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candlelight vigil for Tyler Clementi

New Jersey knew it had a bullying problem after a 2009 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that the percentage of students bullied in the state was one point higher than the national average. The momentum surrounding the antibullying movement in the state peaked last September when a Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, committed suicide after his roommate streamed a video of Clementi with another male student over the Internet. State legislators then moved quickly to pass the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights on Jan. 6, 2011, which will be effective Sept. 1.

Among the many challenges facing district leaders, student safety can be particularly difficult as new technologies allow for instant and constant communication. Recent tragic events, most notably the suicide of a Rutgers University student after an intimate sexual encounter was broadcast live via the Internet without his knowledge or permission, have brought increased attention and awareness of the danger of misuse of these technologies. But what can school districts do to protect students and staff without violating their constitutional rights?

There is a fine line between making student data available to influence data-driven decisions and still respecting student privacy. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Education has launched a new initiative to elevate the importance of safeguarding the collection, use and disclosure of student records. With this new initiative comes a new position, chief privacy officer, and Kathleen Styles is the first.

Online social networking includes much more than Facebook and Twitter. It is any online use of technology to connect people, enable them to collaborate with each other, and form virtual communities, says the Young Adult Library Services Association. Social networking sites may allow visitors to send e-mails, post comments, build web content, and/ or take part in live chats.

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.

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.

Going back to school means something completely different to today’s IT administrators.

It’s no surprise that school districts are as vulnerable to fraud as the private sector or any other segment of government. Crimes in districts include collusion with outside vendors who provide kickbacks to employees, misuse of district-issued credit cards, embezzlement of district funds, and theft of district property.

 

When school administrators hear that the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School attack will arrive on April 20, 2009, most shake their heads in disbelief. They are amazed that 10 years have passed since this watershed event, which changed the landscape of K12 school safety.

 

With every new case of school violence, district leaders are urged to be proactive in hopes of averting potential violence. And experts say part of that proactive work comes from a threat assessment plan that every district should have.

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