Articles in the School Security 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: , , , , , |

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: , , , , |

National survey of high schools shows wide discipline disparities

 

A comprehensive survey of more than 72,000 K-12 schools serving 85 percent of the country has found that nearly one out of every five black male students received at least one out-of-school suspension during the 2009-10 school year — a rate three and a half times that of their peers.

The report, released this week by the Discipline Disparities Collaborative, headquartered at Indiana University, added more data to support the $200 million, five-year “My Brother’s Keeper” project, which was announced by President Obama last month to address the multiple problems facing young black men. At the same time, it highlighted what a number of forward-thinking schools and school districts across the country are doing to reduce the number of students they suspend and expel.

“When you suspend a student, what you’re basically saying is, ‘You’re not entitled to receive instruction,’” said Ramiro Rubalcaba, principal of Azuza High School northeast of Los Angeles, who spoke Thursday at news conference on the report.

Years ago, when he was a high school administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Rubalcaba was a self-described “skeptic” of disciplinary alternatives who once suspended 600 students in one year. But over several years at LAUSD’s Garfield High School and now at Azuza, Rubalcaba has helped change disciplinary policies, resulting in a sharp drop in the number of out-of-school suspensions. Last school year at Azusa High School, for example, there were more than 70-out-of-school suspensions: So far this school year there have been three.

“Schools have the power to change these rates of suspension and expulsion,” said Russell Skiba, director of Indiana University’s Equity Project, of which the collaborative is a part. He and other experts emphasized that the higher suspension rate of black students – as well as Hispanics, disabled students, Native American students, and LGBT students – is not because of higher rates of infractions by these groups. “The research simply does not support this belief,” he said.

NSBA is taking a leading role in the effort to reform school disciplinary procedures and reduce out-of-school suspensions. Last March NSBA  and its Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) — along with its Black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native caucuses — issued Addressing the Out of School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members.

“School boards must take the lead in ensuring that out-of-school suspension is used as a last resort in addressing violations of school codes of conduct,” NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel, said in the report. He also noted that school boards were already in the forefront of addressing these issues.

The collaborative’s report made several points about school discipline reform. The first is that improving schooling overall does not necessarily lead to a reduction in disciplinary disparities. Indeed, as Dan Losen, director UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies said at the news conference releasing the report, “You can’t close the achievement gap unless you close the discipline gap.”

NSBA’s National Black Caucus of School Board Members hosted a webinar in November 2013 titled Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline. On April 7, at NSBA’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, the caucus will also be hosting a breakout session titled We Can Do Better: Reforming School Discipline and Accountability. The session will highlight the work of Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Schools and the Broward County Public Schools in Florida.

Lawrence Hardy|March 14th, 2014|Categories: CUBE, Discipline, Dropout Prevention, Educational Research, High Schools, School Reform, School Security, Uncategorized, Urban Schools|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: , |

NSBA addresses new report on cloud computing in public schools

The rapidly-evolving web-based services that have enabled school districts to streamline record keeping and make timely, data-driven decisions are also creating big challenges for safeguarding student information and preventing unauthorized use by third-party providers, a new report says.

“Cloud computing” services have helped school districts store and manage vast amounts of information, says the study released Friday by the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham Law School. But “we’re worried about the implications for students over time, how their information can be used or misused,” Joel R. Reidenberg, a Fordham law professor and the report’s lead author, told The New York Times.

The issue also concerns National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), which earlier this year set up a Cloud Computing and Student Privacy Working Group that plans to issue two resources in the coming months: the first a comprehensive legal primer for school attorneys, and the second an issue-spotting guide for school board members. Both publications aim to raise operational awareness for policy makers. COSA Director Sonja H. Trainor participated in a forum on the issue at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in November and was among about 20 education, industry, and data experts asked to discuss the report’s recommendations at Microsoft’s Washington, D.C., offices.

The report, Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools, notes that many school districts employ cloud-based services, but cautions that policies and contracts are not transparent to the public, and appear to lack some important privacy protections. It is based on information provided by 20 school districts.

The report estimated that 95 percent of the reporting school districts “rely on cloud services for a diverse range of functions, including data mining related to student performance, support for classroom activities, student guidance, data hosting, as well as special services such as cafeteria payments and transportation planning.” Yet the report estimated that 20 percent of the reporting districts do not have policies governing the use of online services, and many districts have significant gaps in their contract documentation no student privacy provisions.

Only 25 percent of the responding districts inform parents that they are using cloud services to store information, the report said. “Fewer than 7 percent of the contracts restrict the sale or marketing of student information by vendors,” the report said, “and many agreements allow the vendors to change the terms without notice.”

In an interview with School Board News Today, N. Cameron Russell, the Fordham Law Center’s Executive Director and a member of the research team, said the report is based on contracts and other documents received from the 20 school districts studied, which vary in size and are located throughout the country. He emphasized that the practices concerning safeguarding of information often go beyond the language in the contracts — something the Software and Information Industry Association emphasized in commenting on the study.

Still, the report’s authors expressed concern over the lack of specific language in many vendor contracts regarding such issues as maintaining the privacy of student data and preventing its commercial use.

Rapidly evolving web-based technologies such as cloud computing offer the potential for significant advances in individualized instruction and assessment – and many school districts are on the cutting edge of these innovations, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

“Schools want to help students succeed, and web-based technology is helping them do this in innovative and creative ways,” Negrón said. “At the same time, it is important to inform and engage parents and communities about these developments and ensure vendor contracts protect student privacy and address restrictions on third-party use of data.”

The report concluded with several recommendations for school districts. Among them are putting “the existence and identity of cloud service providers and the privacy protections for student data’ on district websites and “establishing policies and implementation plans for the adoption of cloud services by teachers and staff,” including in-service training and an easy mechanism for teachers to adopt and propose technologies for instructional use.

 

Lawrence Hardy|December 16th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Computer Uses in Education, Council of School Attorneys, Data Driven Decision Making, Educational Technology, Governance, School Law, School Security|

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: , , , , , |

NSBA teaches architects about school boards at EdSpaces event

Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), will deliver an education session at EdSpaces in San Antonio on December 4. The session “Presenting Proposals to School Boards” is aimed at architects and dealers bidding on school design projects to help them bring the proper attention to their firm’s capabilities and expertise.

The start of a new school building project begins with a proposal to the school board that explains an architect’s vision for the site and how it will meet the needs of the student and educator population. Gentzel will provide advice on what architects and designers can do to set themselves apart from their competition and avoid costly mistakes.

“It’s important for architects and designers to understand not only the role of the school board but also the needs of the local community,” Gentzel said. “A school board may want to incorporate features such as environmentally friendly design or build areas for their community’s use, and architects must be able to decifer their needs and deliver those on what are always tight budgets.”

Gentzel noted that a school construction project is a major endeavor for any school district, and districts want designs that will be adaptable in coming decades.

“We’re delighted that NSBA is contributing education content that will help school leaders make the best decision for educational facilities of the future,” says Jim McGarry, President/CEO of NSSEA. “With over 120 school districts attending EdSpaces, school board members will be meeting with the vendors, dealers, architects and designers to discuss how trends are affecting the solutions available for today’s learning spaces.”

The National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA) produces EdSpaces, which is designed as the destination for school district and college officials to meet with manufacturers, dealers, architects, designers, and facilities planners to explore the impact of facilities on learning, discover new products and plan the Pre-K through higher education learning environments of tomorrow. EdSpaces includes a CEU-accredited education conference, led by many of the world’s top architects and designers, and focused on state-of-the-art, sustainable design and creative design/construction solutions. The EdSpaces exhibit hall showcases the most diverse range of innovative products for students of all ages.

For more information on this year’s event, held Dec. 4-6, 2013 in San Antonio, visit www.Ed-Spaces.com.

Joetta Sack-Min|December 4th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Conferences and Events, School Boards, School Buildings, School Security|Tags: , , |

New on ASBJ.com: Disaster preparation and recovery

Seven schoolchildren, along with their teacher and her baby, died when a tornado ripped through their school building in Moore, Okla., in May.  This deadly storm, ferocious even by Tornado Alley standards, devastated the town and the school district.

ASBJ communications columnist Nora Carr was on the ground in Moore after the storms.  She documents the physical and emotional aftermath of the storm   in this issue’s cover story,  “Storm Recovery in Oklahoma,”  online now at ASBJ.com.

Also in the November/December issue, Senior Editor Lawrence Hardy takes a look at how school security has changed in the year since the Newtown, Conn., school shootings.

NSBA’s “advocate-in-chief”  (and ASBJ’s On the Hill columnist) Michael A. Resnick is retiring after a 44 years. Read his perspective on how times have changed in the national education arena in our interview.

While you’re on ASBJ.com, check out our bonus articles and vote in our Adviser poll.

 

 

Kathleen Vail|November 20th, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Crisis Management, Legislative advocacy, NSBA Publications, School Security|Tags: , , , , |
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