Articles in the School Climate category

Student bullying remains a pervasive problem, whether in school or online

0060-0808-1213-2001News stories about teen suicide are always the toughest to read—there’s always an overwhelming sense that something or someone could have prevented such a tragedy. Last week, two particularly troubling cases made national headlines.

You probably heard about the first—a high school freshman in Massachusetts committed suicide in January after being bullied relentlessly after what news reports say was a brief relationship with a boy at her school. According to those reports, numerous students are now charged with crimes ranging from civil rights violations and stalking to statutory rape, and the community is questioning what school officials knew and when, and why they didn’t stop the harassment.

Then there was another incident in New York, where afterward anonymous persons posted derogatory comments on a social networking site about a teen who had committed suicide.

In these types of cases, parents and community members want answers from the school officials.

Naomi Dillon|April 5th, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , |

New on

Growing demands and declining resources, coupled with the economic challenges faced by family members of staff and students, can lead to stress that adversely influences employee morale, health, and the entire operation.

In an exclusive ASBJ feature, Douglas Reeves, founder of the Leadership and Learning Center, which provides professional development services, research, and solutions for educators, tells readers what three things they can employ in their school system to help staff deal with stress– and none of them cost a thing!

Read his advice here for a limited time.

Naomi Dillon|March 10th, 2010|Categories: NSBA Publications, School Climate, American School Board Journal|

What to do if you’re snowbound (and even if you’re not)

This past weekend was one for the record books for us in Washington, D.C. — a snow storm socked us with more than 20 inches of snow. Many of us are from colder areas (Pittsburgh, for me), but we’ve been here so long that we’ve acclimated to snow-less winters.

Schools and offices are closed all over the Washington, D.C., metro area and beyond. While we’ve been trying to come up with names for the big storm (Snowpocolypse, Snowmaggaden, and Snowtorious B.I.G.), yet another storm is fixing to dump yet another 10 to 20 inches on us.

For the snowbound, this is a perfect time to catch up on reading — and offers plenty of useful and thought-provoking articles to keep you occupied as the snow piles up. Read what schools can and can’t learn from business in our February issue. Also, find out how administrators and school leaders are coping with the stress of the down economy.

While you’re in an information-gathering mode, register for a free webinar on how to move your district into the next generation. ASBJ is partnering with Cisco on this webinar, which will be at 2 p.m. ET on Feb. 25 and will feature a seven-step process on how to assess where you are now and how to get where you need to go.  Go here to register.

Social networking? Then follow us on Twitter for updates, insights, and other items for school leaders and anyone interested in education.  Are you on Facebook? Become a fan of ASBJ here.

Interested in federal education policy and legislation? Read our coverage of NSBA’s Leadershiop and Federal Relations Network conferences at School Board News Today.

Happy reading — Spring will be here, soon.

Kathleen Vail, Managing Editor

Kathleen Vail|February 9th, 2010|Categories: Governance, NSBA Publications, Educational Technology, Wellness, Multimedia and Webinars, School Climate, Budgeting, American School Board Journal|

Tasers— is there a place for it in schools?

Police issued X-26 Taser

Police issued X-26 Taser

An interesting  and, for the moment, civil debate  has ensued between North Carolina’s Guilford County law enforcement and school officials.

On one hand, we have the district. Tasked with  providing a nurturing and safe learning environment, it has contracted with various local law enforcement agencies to help them in this endeavor, placing them in just about every middle and high school campus. 

And for it’s part, the local police departments are more than willing to help schools remain the secure and sound places of learning they should be. Where the two entities are disagreeing, however, is the method.

When the Guilford County Sherrif’s Office began arming its deputies with Tasers in 2007, it also went to the school resource officers. And this year, two other police departments that the district works with, provided their SRO’s with Tasers, too, heightening a percolating sense of unease that educators and families have felt about having these weapons on school sites.

It certainly didn’t help, when an SRO used a Taser on a female high school student earlier this year, nor that days later another SRO suffered injuries after breaking up a student fight because, according the sherrif’s office, the deputy wanted to avoid further controversy and abstained from using the device.  

School board member Sandra Alexander told the News & Record, the majority of the board and the public don’t like the idea of Tasers in schools, with the board extending an invitation to local law enforcement officials to speak about the matter at an upcoming board meeting.  

Naomi Dillon|November 16th, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Security, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , , , |

No laughing matter when stupid pranks elicit exaggerated punishments

Photo courtesy Stockvault

If you’re a kid wanting to pull a school prank, you were born 30 years too late.

That’s my thought after reading about 25 students—ages 11 to 15—who were taken to jail for a food fight at a Chicago-area middle school cafeteria.

Okay, I’m not saying a food fight is no big deal. A principal rightfully must come down hard on kids who disrupt the school in a major way.

But why arrest students? Why criminalize youthful stupidity?

Whatever happened to calling in the parents, in-school suspensions, or handing a kid a mop and bucket and saying, “You made the mess; you clean it up.”

Now, I know times are different. School personnel face a constant struggle to maintain order. Some work in schools where the threat of violence and disorder creates great stress. They have no patience for nonsense, and they feel the need to slap down student misconduct quickly and harshly.

And I accept that in some instances. The student who telephones a bomb threat isn’t going to get a slap on the wrist—and I’ve no problem with that.

I also don’t have much sympathy for the four Florida students who wanted to be showcased on a MTV special about high school pranks. According to the Naples Daily News, they entered school and proceeded to “spray paint walls, upend vending machines, discharge fire extinguishers, dump buckets of paint on school-owned golf carts, and try to paint over surveillance cameras.”

Naomi Dillon|November 12th, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Climate, Discipline, American School Board Journal|

Thank veterans today — and think about their children

may2008Today we thank the men and women who serve our country in peacetime and in war.  Veteran’s Day originally was Armistice Day — the official end of World War I and was meant to honor the veterans of that war.

The holiday has since been broadened to include all veterans, including those serving in the current war, now in its sixth year.

The Iraq war has taken a toll on the children of these men and women, and schools around country, espeically those near military bases, have stepped in. Read our May 2008 articles on schools helping children cope with long deployments and the other stresses they face.

Kathleen Vail|November 11th, 2009|Categories: Governance, NSBA Publications, Wellness, School Climate, American School Board Journal|

Feeling stressed? So are kids


Photo courtesy of Stockvault

We’re all feeling more financial stress these days—whether it’s loss of a job or other income, mounting bills and floundering home prices, or just seeing other family and friends deal with the economic downturn. It’s no surprise that our stress is rubbing off on our kids–and psychologists and pediatricians are warning that can have significant consequences.

New results from an annual survey by the American Psychological Association—appropriately called “Stress in America“–show that kids “absolutely” feel their parents’ stress, and parents don’t always know that their children are picking up on it.

The APA reports that teenagers and tweens (children ages 8-12) were more likely than parents to say that their stress had increased in the last year.

Forty-five percent of teens ages 13-17 said that they worried more this year, but not all of their parents were aware of that, as only 28 percent of parents reported that their teen’s stress increased, according to the survey.

A quarter, 26 percent, of tweens said they worried more this year, but only 17 percent of parents believed their tween’s stress had increased. And while only 2-5 percent of parents rated their child’s stress as “extreme,” 14 percent of tweens and 28 percent of teens said that they worry a lot or a great deal, the APA reports.

Naomi Dillon|November 4th, 2009|Categories: Wellness, Educational Research, School Climate, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Schools, teachers tackle ever growing list of issues before learning can occur

I’ve been told before I am a natural teacher. But I know better than to ever try it for real. Hearing my friend’s frustrations within her son’s school confirms my suspicions.

Jay just started kindergarten but has quickly excelled as a star student, earning a student of the week recognition in the very first week. And he has an excellent teacher, who will keep him challenged. I hope his enthusiasm for learning remains, and knowing his mother she’ll make sure it does. But he’s up against some mighty distractions. Poverty is hard to ignore … and to pinpoint.

Because is poverty what led a five-year old boy to have a complete meltdown at the end of the day, swinging at my friend when she attempted to retrieve the costume she’d let him borrow for the school’s Halloween party? Is poverty what led another kindgartener to declare earlier in the week that she was ugly? Is poverty to blame for an older student not only failing to apologize for literally walking over my friend’s youngest son during the school’s release, but responding to her protest with an obscenity.

But I think the story that bothers me most is of a child I’ll call Bill. He’s five and he already has vacant eyes. Unruly and insolent, he has an utter disregard for adult figures.  He ignores them most of the most time. Throws attitude and acts out the rest of the time. How does a child so young get like that, I wonder? Parents, my friend, surmises. 

The school’s PTA roster is woefully thin. Parent participation on everything, even something as simple as a classroom Halloween party, is absent. When my friend realized the costume she’d brought for the boy in order to participate in the school’s Halloween parade, might have been the only costume he had and not just an oversight on his parent’s part, she felt immediately contrite and offered to let the boy keep it. But it was too late, the teachers advised. His outburst needed to be corrected. 

But really the true correction needs to happen at home. And without it, teachers and schools can only do so much. It’s a shame how often these stories probably play out across the country. And it’s no wonder why teachers become disallusioned so quickly. I think I would be one of them.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|November 2nd, 2009|Categories: Teachers, School Climate, Student Achievement, American School Board Journal|

Zero tolerance policies shouldn’t replace common sense

Back in July, my colleague Lawrence Hardy wrote a list of “five reforms that failed.” Not surprisingly, “Zero Tolerance” policies were ranked. Larry’s example was a Delaware high school student who got suspended for bringing a pastry knife to school for a Junior Achievement project.

It certainly wasn’t the first time zero tolerance got lambasted, but apparently some schools in Delaware still didn’t get the message.

This week, a 6-year-old boy named Zachary Christie is the poster child for zero tolerance gone amuck. He’s a Cub Scout who loves school so much that he sometimes wears a suit. And on Sept. 29, he was so excited about a new tool his parents gave him—a jackknife-type tool that has a knife, fork and spoon for camping—that he brought it to school to use for lunch.

And that’s where the trouble started. Under the Christina, Del., school district code, knives are banned. Zachary was sentenced to 45 days in a school for juvenile delinquents, and his parents, who are home-schooling him in the interim, created a website and are making the rounds on national news to tell their son’s plight.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy


Naomi Dillon|October 13th, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Security, School Climate, American School Board Journal|

As youth violence, crime ramps up in Chicago, officials spring into action

stockvault_18636_20090818The gut-wrenching photo in this morning’s New York Times tells only part of the story: a little girl holds a sign saying, “Don’t shoot. I want to grow up.”

The gruesome beating death of a Chicago honors student outside his high school wasn’t an act of gun violence, though. This time, Derrion Albert, 16, was beaten to death by a group of thugs with a railroad tie. His death might have been another statistic in an urban district struggling to deal with violence, except a bystander caught the beating on a cellphone video.

That video—shown on broadcasts internationally—did not help Chicago’s reputation for violence, but it did spur local and federal officials into action. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the former Chicago schools superintendent, and Attorney General Eric Holder will visit Albert’s family today and later will speak about the federal initiatives to curb school violence.

Albert was the third student to die violently in Chicago this year, and he was the 67th since the 2007-08 school year, according to the New York Times.

Hundreds of others have been shot or beaten on their way home from school, arguably the most dangerous time of day.

The new schools chief, Ron Huberman, has a plan, and it’s not just about increasing security. Instead, he’s using $60 million in federal stimulus funds for the next two years to use data to find the students most at risk for becoming victims.

Naomi Dillon|October 7th, 2009|Categories: Governance, School Security, School Climate, American School Board Journal|
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