More learning leads to less violence

Philadelphia schools cut teachers and counselors, but not security guards. Photo: Matt Rourke, AP

Raising test scores may be the best way to prevent school violence, according to a new California study, reports Hechinger’s Jill Barshay. Safety doesn’t come first, the study found.

Schools that reduced violence and improved school climate tended not to produce academic gains afterwards. Instead, the researchers found, schools that first raised academic performance usually got large reductions in school violence. School climate indicators, such as whether students feel safe, also improved in schools that first increased test scores.

Surveys of students in middle and high school were compared with school test scores over a six-year period. Researchers were surprised to see that “academic gains preceded school safety and climate improvements,” writes Barshay.

“The best violence prevention is a school that works very hard to improve academics,” said Ron Avi Astor, a USC professor and co-author. “The school climate and school bullying researchers should continue their work, but, for intervention strategies, if they tie in with the school reform movement on academics, they will get a bigger bang for their buck.”

From Somalia to St. Cloud

Students in St. Cloud, Minn.
Somali students study together at a St. Cloud school.

How does a small city in Minnesota cope with an influx of Somali immigrants? Tonight, PBS NewsHour looks at St. Cloud, Minnesota schools, which are trying help Somali students learn English and adapt to a new culture (and climate) while creating a welcoming and tolerant school climate.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a federal civil rights complaint against the St. Cloud school district in 2011, alleging widespread and frequent harassment of Somali Muslim students, reports Education Week.

Feds: Schools are safer

Schools are getting safer according to a new federal report. Violence, bullying and sexual harassment has declined, the survey found.

About 3 percent of students ages 12 to 18 said they were victims of crimes at school in 2014.schoolviolencephoto

“On college campuses, the number of sexual attacks more than doubled from 2001 to 2013,” reports CBS News. “There’s really no way to say whether those increases reflect an increase in actual forcible sex crimes or just that more people are coming forward and reporting them,” said Lauren Musu-Gillette, an author of the report.

I’d guess it’s an increase in reporting and a much broader definition of sexual assault.

Ken Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services thinks the numbers are fuzzy. “Federal and state stats underestimate the extent of school crime, public perception tends to overstate it and reality is somewhere in between,” he said in a presentation to the Education Writers Association national conference in Boston.

How ‘Friends’ led to the fall of civilization

Friends and its “tragic hero, Ross Geller,” triggered the downfall of Western Civilization, writes David Hopkins on Medium.

Ross Geller was a professor of paleontology on Friends.

Ross Geller was a nerdy paleontology professor on Friends.

“Ross was the intellectual and the romantic,” he writes. His so-called “friends” groaned with boredom whenever he talked “his interests, his studies, his ideas.” Eventually, Ross went crazy.

The show ended in 2004, the year that “reality television became a dominant force in pop culture,” writes Hopkins. Paris Hilton released an autobiography.  Joey Tribbiani, Friends‘ dimwit actor, got a spin-off TV show.

Hopkins was a teacher that year. As coach of the chess club, he saw his students picked on and bullied, he writes. “My students were smart, huge nerds, and they were in hostile, unfriendly territory.”

Astronaut Mark Watney was smart and studly in The Martian.

Martian astronaut Mark Watney was a smart, studly scientist.

I just saw The Martian on DVD. Matt Damon plays the hero astronaut, who uses his knowledge, strength and courage to survive. “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this,” he pledges.

The Martian glorifies a specifically male nerdery, one whose values sync up with those of traditional masculinity: physical endurance, survival in a hostile landscape, honor, adulation,” writes Katy Waldman in Slate. She complains because the brave and brainy female astronauts are also beautiful.

Is that so bad?

Rock, paper, scissors can be friends

Be Together #NotTheSame is the theme of Android’s anti-bullying ad.

Via Alexander Russo’s This Week in Education.

‘No bullying’ programs don’t work

Anti-bullying programs aren’t protecting vulnerable students, charges Judith Yates in a guest column in The Edvocate.

At the start of the school year, a 14-year-old Tennessee girl killed herself with a kitchen knife in a public park, dying in front of classmates who’d called her a “ho.”

Sherokee Harriman

Sherokee Harriman

Now vandals have attacked the memorial placed where Sherokee Harriman died, writes Yates.

La Vergne, Tennessee schools have a “zero tolerance for bullying” policy. Sherokee’s mother helped Sherokee file “bully reports” in middle and high school. The last report “never went through the system” because Sherokee was dead.

“It’s not worth it” to report bullying, said one student. “They (the administration) don’t do anything” and “if you report, then you are (called) a snitch.”

Sherokee’s desperation may have other roots. A 20-year-old man has been charged with aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor based on information found on Sherokee’s cell phone after her death. Apparently, they had a “relationship” when she was 13.

Kids spread ‘buddy bench’ idea

Schools are adding playground ‘buddy’ benches to help kids make friends, reports the Deseret News. A child who has no one to play with can sit on the bench. Other kids are supposed to invite them to play — not tease them for being friendless.

buddy_benchSixth-grader Jaxton Winrow, pushed the idea at Grant Elementary School in Murray, Utah. “Now, if people get kicked out of a group or club, they can sit on the bench and the other people who get kicked out of a group can sit there, too, so they can become new friends.”

Jaxton and his committee asked students to pledge they would befriend bench sitters.

At Sage Creek Elementary School in Springville, Katie Blades raised money for a buddy bench to help her younger brother, who suffers from extreme social anxiety.

The idea may have started with Christian Bucks, then a second grader in Pennsylvania, who saw a friendship bench in a photo of a German international school. His principal liked the idea, the Today Show invited the boy to appear and it all went viral.

Muslim students feel safe, welcome

Fifty-five percent of California’s Muslim students say they’ve been bullied at least once because of their religion, according to a report by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA).

However, more than 83 percent said they feel “safe, welcome and respected” in school and felt “comfortable” telling classmates they are Muslim.

Of the 29% of girls who wear hijabs, xx% say they've been touched in appropriately.

Of girls who wear hijabs, 29% reported being touched offensively and 27% say they’ve experienced discrimination by a teacher.

CAIR surveyed 600 Muslim students, ages 11 to 18.

Three-quarters report feeling comfortable discussing Islam in the classroom, a slight drop from the 2012 survey.

“Girls who wear the hijab are often stereotyped . . . as uneducated or oppressed for wearing it and must constantly affirm to others that it is their choice to wear it,” the report said.

True friends

Five 13-year-old boys befriended a disabled classmate, including him in games and protecting him from teasing. Prepare for serious heart warming.

Schools monitor students’ social media use

Concerned about cyber-bullying, suicidal students and threats of violence, more schools are monitoring their students’ use of social media, reports Skipease.  

In Orange County, Florida, the school district is paying Snaptrends, a social media monitoring tool used by numerous police departments, to monitor the online activities of students and staff.

In the first few weeks, the monitoring alerted school officials to a student’s suicidal posts and several other issues, said Doug Tripp, senior director of safety and security for Orange County Public Schools. The software will track messages that show an “unhappy, sad or depressed” emotional state.

Posts are public, so it’s not a privacy issues, says Tripp.

It sounds creepy, but . . . Is there a “but?”