Articles in the School Security category

The week in blogs

Here are two unsettling statistics on school discipline, based on an unprecedented study of nearly 1 million Texas secondary school students: Nearly 60 percent of these children were suspended or expelled over the course of the six-year study, and African-American students were disproportionately disciplined for infractions that the researchers described as “discretionary” — that is, the school had the option of not suspending or expelling the student but chose the harsher path.

As it turns out, it’s not as much the behavior of the students that leads to vastly different kinds of discipline, says the study by The Council of State Government’s Justice Center and Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute. It’s the policies of school leaders.

“The bottom line is that schools can get different outcomes with very similar student bodies,” Michael D. Thompson, a co-author of the report, told the Washington Post. “School superintendents and teachers can have a dramatic impact.”

To that list we should also add school board members, who hire the superintendent and, through their policy-making decisions, have significant authority over the way schools handle discipline.

The day after that report was made public, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder issued a new Supportive School Discipline Initiative that aims to dismantle the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” that pushes students into the juvenile justice system for school infractions that could be handled in other ways.

Citing the Texas report and the high number of suspensions and expulsions it found, Holder said, “I think these numbers are kind of a wake-up call. It’s obvious we can do better.”

In yet another critical look at school discipline, journalist Annette Fuentes, in her new book, Lockdown High, examines the heightened national concern about school safety – and its negative consequences – since 9/11 and Columbine.

“The Columbine scenario is terrifying, but the odds of it occurring in your hometown are about one in two million,” Fuentes told the Post.

In a later interview, she makes another point that is well known to most school board members: School is among the safest places for children and young people to be.

So how about those ultra-safe playgrounds, with nothing too high or too hard, too fast or too rickety? Not good for kids, says Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University of Norway. Yes, they may prevent a few physical injuries (and even that is open to debate) but the psychological toll – in children becoming more fearful because they’re not given the chance to adequately explore their world — outweighs the benefits, she says in a New York Times article.

So too safe is bad – psychologically. What about too extravagant, for example, the $248,000 playhouse a former CEO built for his grandchildren? Not a great idea, notes the Post’s Ruth Marcus. Could make for overly indulged, uncreative kids. Imagine that?

At least that’s one problem cashed-strapped school districts don’t have to worry about.

Lawrence Hardy|July 22nd, 2011|Categories: Uncategorized, Teachers, Week in Blogs, School Security, School Climate, Reports|Tags: , , , , , , |

OCR responds to NSBA concerns on bullying guidance

At the request of NSBA, the U.S. Department of Education has responded to concerns regarding its recent guidance on school bullying and harassment. The letter, sent on March 25, further explains the Office of Civil Rights’ legal justifications for its positions but does not alter the substance of its initial guidance.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. told NSBA’s Legal Clips that the OCR missed an opportunity to support the expertise and discretion of local school officials. Legal Clips has a full analysis of the letter.

Russlyn Ali, the assistant secretary for the OCR, will speak at the Council of School Attorneys’ annual conference in San Francisco on April 8. (That session along with several other COSA sessions on the topic will be covered by School Board News Today’s Conference Daily.)

The initial guidance came in the form of an Oct. 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter that raised many questions about school officials’ responsibilities to report and address bullying and harassment incidents. NSBA also noted its concerns that the guidance could conflict with some state laws. The guidance could invite “misguided litigation,” according to NSBA’s legal department.

Negrón asked OCR to clarify or reconsider its stance on the responsibility of public school officials to address bullying and harassment in schools in this letter late last year. According to NSBA’s Legal Clips, “Negrón expressed concern that the [letter], which provides a broad view of the behaviors that constitute harassment falling under the purview of OCR’s enforcement responsibilities and a wide range of remedial measure schools may need to take to address them, may invite misguided litigation against schools and prove difficult for school officials to implement.”

“It’s important that OCR give school officials some brighter lines, so they know not only what OCR will enforce, but also whether OCR’s expectations line up with existing legal precedent.  We continue to be concerned that the [letter] may unwittingly invite needless litigation,” Negrón said in Legal Clips.

Joetta Sack-Min|April 1st, 2011|Categories: School Law, Bullying, School Security, School Climate, School Board News|

New resources guide schools on LGBT bullying issues

“For youth to thrive in their schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new research and prevention page regarding the bullying of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual) adolescents in U.S. schools.

But the new research shows this is not the case for many LGBT youth in the U.S. According to an online survey conducted in 2009, nearly one in three responding LGBT teens admitted skipping at least one school day in the previous month due to concerns for their safety.

The new CDC resources are a “nice tie between public health and education,” said Brenda Z. Greene, director of NSBA’s school health programs.

“When students are disengaged or bullied, they don’t feel safe and they’re not going to do as well in school—if they show up at all,” Greene said.

LGBT adolescents face tremendous stresses, which increase their risk for mental health problems and substance abuse. A national study of lesbian, gay, and bisexual 7th through 12th graders found that these youth were twice more likely than their straight classmates to have attempted suicide.

As a result, school board members and administrators are being called to take a stand against the bullying epidemic.

“This is a good time to be proactive,” said Roberta Stanley, NSBA’s director of federal affairs, at a Feb. 7 presentation on digital bullying at the Federal Relations Network conference. “You don’t want to be the one to be [negatively] highlighted.”

The CDC recommends enforcing “clear policies, procedures and activities designed to prevent bullying.” Additionally, an atmosphere with supportive staff,  psychological “safe spaces” and the development of student run organizations such as the Gay Straight Alliance can help LGBT youth flourish.

To improve sexual education, schools can use  “inclusive terminology” and cover issues relevant to LGBT youth. Information about community resources for HIV and other sexually transmitted disease testing should also be provided by schools.

“When people are talking about an important issue as if you’re not there, you’re not going to pay attention,” said Greene. Ignoring same-sex couple issues “disenfranchises” LGBT teens, who have a lower chance of engaging in “high risk” health behaviors if included in curricula.

NSBA’s 2011 annual conference, held April 9 to 11 in San Francisco, will include a presentation about “Welcoming Schools”, a Human Rights Campaign initiative to help public schools create a healthy and productive climate for all students.

These changes will help create “positive, supportive, and healthy environments,” which “promote acceptance and respect and help youth feel valued,” according to the CDC. But in order to succeed, Greene said, school employees must also have a “commitment to kids and a commitment to doing the right thing.”

-Melissa Major, publications intern

Erin Walsh|February 11th, 2011|Categories: Bullying, FRN Conference 2011, Wellness, School Security, School Climate, School Board News|

What motivates troubled kids to shape up?

800px-Jail_Cell_NMCPFlipping through the channels last night, desperate to find something besides Desperate Housewives in-a-town-near-you, I landed on A&E, completely enthralled by a new documentary series called, Beyond Scared Straight.

In my former life as a newspaper reporter, I remember spending the better part of a day, visiting a correctional facility with a group of students, who were given a grim but cursory look at prison life. I remember the experience being long, void of any real contact with inmates, and hence not very impactful for the students, none of which I recall where troublesome.

I guess, you could say it was a lighter version of Scared Straight, the widely acclaimed one-day intervention juvenile deliquents had in prison. Well, it seems Scared Straight is a lighter version of Beyond Scared Straight, a far more intense and frankly, downright scary wakeup call to teens heading in the wrong direction.

The shows promo contends that today’s youth require a different approach, one that marries communication, information and confrontation, to get through to them. In watching the last 20 minutes of the program, I’m certainly a believer in this strategy. And in followups with a handful of girls they profiled in the season’s openers, all but one seemed changed for good.

As security issues and student violence continue to plague schools, it’s a get-tough approach that could save some of today’s toughest youth.

Naomi Dillon, Senior Editor

Naomi Dillon|January 19th, 2011|Categories: School Security, School Climate, Dropout Prevention, American School Board Journal|Tags: , |

Anger and trajedy in Arizona

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

There was a time — for days, even weeks — after the terrorist attacks of 2001 that I could not look at a digital clock showing 9:11 without seeing images from that horrible day.

But I got over it. And in the same way (in much abbreviated fashion) I got over Saturday’s shootings in Arizona. Sunday was a strange day. Yesterday was more depressing. But today? Things seem back to “normal,” whatever that is. How quickly we move on.

But there are a few things I’d like to say about the terrible shootings that killed six people and injured 14, including a U.S. congresswoman. On the issue of whether the killer, Jared Loughner, was influenced by violent, mostly rightwing, rhetoric, we might never know for sure. But at a time when some on-air entertainers/commentators regularly denounce not simply the ideas or policies of opponents but their very legitimacy – in what some observers have called, using a rather odd phrase, “eliminationist rhetoric” — the potential impact on unstable individuals seems self-evident.  

Lawrence Hardy|January 11th, 2011|Categories: Governance, Wellness, School Security, School Climate, American School Board Journal|

Stopping LGBT bullying and suicides

Check out this powerful new PSA video that is addressing the issues of LGBT bullying and suicides:

Alexis Rice|November 15th, 2010|Categories: School Law, Announcements, Wellness, Multimedia and Webinars, School Security, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

High School Harassment, real and imagined

0909vailgraphicWe’re a bit late jumping on the bandwagon, but my wife and I recently watched the first season of Glee – Fox TV’s comedic take on a high school glee club — and are now, according to the lingo, certified “Gleeks.”

Why are we so smitten? Well, for one, the characters are expertly cast, and the singing, dancing and, especially, acting, are remarkable. The young stars have really gotten into the heads of adolescents and given us a true portrait of what high school is like.

Sort of. Because, in truth, much of the appeal of Glee is pure escapism. McKinley High is a mythical kind of school, a place where even the bad guys (and girls) are endearing and the worst thing that can befall you is being doused with a Slurpie in the hall or — if you’re Kurt, the one gay glee club member – ritually tossed into the trash bin by the football players at the start of school. (Mr. Schuester, the Spanish teacher and glee club director, drives by the trash bin a few times, and barely notices. So no harm done.) 

The real world is not so benign. A report released yesterday by the national gay rights group Campus Pride found that nearly one quarter (23 percent) of gay and bisexual students face harassment on college campuses, and more than a third (33 percent) “have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate,” according to a news release accompanying the report.

Lawrence Hardy|September 21st, 2010|Categories: Governance, Curriculum, Diversity, Wellness, Educational Research, School Security, School Climate, Dropout Prevention, Policy Formation, Discipline, American School Board Journal|

NSBA to host food allergies and schools webcast

BoardBuzz readers may know that food allergies affect a student’s total school environment: bus rides, cafeterias, classrooms, and playgrounds. So now BoardBuzz wants to know: is your school district really prepared to prevent and deal with life threatening reactions?

Whether readers are well-versed in the nuances of food allergies or this is their first introduction to the issue, BoardBuzz recommends attending Food Allergies and Schools:  Keeping Students Safe and Ready to Learn. This webcast will provide valuable information and insight to school board members, superintendents, and other administrators, as well nurses, teachers and all those who play essential roles in carrying out the policies and practices that keep all students safe and ready to learn.  In other words, all BoardBuzz readers will benefit!

The webcast will feature a comprehensive panel of presenters, such as national-level experts and legal counsel, school board members, and other critical school personnel, and parents and students.  Topics will include:

  • Why you should act to address food allergies in schools;
  • What parents and students with life-threatening food allergies experience and need;
  • How food allergies have been successfully addressed by schools and recommendations for concrete policy and practice actions;
  • Where you can find additional resources to help you get started in enacting your own plans; and
  • Much more!

This multimedia program will be broadcast by ESGN Network – the Missouri School Boards Association’s production brand.  Support for this webcast is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Food Allergies and Schools:  Keeping Students Safe and Ready to Learn will take place on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 from 2-3:30 EST, and is free but registration is required.

Caroline Myers|September 20th, 2010|Categories: Announcements, Wellness, School Security, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|

School district’s visitor policy upheld

The plaintiff claimed that she had a constitutional right to be with her child in school and that she should not have to follow a school policy that required her to show a photo ID and undergo an electronic background check.

NSBA and the Texas school district that was sued said the policy was essential to maintaining a safe and orderly school environment.

On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court ruling in the case, Meadows v. Lake Travis Independent School District, and ruled unanimously in favor of NSBA and the school district.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling, as school boards must be able to adopt reasonable visitor policies designed to protect the safety of students and ensure that students are able to learn in a safe and distraction-free environment,” said NSBA Executive Director Anne L. Bryant.

The plaintiff, Yvonne Meadows, refused to give officials at Bee Cave Elementary School her driver’s license or disclose her birth date so they could compare the information against a list of registered sex offenders. The district initiated the policy after an unidentified man entered the school several years ago and exposed himself to a fifth-grader.

In accordance with school policy, Meadows was allowed two escorted visits on school premises but was denied a third visit after she continued to refuse to present identification. The 5th Circuit maintained the district’s electronic identification system was narrowly tailored to achieve school safety and efficiency, saying it “takes only the minimum information necessary to determine sex-offender status, identify the visitor, and ensure the lack of false positives.”

Lawrence Hardy|September 10th, 2010|Categories: School Law, School Security, School Board News|

Addressing school bullying

Erica Jacobs, a columnist for The Washington Examiner, today explored the phenomenon of school bullying following the U.S. Department of Education’s first ever summit to address school bullying.

Jacobs shared her personal experience and noted:

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan convened America’s first summit on bullying last week, and it’s about time. The goal was to bring together government agencies to both prevent and combat this growing problem. One in three students reports being bullied in middle or high school, and there are increased numbers of cyber bullying incidents. These are not rites of passage or normal adolescent behaviors, according to experts at the summit. They are learned patterns that can be changed.

My school’s bully was named Bradley. Everyone knew his pattern: He picked on students who were shy, overweight, or had a disability. We saw his actions in the schoolyard, yet we didn’t report him to teachers; we thought it was just the way it was. The message from the Department of Education, psychologists, and experts from the Department of Justice is that bullying has been protected for too long; it’s time to educate parents, teachers, and students to recognize when a child is being bullied and stop it before it’s too late.

BoardBuzz agrees that we must address school bullying as a safe school environment is critical in making sure our students succeed academically.

Alexis Rice|August 17th, 2010|Categories: Federal Programs, School Security, Student Achievement, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|
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