‘Know the signs’ — or stigmatize loners?

I’ve seen a lot of praise for this ad, which was produced by Sandy Hook Promise to promote its “Know the Signs” program.

The group, which was founded by some family members of the Sandy Hook victims, wants to show “how to recognize an individual exhibiting at-risk behaviors” before they hurt anyone, reports Ed Week.

Watch the warning signs in the video. Do we want kids like this to be reported as possible killers? What percentage of adolescents are loners, occasionally picked on, sometimes hostile?

‘Kindness in Chalk’ inspires kids

Last Monday, thousands of students chalked encouraging messages to their classmates, reports The 74.

Kindness in Chalk Day” was launched by MinneMama blogger Nicki Brunner after her son started kindergarten in 2014.

Encouraging students to encourage each other prevents bullying, she believes. Some 267 schools participated in the activity this year.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.


Teachers’ union blames Trump for school bullying

Donald Trump’s rhetoric is encouraging school bullies who harass Muslims and Latinos, charges the National Education Association, which is launching a six-figure anti-Trump ad campaign.

Hillary Clinton appeared with National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia at the NEA’s July 5 meeting. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Hillary Clinton and NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia at the union’s July 5 meeting. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia cited an April Southern Poverty Law Center report on the alleged “Trump effect.”

In the unscientific survey, teachers who visit the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance web site reported that students from immigrant or Muslim families are fearful about what might happen if Trump were elected, reports Ed Week. The report included “anecdotal reports of bullying teachers have tied to Trump.”

Hillary Clinton, who has talked about the “Trump effect,” has released a  new TV ad that “plays audio of Trump criticizing women’s looks as young girls look at themselves in mirrors,” reports Yahoo.

U.S. kids lag in belittling skills, vocabulary

Most U.S. students lack the language skills and vocabulary necessary to belittle classmates effectively, according to the National Center for Education Research, reports The Onion.

“Unfortunately, most of our students are finishing high school with only a fifth-grade ability to shame and deride their peers,” said report co-author and educational psychologist Joyce Marrone. “While they know how to identify a loser, they lack the semantic tools to articulate exactly why that person is so lame, ugly, or stupid.”

The average eighth-grader knows only two synonyms for “slut,” the study found.

It’s critical for students to master the ability “to subtly question a female’s competence or snidely remark on a male’s perceived lack of masculinity,” notes The Onion.

Said Marrone, “If they don’t achieve linguistic proficiency while in school, they’ll never develop the gossiping, bad-mouthing, or shit-talking skills they’ll need to succeed in the workforce.”

Can schools help kids who lunch alone? 


Florida State player Travis Rudolph eats lunch with sixth-grader Bo Paske at a Tallahassee middle school.

Bo Paske, a Florida sixth grader on the autism spectrum, doesn’t eat lunch alone any more. After his mother shared a photo on Facebook of a Florida State player sitting with Bo, classmates have become “super welcoming,” says Leah Paske. “He was at a table full of girls, which I thought was funny,” she said.

“It’s been awesome,” said Bo on Fox News. “It was like me sitting on a rainbow”

Laura McKenna, mother of a middle schooler with high-functioning autism, writes about how schools can help the kids who eat lunch alone.

Every autistic kid has some sort of stigmatizing behavior or social-communication impairment, which isolates him from his peers. Some flap their hands, others hum. My kid eats alone in the cafeteria because he isn’t very good at chit-chat. When I ask him who he ate lunch with that day, he mumbles, “I don’t know.”

“Most preteens are struggling with their own social development and aren’t able to reach out to others,” writes McKenna. But schools are trying to make the cafeteria a friendlier, safer place for the socially challenged.

Some schools have organized “lunch bunches,” where a school therapist or a special-education teacher will gather together a group of kids who may be sitting by themselves at opposite ends of the cafeteria. Sometimes the teacher will ask typical kids to join them at the table for a week and guide conversation among the kids. Sometimes she’ll simply create a safe place, a sanctuary lunch table, for the autistic kids to sit.

It doesn’t work without a trained adult, writes McKenna.

Autistic kids do mind sitting alone, she believes. Even if they can’t engage in conversation, they “still want to sit next to other kids and feel their companionship.”

I’m not sure that’s true of all students with autism. Thoughts?

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.