Articles in the School Security category

10 best practices to avoid liability

A question that frequently arises among school members, new and seasoned is, “Can I be sued?” While there are no guarantees against a lawsuit being filed, it is important consider actions to take to limit school board exposure to potential liability.

Most states provide indemnification to school board members for actions taken within the parameters of their school board responsibilities. However, at Monday’s session at National School Boards Association’s Annual Conference, Connecticut Association of Boards of Education staff — Deputy Director and General Counsel Patrice McCarthy, Executive Director Robert Rader, and Senior Staff Attorney Kelly Moyher – offered 10 suggestions on how to limit potential for liability should a lawsuit arise.

For starters, know the boundaries of your authority. The authority of local school boards is derived from a state’s constitution, statutes, and regulations. Board bylaws and policies provide additional direction.

Next, focus on the board’s policymaking role. Boards are policymaking bodies responsible for establishing rules and procedures for running the schools. Numerous state and federal laws mandate that certain policies must be in place, but generally allow school boards to determine the specific details.

School boards should adhere to the student discipline policy. This is an important area for boards and their administrators to carefully follow established policies and regulations. Through policies, boards establish the code of conduct and sanctions for violations.

Understanding the staff discipline process also is key, while reviewing and adhering to policies on holiday celebrations is important for a board, too. Boards serve an important role in promoting community understanding on policies in both areas.

Serious consideration must be given to the laws governing board meetings. Board members only have power when they act as a body. Each state has detailed requirements for the conduct of public meetings and a periodic workshop for the board and administrative staff will help insure compliance with state law.

Avoiding nepotism, conflicts of interest and understanding the ethical considerations for board of education members is also crucial to the legal functionality of a board of education. National School Boards Association has a sample code of ethics for school board members, as do many state school board associations. Local and state laws will also govern these areas.

The board and superintendent relationship is critical for the district’s effective operation and public perception. To this end, be sure to clarify the roles of board members and the superintendent.

Conduct a thoughtful and thorough superintendent search process. Hiring a superintendent is the single board action that will most likely have the greatest long-term impact on a district. State law, statutes, and regulations provide guidance on hiring and certification requirements, as well as Freedom of Information or open meetings law provisions.

Unfortunately, after the tragic events in Newtown, Conn., late last year, board members and other school and community officials must take a close look at security, student discipline, and mental health issues. District policies should be considered for possible changes and additions to ensure student and staff are safe while in school.

School board members can reduce their exposure to liability — and perform their functions more effectively — by periodically reviewing the statutory and policy provisions that establish their authority and responsibilities. This is time well spent, and can be incorporated into the board’s annual schedule of agenda items.

Erin Walsh|April 15th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Law, School Security|Tags: , |

Author: Students are ‘rarely the problem’

After getting a doctoral degree in urban education at Temple University and creating a career teaching and writing about urban schools, Camika Royal realized something: “The children are rarely the problem.”

Rather, institutions and leaders of institutions – including school boards and school board members – let our children down, Royal told attendees at a luncheon session of the National School Boards Association’s Council of Urban Boards of Education.

“Despite our best efforts, we know all is not well on the education front,” she said. She cited “school closings in Philadelphia, the murder rate in Chicago, the massacre in Newtown, the horror in Steubenville.”

“A 40 percent graduation rate is pedagogical violence,” she said. “It is criminal.”

Educational leaders need to look at themselves and ask how they bear some degree of responsibility for our schools’ and communities’ shortcomings, she said. When nearly one in five African-American students are suspended each year, “ We are all at least partially complicit.”

She quoted Pedro Noguera, a noted author on urban school issues who teaches at New York University: “Those who manage public institutions often respond differently to different constituencies.”

At the same time, “treating all people equally is not an equitable response,” she said. Often, what’s needed are policies that reflect values of patience, forgiveness and give students a way out, she said.

School boards need to care about all students, “not just those who score well or whose parents are involved or are good at sports or know how to behave.”

For leaders, improvement must start with self-examination, she said. “Challenge the assumptions and biases you bring to your work … We have to search ourselves about what we believe about young men of color.”

Too often, board members “fail to see how our own biases interview with the district’s success,” she said. “What must change most is you.”

— Eric Randall

Erin Walsh|April 12th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Climate, School Reform, School Security, Student Achievement, Uncategorized, Urban Schools|Tags: , |

NSBA’s Annual Conference Exhibit Hall offers one of the largest national showcases of education products and services

One of the most exciting places to be at the Annual Conference is the Exhibit Hall. This year, more than 290 exhibitors are waiting to show you their latest services and products, including more than 100 first-time exhibitors.

This year’s Exhibit Hall hours are Saturday, April 13 from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm, with exclusive hours from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, and 2:45 to 3:45 pm. The Exhibit Hall will reopen Sunday from 11:30 am to 4 pm, with exclusive hours from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

“Even if you are a conference veteran, we’ve added some new features to the 2013 Exhibit Hall that you will not want to miss,” says Karen Miller, NSBA’s Exhibit Director. “Each year dozens of our conference attendees find new products and services from our exhibitors that save their school districts money and help streamline their operations, so we hope everyone will take advantage of the Exhibit Hall time.”

Be sure to take in a Learning Lounge session while you are here. Sponsored by OdysseyWare and Pearson, these informal 20-minute sessions give you a quick briefing on hot topics, from social media to legal issues and leadership skills. Check your conference schedule for a list of events and times.

The NSBA booth–No. 943–also has been expanded to show you the full range of NSBA services. You can meet some of the experts on NSBA’s staff, have your picture taken with a sign supporting school boards and public education for your social media account, and pick up some great deals on NSBA merchandise. Also, the booth is hosting book signings by authors Diane Ravitch, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Stacey Bess.

Don’t miss the new Technology Showcase Pavilion at Booth No. 543. This exhibit showcases the six winners of NSBA’s first Technology Innovation Showcase.

The NSBA Health Fair is back, and will be featured once again in the Health and Wellness Pavilion (Aisle 1500) Demonstrations are scheduled for both days, from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, on topics such as Nutrition, exercise, tobacco use, and relaxation. You can also have your blood pressure checked and speak with health-care professionals.

The Green Zone (Aisle 500) will show you how to advance green initiatives in your schools and improve student achievement.

Music & Arts Main Street (Aisle 200) is one of the most popular features, with numerous exhibitors showing ways to strengthen your schools’ music and arts programs. Be sure to stop by and see a student performance at the designated times, below:

  • Saturday, noon: McMichael Phoenix Singers, Dalton L. McMichael High School, Mayodan N.C.
  • Saturday, 3 pm: “OPUS” – San Diego Youth Symphony, 4-5th grade String Ensemble, San Diego
  • Sunday, noon: McKay Chamber Orchestra, McKay High School, Salem, Ore.
  • Sunday, 1 pm: Mariachi Chula Vista, Chula Vista High School, San Diego

Look for the NSBA Exhibit Exam Challenge inside the Exhibit Hall Addendum/Pavilion Guide or at the NSBA Information booth. Visit the participating exhibitors, get the answers to questions about their companies, then drop your “exam” in the raffle bin in the Health and Wellness Pavilion (located in Aisle 1500) by 3 pm on Sunday for the chance to win exciting prizes!

The NSBA Marketplace is a special area in the rear of the hall where exhibitors are allowed to sell their products and services.

And when you need a break, stop by the upscale College Board Lounge, at Aisles 300-400. The lounge features comfy seating, refreshments and even a TV.

NSBA Booth Schedule (# 943)

Saturday

11:30 am -2 pm – Take your picture and stand up for public education!

2:30 – 3:30 pm – Kathryn Wege– Healthy students, healthy schools;

2:45-3:15 p.m.– Kathleen Branch, Reggie Felton, Deborah Rigsby – Legislative advocacy at the federal level;

3:30 – 4:30 – Marie Bilik and Debbie Finkel – Meet NSBA’s new Chief Operating Officer.

 

Sunday

11:30 am – noon – Patte Barth — Learn the latest findings from The Center for Public Education;

12:30 – 1:30 pm – Kathleen Vail and Glenn Cook – Meet with NSBA publications staff;

2 – 4 p.m.– Take your picture and stand up for public education!

3 – 3:30 pm – Kanisha Williams-Jones answers your questions about NSBA Caucuses and Leadership Services.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|April 12th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, Nutrition, Online learning, School Boards, School Buildings, School Security, STEM Education, Student Achievement, Student Engagement, Teachers, Technology Leadership Network, Urban Schools|

Gun lobby pushes to arm school personnel

School resource officers should receive more weapons training and “selected and designated school personnel” should also be trained and authorized to carry arms, according to a National Rifle Association (NRA) task force report, which was reported by Legal Clips, a publication of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

The report was released last week as President Barack Obama urges Congress to consider several gun-control measures, which could include increased background  checks and bans on certain assault-style weapons. The Senate could announce compromise legislation as early as this week.

Public schools spend billions each year on school resource officers, according to a report on NPR’s Marketplace Morning Report. One officer could cost between $50,000 and $80,000 per year, depending on the district.

Responding to a gun emergency is a complex, multifaceted task that requires the coordination of trained law enforcement officers and other emergency response professionals, NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. told NPR. “It’s not just simply about being able to defend,” Negrón said, “but about being able to address and respond quickly in the whole security scenario that law enforcement officers are trained to do.”

Lawrence Hardy|April 8th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Federal Advocacy, Federal Programs, Legislative advocacy, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , |

District inequities and school safety post-Newtown in the April issue of ASBJ

Uneven funding among affluent and poor school districts is well-documented, but you may not realize that it often occurs among schools in the same district, as well. Senior Editor Del Stover looks at how school leaders are uncovering these funding inequities and how they are fighting the often-difficult political battle to remedy the situation in his April American School Board Journal article, online now.

Also in April, national school safety expert Ronald Stephens weighs in on sensible and commonsense ways that school boards can and should react in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last December.

Our school board success story series, Agents of Change, continues with a Massachusetts school board and superintendent who made a controversial decision to bring its special education program in-house.

Make sure to post your opinion to this month’s Adviser poll, also online at ASBJ’s website.

 

Kathleen Vail|April 2nd, 2013|Categories: American School Board Journal, Board governance, Budgeting, Diversity, Leadership, School Security, Special Education|Tags: |

Ohio school boards hoping to hire more school safety officers, survey finds

A new survey by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) found that roughly two out of five Ohio school districts currently have school safety officers, but many more districts are interested in acquiring them.

Forty-two percent of superintendents and treasurers reported using school safety officers to help ensure school security, according to the OSBA survey. It found police officers and sheriff’s deputies are most commonly used (90 percent), followed by security guards employed or contracted by the district (10 percent). Sixty-three percent of the districts with school safety officers have a single officer, 28 percent have two or three officers and less than 10 percent have four or more officers.

“In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., schools districts in Ohio and around the U.S. are taking extra steps to ensure students and staff are as safe as possible,” said OSBA Executive Director Richard Lewis. “It’s up to each district to decide the best way to ensure security, but school safety officers are one possible response to a complex problem.”

Fifty-six percent of Ohio school district leaders said their school safety officers are funded by the school district; a quarter said their school safety officers are funded through a shared service agreement. Among districts that do not currently use school safety officers, 58 percent of school leaders said they are interested in acquiring them.

OSBA Director of Legislative Services Damon Asbury noted that the cost of employing school security officers is difficult for the majority of Ohio’s cash-strapped school districts. He pointed out that a proposed state law, Senate Bill 42, would provide an avenue for districts to submit levy requests for funds to sponsor school safety measures, including resource officers. The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Gayle Manning and Sen. Randy Gardner.

Results are based on nearly 300 responses to an OSBA survey conducted electronically this month. For survey results, visit http://links.ohioschoolboards.org/33436/.

Erin Walsh|March 19th, 2013|Categories: Board governance, Budgeting, Bullying, Crisis Management, Discipline, School Climate, School Security|Tags: , , |

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.

Secretary Duncan addresses school board members at NSBA meeting

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged school board members Monday at NSBA’s Federal Relations Network (FRN) meeting in Washington, D.C., to “stay the course” through a tumultuous time in public education, predicting that in a few years the nation will see big results from programs such as Race to the Top (RTTT) and the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

“The implementation of Common Core is really difficult,” Duncan said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and I really urge you to stay the course.”

However, he added: “I think the back-end of all this – three or four years from now – the country’s going to be in a radically different place.”

Duncan spoke briefly, but quickly and emphatically. He praised school board members for their dedication, and gave out his email address, saying he wanted to hear their concerns. In a short question and answer period, skeptical board members raised concerns about the proliferation of charter schools; unfunded federal mandates; competitions for funding, such as RTTT (the questioner said dedicated funding made more sense); and what many saw as an erosion of local control.

“This is a tough crowd,” the education secretary quipped at one point.

One requirement for states receiving funds has been a lifting of state caps on the number of charter schools. But Duncan said he didn’t favor charters over regular public schools.

“I’m just a big proponent of high-quality public schools,” Duncan said. “That’s traditional schools. That’s magnet schools. And that may be charter schools.”

Speaking of the achievement gap, Duncan said, “In some places we’re seeing real progress, but in other places these gaps are extraordinarily large.”

But Melinda Bernard, a board member for the St. Charles Parish Public Schools in Louisiana, said the problems of public school are being exaggerated.

“I think you will agree, public education’s being denigrated by the media recently,” Bernard told Duncan. “Especially our teachers.”

Duncan touted some of the Obama administration’s accomplishments, including an additional $600 million for early childhood education and an increase in the number of Pell Grants from 6 million in 2008 to 10 million last year. He said the $4 billion in competitive grants for RTTT may seem like a large number, but is less than 1 percent of the department’s $650 billion budget. He said that competition has spurred states to make major innovations regarding the common core, teacher evaluation, and other challenges.

Speaking of the recent shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Duncan said the Obama administration has “huge support for the Second Amendment,” but added, “I do feel that if we don’t act now as a country, we will never act.”

A former school superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools, Duncan said he was acquainted with the problem of violence, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods.

“We lost one child every two weeks due to the gang problem,” Duncan said. “It was a staggering loss.”

Lawrence Hardy|January 28th, 2013|Categories: Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Federal Programs, FRN Conference 2013, Governance, National Standards, Preschool Education, School Security|Tags: , , , , |

School security changed in the wake of Sandy Hook

How will school security change in the wake of the Newtown school shootings? It may be too early to know the long-term effects of the tragedy on schools, but in the short-term, at least, conversations about school safety have intensified in its aftermath.

Patrice McCarthy, deputy executive director and general counsel of Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, spoke to school board association leaders at NSBA’s Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., Saturday afternoon on how her state association responded after the Newtown shootings.

McCarthy was joined by Francisco M. Negrón Jr, NSBA’s general counsel, and Jay Worona, general counsel and director of legal and policy services of the New York State School Boards Association.

Negrón pointed out that since the 1999 Columbine shootings, most school security has focused on indentifying disenfranchised students who could potentially become violent. However, after Sandy Hook, school boards and other education leaders are now looking at how to deal with threats from outside the school.

“We need to be aware of both,” said Negrón, “and assess both threat levels.”

School boards need to make sure district safety plans are up to date. Negrón recommended that such plans be reviewed, if not yearly, then at least every two years. “Safety plans must be real and dynamic,” he said. “Don’t put them on the shelf. Review them on a regular basis to make sure they meet your needs.”

Boards also should take the pulse of their community before taking measures such as hiring armed guards for schools. When you don’t talk to people, said Worona, the presumption is that you haven’t done anything. “We need to make sure people understand we can’t make our schools safe to the point that nothing will ever happen, but we do need to make them as safe as possible,” he said.

School board associations and individual school boards should know that national support is available to help after tragedies, said McCarthy. CABE received hundreds of telephone calls and offers of support within hours of the Sandy Hook news breaking, including from NSBA.

NSBA has a list of resources on school security, including articles from American School Board Journal, available here.

Kathleen Vail|January 26th, 2013|Categories: Council of School Attorneys, Crisis Management, Leadership Conference 2013, School Law, School Security, State School Boards Associations|Tags: , , , , , , , |

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: , , , , , , |
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