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Articles: Student Conduct

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.

I was bullied in ninth grade. An older kid used to wait for me outside the cafeteria, and as I left he would taunt me in front of his friends—even push me around. It went on for most of the year. Although I was scared, I never told a soul. I felt awful that I couldn’t stop it on my own. I had never been bullied before and have rarely been bullied since. Those memories are so vivid to me, as if the bullying happened yesterday. Sadly, when I sit back and reflect on that entire year of my life, I can remember little else.

I have a monthly email communication with Elliot Soloway, a University of Michigan professor and the chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group on Mobile Learning, who writes our Going Mobile column with Cathie Norris. Somewhere within the email thread, Soloway is sure to write words such as these: “Someone has to tell the emperor he’s naked.”

Scenario 1: A middle school student was continually harassed and bullied at school. He was taunted and pushed in the hallways and was even punched in the face in the school bathroom on one occasion. His tormentors always seemed to know when the adults at school were not looking. He felt that if he fought back it would only make things worse. He had debated many times telling the teacher or an administrator about the bullying, but, again, he felt that it would only get worse. Besides, he did not feel a close connection to any school staff member.

A new battle cry of American education seems to be college and career readiness. School professionals are being urged to graduate students who can be successful in college and ready for a career. In a speech before Congress in 2009, President Obama raised the bar when he declared that “every American will need to get more than a high school diploma.”

In 2009, a year after joining Illinois School District U-46 from his previous post as regional superintendent for Chicago Public Schools’ Area 14, Jose M. Torres made unprecedented cuts to his district’s budget and personnel.


Typical public school revenue streams such as state money and property taxes were decimated by the recession nationwide, and districts across Chicago faced deficits worse than U-46’s anticipated $60 million hole in the coming years. It wasn’t a surprise that cuts in U-46 were necessary, but Torres’ tactics were.

Bullying has captured the news headlines and the attention of legislators, educators and special interest advocates over the past three years at a greater rate. High-profile teen suicides have raised questions about the role bullying may have played in student deaths.

States have enacted new anti-bullying laws and parents are turning more often to principals to resolve bullying incidents occurring in school and in cyberspace.

Creating an early college high school can help overcome academic barriers for low-income, minority and at-risk students. Joel Vargas, vice president of the High School Through College, a national Jobs for the Future program, and LaVonne Sheffield, associate vice president for Early College Expansion at JFF, believe the program should be expanded across the nation because today's pupils need to have the advanced skills, content knowledge and learning strategies to be successful in a rapidly changing job market.

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?

The suicide of the 10th-grader sent shock waves through the middle school, but after a few months, almost all students and staff had moved on. The principal had heard through the grapevine that the parents blamed the school, but he had no idea that the school was going to be sued. The lawsuit specifically named the principal, coach and a teacher the parents believed had failed to stop the bullying of their child at school. The parents claimed that they had told school officials of their concerns about their child being victimized and that nothing had been done.

In 1992, the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) released an educational video that described to students the dangers of copying information from floppy disks, called Don't Copy that Floppy. But the Internet, with its file sharing and nonstop social media, made the problem of copyright infringement much worse. For this reason, SIIA has released Don't Copy That 2, which includes a rap video and classroom resources to discuss online copyright infringement, piracy and how to become a responsible digital citizen.

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