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Articles: Security

When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.

For many schools, data and communications systems are the equivalent of a messy closet. Administrators are forced to master different controls for bells, security cameras, audio-visual equipment, intercoms and the like—a time-consuming, unproductive task.

Educators, school safety experts and anti-bullying advocates typically agree that bullying is a serious issue. They also agree that anti-bullying strategies should be an integral component of a school's safety plan. However, differences remain in how bullying should be addressed. Those differences have become magnified as bullying has become an increasingly politicized issue.

Karl Springer, superintendent of the Oklahoma City Public School District, recently found himself answering tough questions in the heavy glare of the media spotlight. The issue? Student bullying. "We don't escalate the situation by being macho," says Springer, also a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and a former Marine Corps captain.

A new informal federal survey has found that for many districts, budget cuts have had a profound effect on school safety and security measures. Administrators have been forced to cut safety and security staffing and programs, reorganize security departments and find alternative sources of funding in order to maintain levels of safety and security within their schools.

Tight budgets are no excuse for failing to be proactive with school safety. In fact, school leaders must be especially committed to prevention and security programs during times when economic woes are increasing stress on kids, their families and school staff. Parents will forgive educators if their school's test scores drop.

The case of Kyron Horman, a second-grade Oregon student missing from school since June 4, 2010, has generated international attention. The seven-year-old never arrived in his classroom after attending a science fair with his stepmother at his Portland elementary school.

The bus driver overheard a middle school student say as he was walking off the bus at the end of the day, "I am going to get several of you tomorrow on the bus and blow you away for making fun of me."

Tight budgets are no excuse for failing to be proactive with school safety. In fact, school leaders must be especially committed to prevention and security programs during times when economic woes are increasing stress on kids, their families and school staff. Parents will forgive educators if their school's test scores drop. But they are much less forgiving if their children are hurt in an incident that could have been prevented or better managed. Attorneys and the media will be equally relentless.

In October 2009, Mark Schumacker, a seventh-grade mathematics teacher at Ankeney Middle School of the Beavercreek City School District, a suburban district east of Dayton, Ohio, earned the EUREKA Educator of the Year Award from the Better Business Bureau of Ohio's Center for Character Ethics for his efforts to blend character education with instruction. Schumacker is the first recipient of this statewide honor that recognizes positive actions with regard to constructive character development.

On March 15, the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and three other education organizations each filed amicus curiae briefs with a Supreme Court case that discusses the right of a public school to deny recognition to a student organization that does not comply with the school's open membership policies. An amicus curiae brief, or "friend of the court" brief, is a document volunteered by an outside party that contains additional information on an aspect of the case to assist in its ruling.

A new study conducted by Oregon State University and funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse supports the philosophy that social and emotional learning improves student achievement and social behavior. "The Impact of Positive Action on Academic Outcomes," published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, focuses on a program called Positive Action, a course founded on the belief that positive thoughts induce positive behavior. The results showed an improvement in standardized test scores and a decrease in suspensions and absent students.

Undue punitive policies are driving students down a path toward prison, according to a study from the Advancement Project, an organization founded by veteran civil rights lawyers dedicated to racial justice. "Test, Punish, and Push Out," released January 20 as part of the group's Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track project, details the impact that high-stakes testing and zero tolerance policies have on graduation rates and students that enter the criminal justice system.

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