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Nancy Willard is director of Embrace Civility in the Digital Age and author of books on bullying.

This is the disturbing opening from a Los Angeles Times article published a year ago:

“Two students from separate schools committed suicide within days of each other this month—which is National Bullying Prevention Month—and both boys apparently had been bullied. Now, parents are asking questions not just about bullying but also about anti-bullying videos, which both schools aired shortly before the incidents.”

From treating sprained ankles to administering daily medication to checking asthmatic children, school nurses are handling more cases of student illnesses now more than ever. They are also being stretched to cover more ground in a  district, and work harder given recent budget cuts.

It’s 7:30 on a Monday morning at Bethany Elementary School in Beaverton, Ore., and Nina Fekaris is crouching on the playground, busily picking up peanut shells left from a weekend community party. Fekaris, a nurse for over 20 years in the Beaverton School District, checks her list of students with peanut allergies to make sure they are kept inside the school building and out of harm’s way until all of the shells are picked up.

Districts around the country are facing a growing trend of children attending school without vaccinations for contagious diseases such as measles, chicken pox, rubella, hepatitis A and B, and whooping cough.

In a 2012 study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that almost 5 percent of kindergarten students around the country were not fully vaccinated. Colorado had the lowest rate of vaccinations nationwide, which was 87 percent.

Superintendent Grayling Tobias of the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, Mo.

Superintendent Grayling Tobias of the Hazelwood School District in St. Louis County, Mo., started school as planned in August, despite the recent death of an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot multiple times in a confrontation with police in Ferguson, Mo.

Tobias arranged for extra police patrols at all buildings, and asked principals, social workers and counselors to be visible for students who need to talk or express their feelings.

The 21st century is bringing new ways for sexual predators to prey on children. Providing a safe environment for children to learn is paramount, says John Stephens.

Physical and sexual abuse in schools, once seen as an isolated local concern, is now a national issue.

A Congressional report estimated that as many as 4.5 million K12 students are subject to sexual misconduct and physical or verbal abuse, with other research concluding that less than 10 percent of abusers are ever caught or identified.

A recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report stated that schools lack a systemic approach to preventing and reporting educator sexual abuse on students, despite nearly one in 10 being subjected to this misconduct.

A tornado safe room under construction in Moore, Oklahoma.

Tornadoes sweeping through parts of the nation and destroying schools are leading district leaders to create “safe rooms” for increased protection.

In May 2013, Moore, Okla., was hit by a tornado that destroyed two elementary schools and killed seven students. Moore Public Schools is rebuilding the schools with four safe rooms designed to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria to provide protection during tornadoes.

Nearly one in 10 K12 students are sexually abused by teachers, coaches, principals and other personnel, according to the Department of Education. To combat a growing number of abuse cases, a California insurance provider is offering free online training courses to help district staff learn how to report abuse.

North East ISD in San Antonio banned all but clear or mesh backpacks after a  student allegedly brought three loaded guns and a knife to a high school in April.

Recent school stabbings and cases of students caught with weapons have driven some districts to ban traditional cloth backpacks in favor of easily searchable clear or mesh bags.

Diesel-fueled buses are the most common for transporting students in cities, suburbs and rural areas due to good gas mileage and easy fueling.

Alternative fuel, surveillance cameras, maintenance and driver salaries all play a role in how a district manages its transportation—unless, of course, the district decides to outsource and let an outside company make all those decisions.

Michael G. Shoaf is superintendent of Rocky River City School District.

With violent events seemingly on the rise in schools across the country, district leaders must develop fluid and thorough safety plans.

To address the variety of individual circumstances that may accompany these events, fluidity must be coupled with authentic practice and the engagement of stakeholders and experts. Practicing the plan, constantly considering best practices, and giving staff and students flexibility to adjust actions during an emergency are essential for a quality school safety plan.

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