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Articles: Student Conduct

After years of torment from bullies, 15-year-old Bart Palosz of Greenwich, Conn., took his own life on the first day of school in September. His death has led many to question the effectiveness of district bullying policies, and whether or not school leaders are responsible for identifying students who may harm themselves.

Pamela Cantor is the president and CEO of Turnaround for Children, a nonprofit organization that partners with public schools to address the challenges to teaching and learning that stem from poverty.

There are alternatives to meting out punishment that treats our school children like criminals. Instead of sending students to the principal’s office or worse—calling police into classrooms to deal with disorderly conduct—schools can equip their teachers with tools proven to create safe, supportive learning environments and defuse disruption. The very things that mitigate student stress and bad behavior make a school what it’s supposed to be: a healthy and productive place to learn.

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer face suspension for minor acts like not coming to class prepared or refusing to remove a hat.

In 11 states, scores for school climate are becoming as important as those for math and reading, thanks to a new score card that allows administrators to learn where they need to improve school safety, student engagement, and overall learning environment.

Florida’s Marion County School Board has again allowed paddling in elementary schools, three years after banning corporal punishment. Though administrators did not recommend the move, three of five school board members voted the measure in, says Kevin Christian, a spokesperson for Marion County Public Schools. One of those leading the charge was a former elementary school principal who believes paddling works to curb behavioral issues.

At the recent annual conference of the International Bullying Prevention Association, I co-facilitated a session with a panel of students who are leaders in preventing bullying in their school. I asked the 600 professionals in the room how many also rely on student leadership to prevent bullying, and barely 30 raised their hands. The students’ insightful and passionate presentation on confronting these real-world problems became the “buzz” of the conference.

Prior to Dec. 14, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) had its 2013 agenda set. However, like many others in the K12 education community, on that dreadful day of the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn, CAPSS’ priorities changed. We spoke with Executive Director Joe Cirasuolo about how the association has redirected its efforts this year to focus on helping administrators improve their crisis management systems and strategies to help prevent an attack such as the one in Newtown from happening again.

New Hampshire’s Nashua School District stood up to a challenge of discrimination this year, allowing a transgender third grade student to attend a new elementary school as a female, despite her biological status as a male. “It’s our policy not to discriminate against any student, and that would include transgender students,” Superintendent Mark Conrad stated.

07/2012 to 08/2012
guidance counselors

The national appetite for combating bullying at the elementary and secondary level in many cases is outpacing the ability of school districts to hire the guidance counselors who head up such efforts, although increased awareness of and sophistication in handling bullying over the past decade are beginning to have a positive effect, counselors say.

Bully

Even if you haven’t seen Bully, you most likely know it’s a documentary, featuring six students nationwide who were tormented physically and verbally in school for simply being considered different by their peers. One of the leading storylines was of Alex Libby, a student at East Middle School in the Sioux City (Iowa) Community Schools. The camera crew filmed students taunting Alex with degrading names, aggressively choking, shoving and jabbing him on the school bus, and ignoring him during recess.

graduation, communities in school

At last, K12 educators can see the results of money well spent. Community in Schools, a nonprofit organization that serves nearly 1.3 million students in 3,400 schools, not only increases high school graduation rates, but also creates more than $11 of economic benefit for a community for every dollar invested in CIS, according to an analysis released in May by EMSI, an economic modeling firm. The organization currently boasts an 87 percent nationwide graduation rate.

Pets in the Classroom

The number of grants offered through the Pet Care Trust (PCT) to classrooms around the nation has more than doubled since August 2011, says the organization’s executive director, Steve King. The program is offered through Pets in the Classroom, PCT’s education arm, which aims to foster healthy pet-child relationships in students in elementary and middle school. King credits the program’s huge growth to a new partnership with Petco and Petsmart, which now advertise the program in their stores.

Like most districts, the Camdenton (Mo.) R-III School District has filtering software to block content deemed inappropriate for students. Until recently, however, Camdenton was blocking Web sites geared toward supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. On Feb. 15, a federal district court ruled in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a lawsuit filed in August 2011 on behalf of a Camdenton student.

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