel said. “We look forward to working with the administration and Congress in a collaborative effort to address this important issue.”

NSBA called for the expansion of school safety zones and more school resource officers during a Jan. 9 White House meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Attorney General Eric Holder, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, who fielded recommendations from about a dozen major education groups as part of the vice president’s task force.

NSBA’s Director of Federal Legislation Deborah Rigsby participated in that session and also recommended greater access to mental health services and resources for greater coordination between law enforcement agencies and school districts.

Other organizations represented at the event included the American Association of School Administrators, National PTA, National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, School Social Work Association of America, Council of Chief State School Officers, Mothers in Charge, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Association of Secondary School Principals, Council for Exceptional Children, and Council of Great City Schools.

Some of the groups discussed ideas such as creating a federal interagency council on school safety, and training development and support for school principals on preparation and preparedness.

NSBA and some other groups did not take a specific position on gun control, but others expressed opposition to arming teachers with guns, Rigsby said.

Joetta Sack-Min|January 16th, 2013|Categories: Bullying, Crisis Management, Educational Finance, Educational Legislation, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Governance, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , , , |

Schools safer in the wake of Columbine shootings and 9/11, say educators and security experts

Ronald D. Stephens has worked in school security for nearly 28 years. As executive director of the National School Safety Center in California, he’s consulted with school officials in places linked forever with school shootings — places like Red Lake, Minn.; Paducah, Ky., Broward County, Fla.; and Littleton, Colo.

But, in one sense, Newtown, Conn., is different, Stephens said.

“I have never seen a school shooting that has been so vicious, so heartless, so callous” as the one that killed 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Stephens said.

The majority of the victims, as much of the world now knows, were 6- and 7-year-olds. Six adults were also shot and killed at the school, including the gunman, Adam Lanza, who took his own life and that of his mother, whom he shot in their home before driving to the school.

Given the horrific nature of the crime, the next point Stephens made might be hard for the public to grasp: Children are safer in school than outside of it. About 100 times safer, if you do the math — and Stephens has.

Since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, districts have done many things to make schools safer. They’ve installed security systems and initiated better screening of visitors. Many have hired school resource officer. And they’ve adopted school safety plans, which anticipate threats and specify what adults and children will do in the event of everything from earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, to a gunman on campus.

“After Columbine, there was a lot more emphasis placed on safe school plans,” said Eric Sparks, assistant director of the American School Counselor Association.

No longer simply a vague plan “sitting on a shelf,” the safe schools plan became a working document that addressed specific threats, including the threat of violence. Schools also took training for students and staff more seriously. They had lockdown drills and practiced the routines they would need to follow in case of emergency.

It’s perhaps hard to imagine anything worse than what happened at Sandy Hook. Yet without the kind of training staff members received — and the extraordinary degree of courage and composure they displayed — the Dec. 14 shootings might have claimed even more lives.

“As horrific as the tragedy was in Newtown, it could have been much worse had the teachers, the staff, the principal, the administrators not followed the lockdown procedures they had been trained to follow, had they not actually taken the children and secluded them, really depriving the killer of further targets,” NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal. “So it was their training to basically ferret out the children — keeping them safe, keeping them calm — that made this a less horrific tragedy than it could have been, in terms of numbers.”

In the days after the shooting, Negrón also spoke on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” where he said that the recent shooting by an external gunman represented “a turning point” in the discussion of school safety. He said this should elicit discussions between district officials and law enforcement about how to deal with a shooter from outside the school community. In the wake of Columbine and other school shootings, schools focused on internal issues, such as school climate and bullying, and on identifying students with mental problems. This kind of effort, while essential, does not address a threat posed from outside.

Negrón told C-SPAN that moves to arm teachers and administrators, which have been suggested by Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell and others, are not the answer because school staff members are not routinely trained in law enforcement.

“Teachers and administrators are hired to teach our children,” Negrón said. “That’s a very different skill set [from law enforcement].”

Sparks, of the American School Counselor Association, agreed.

“Having school staff with guns — that would be a challenging situation in terms of training and school safety,” Sparks said. “And it takes a whole different angle on the possibility of things going wrong.”

That could include gun accidents and other unintended consequences of adding firepower to some 120,000 places across the country that were designed for learning – what Stephens likened to creating “120,000 Fort Knoxes.” Is that the kind of climate we want for our children? he asked.

And even these actions would not ensure protection from a heavily armed intruder, unconcerned for his own life and bent on mass murder, Stephens said.

“I don’t know of a school district in America that is prepared to deal with assault-style attacks on their campuses.”

Lawrence Hardy|December 21st, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Safety experts to advise school leaders in NSBA webinar

The school shootings in Newtown, Conn., have left school leaders searching for ways to make sure they are keeping their students, staff, and communities safe from harm.

When looking for advice, it’s best to seek out people who have experience – and Shamus O’Meara and Rick Kaufman certainly fit the bill. O’Meara, a partner with the Minneapolis law firm Johnson Condon, Attorneys at Law P.A., represented and advised the Red Lake and Rocori school districts in their school shooting incidents. Kaufman was the communications director for Colorado’s Jefferson County School District during the Columbine High School shootings 13 years ago.

Both men will be featured in a free webinar for school leaders, administrators, and school attorneys: “Planning For and Managing the School Crisis You Hope Never Comes.” The webinar, sponsored by NSBA’s Office of General Counsel and the Council of School Attorneys (COSA) will be held Friday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST. Register at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/219019864.

“We hope that this webinar provides school leaders and attorneys with a solid foundation for review or development of school emergency plans and procedures,” says Sonja Trainor, director of COSA. “We are deeply thankful to Shamus O’Meara and Rick Kaufman, both national experts on school emergency planning and response, for giving their time and expertise for this webinar.”

O’Meara will discuss the importance of school safety plans as “living and breathing, not stuck in drawers,” he says. “School leaders, administrator, parents, and students — everyone involved with the school should take ownership of plan, so we are safely educating our students.”

In the decade since the Columbine High School shootings and 9/11, awareness about the need for security in public buildings, including schools, has been heightened, says O’Meara. And schools also have recognized that they are not alone in dealing with security and safety issues.

“A number of partners have to be involved, not just law enforcement,” he says. “Mental health, counseling services, and social services – they all need to be part of a dialog that is in turn part of school safety planning.”

One aspect of a good safety plan is how to communicate to parents, staff, students, and the community during and after a crisis. Kaufman, who is now director of community relations and emergency management for Minnesota’s Bloomington Public Schools, lived through the nightmare of Columbine.

The Columbine shootings changed the landscape of school security and raised questions of school climate. The biggest change that Kaufman has seen since the Colorado shootings has been the rise of social media use and the speed in which information travels. He encourages school districts to consider communications through many different ways.

“Districts must respond very quickly through different channels. If your district doesn’t use social media, you will be caught behind the eight ball in dealing with the crisis,” he says. “You can’t rely on just email or a rapid notification system.”

Through his work with the National School Public Relations Association, Kaufman helped in the development of rapid response teams of school communications professionals that are available to help districts that are dealing with a crisis.

O’Meara and Kaufman will offer strategies and resources for school leaders, and will be responding to questions during the webinar.

 

Kathleen Vail|December 19th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Announcements, Board governance, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|Tags: |

School security articles available at American School Board Journal

In her 2006 article, “A Measured Approach,” which was written after several school shootings by individuals with no connection to the schools, American School Board Journal editor Naomi Dillon wrote: “From fostering a positive and inviting school climate, to teaching and modeling good behavior, to encouraging students and staff to be the eyes and ears of the building, schools can do a lot to make themselves unsuitable targets for unstable individuals.”

The horrific events in Newtown, Conn., have most of us looking for answers again. As school leaders, you are searching anew for information on security – disaster planning, safeguards, and the kind of prevention described in Dillon’s article. ASBJ can help provide that information for you: The magazine has published many articles on school safety for school leaders over the years. Usually only open to subscribers or available for purchase, the articles will be open to the public at our topical archive, Safe From Harm.

At the top of the list of articles is a look back at the Columbine shootings – interviews with the principal, counselor, superintendent, communications official, and others who experienced the events on that day in 1999.

Other articles include: “Communicating During a Crisis,” by school safety expert Ken Trump, who gives tips on how make sure your schools have well-developed and exercised safety and crisis plans and your staff is trained to implement them.

In “Safe From Harm,” ASBJ law columnist Ed Darden notes that a get-tough stance is tempting, but compassion and conversations are just as important.

Dillon writes of the importance of disaster planning in “Do You Have a Disaster Plan?”

Many other articles are available for reading and for download.  Please give us your feedback on what other kinds of security articles you’d find most useful.

 

 

Kathleen Vail|December 17th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|Tags: , , , , , |

School security issues at the forefront of December ASBJ

Vandalism — destroying school property — remains a constant problem for many if not all school districts. Senior Editor Del Stover, in American School Board Journal’s December cover story, online now, looks at ways that districts combat the issue. Cameras, lighting, and extra personnel are all options. However, some districts are looking at how caring  relationships among adults and students can be the ultimate deterrent.

Also in the new issue: After a national report revealed that black and hispanic students are suspended at a higher rate than white students, many schools are backing off from rigid zero-tolerance policies. Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy chronicles how districts are working to decriminalize student discipline.

When you visit ASBJ online, take the Adviser Facebook poll on whether school security cameras work and check out our webinar offerings.

Kathleen Vail|December 4th, 2012|Categories: American School Board Journal, School Buildings, School Climate, School Law, School Security|

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.

 

 

More flexibility needed in bill regulating use of restraints on students, NSBA tells Senate

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking for more flexibility for local school officials in a bill designed to prevent the improper use of restraints and seclusion to manage students with disabilities.

In testimony submitted in anticipation of a hearing on July 12, NSBA is asking the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to reconsider portions of the Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020). The bill, which is supported by many special education and disability rights advocates, would ban certain types of restraints and require school districts to report incidents to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Local school boards want to be assured that federal legislation addressing the use of restraints and seclusion provides maximum flexibility and authority to states and local school boards in its implementation,” reads NSBA’s testimony.

NSBA asks that any requirements for teacher and staff training and certification “be structured in a manner that is reasonable, affordable and effective,” and that Congress ensures that data collecting and reporting requirements are minimized, given the limited capacity of school districts and the U.S. Department of Education to collect and analyze such data.

The testimony asks for specific changes to the bill, including:

  • Remove or rewrite the threshold for restraints, based on the definition of serious bodily injury adopted by IDEA in 2004, which is not feasible in emergencies and takes away other opportunities to train staff and prepare for its use;
  • Modify the requirement for a debriefing session within five days, as this is burdensome and costly to schools and would create conditions well beyond the control of the school. NSBA recommends that personnel should be allowed to submit information verbally, in writing and electronically since all parties may not be able to physically participate;
  • Ensure that the bill allows flexibility to address unanticipated threats to students’ safety;
  • Remove a stipulation that prohibits any reference to the use of physical restraints into a student’s education plan; and
  • Allow states that have successfully created policies dealing with restraints and seclusion to be exempt from new federal mandates.

The bill was introduced in December but its chance of passage seems unlikely, given its lack of progress in the House and the lack of time remaining in Congress in an election year.

Joetta Sack-Min|June 27th, 2012|Categories: Crisis Management, Discipline, Educational Legislation, Legislative advocacy, Policy Formation, School Climate, School Security, Special Education|Tags: , , , |

Managing board conflict

Trust and conflict are opposite sides of the same coin. That means managing conflict productively is much easier when boards first take steps to build trust, two experts from the New York State School Boards Association said at a Sunday session.

In a presentation called “Building Trust and Overcoming Conflict on Your Board,” NYSSBA Leadership Development Manager Darci D’Ercole-McGinn and Editor-in-Chief Eric Randall led board members through exercises to help them recognize types of conflict and practice tactics for dealing with it.

The stakes extend beyond the obvious goals of leading smooth, productive meetings, Randall said. He summarized research that found a correlation between high levels of trust among school leaders — including teachers, administrators, and board members — and improved achievement among students.

Trust also was one of five key emotions necessary among members of a superior work team, according to a NASA consultant who was hired following the Challenger shuttle disaster.

Randall likened trust for a school board to lubricant for a machine: It helps a group function efficiently and effectively because members feel comfortable that they can rely on each other to act and communicate honestly.

D’Ercole-McGinn said even simple, informal steps, such as social conversations and board seating arrangements that allow members to see each other when they speak, can help lay a foundation for trust.

The two presenters also pointed to more formal habits that invariably contribute to healthy decision-making and help boards avoid getting bogged down or side-tracked by conflicts, petty or otherwise:

# Use respectful and courteous body language. That means refraining from eye-rolling, heavy sighs, or constantly checking text messages.

# Use data, which can include statistics, research, or simple anecdotal examples, to make points. That should encourage other participants in the discussion to do the same.

# Don’t interrupt others when they are speaking. Acknowledge their points and don’t dismiss them. Disagree without being disagreeable.

# Follow parliamentary procedure, a tool for keeping meetings moving in a productive, respectful, and efficient manner, said Randall.

D’Ercole-McGinn urged boards to consider annual retreats, facilitated discussions, and new member orientation programs to help members build trusting relationships and establish good habits for working together. Almost any time a new member joins, she said, there’s a perfect opportunity to do that.

It’s wise to set trust-building as a high and early priority, she said, because “conflict is not an ‘if’ question, it’s a ‘when’ question.”

Cathy Woodruff

Erin Walsh|April 22nd, 2012|Categories: Leadership, NSBA Annual Conference 2012, School Climate|

New online at ASBJ.com: Dealing with adult bullying

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the American School Board Journal on bullying. It was a belated follow-up to a decade-old article I wrote in the wake of the 1999 Columbine shootings. The education world changed after Columbine, particularly in the area of student safety and security. I was pleased to find out in my research that school leaders, administrators, and educators were taking bullying and student aggression much more seriously than before the tragedy. 

I interviewed counselor and author Stan Davis for my article, and I’ll never forget what he had to say about bullying prevention.

All schools have an overt culture and a hidden one, he said. “Kids are paying attention to the hidden one. They will see if we welcome new staff, and if we will listen to hate speech.”

If adults are permitted to bully and mistreat each other, or their students, no program, assembly, or curriculum will have much impact.

I had his words in mind when I assigned Senior Editor Naomi Dillon ASBJ’s October cover story, “Adults Behaving Badly,” now online on ASBJ.com. Dillon looks at the phenomenon of work place bullying. Lean budget times, school layoffs, and high-stakes testing pressure have created a toxic environment in some districts. In some cases, the toxicity is fueled by social networking sites. If not addressed, bullying among adults will spread to students. As educators and parents all know, children are watching your actions more than paying attention to your words.

Also as part of our school climate coverage, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy writes about how some districts are working to reduce racial, ethnic and cultural tensions while creating an environment where children can thrive. “How’s Your Climate?” is also available at www.asbj.com.

Take a look at what we have online this month and please feel free to comment.

Kathleen Vail|October 12th, 2011|Categories: American School Board Journal, Bullying, NSBA Publications, School Climate, School Security, Social Networking|Tags: , , , , , , |
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