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.

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.

Don’t call me a ‘retard’

It’s Time to Stop Using the Word “Retard,” writes Kasey Studdard, a professional football player. Before he had his growth spurt and became a star athlete, he was a “slow, little, fat kid” with learning disabilities. He was “teased, ridiculed, and isolated.” 

His mother, a teacher, helped him keep up in school, despite his information processing problems, he writes.

In college and the pros, he had to work much, much harder than anyone else to learn the plays. “Even after I considered them memorized, I still made sure to go back to my diagrams, to stay late to ask questions of the coaching staff, and to sit for extra video sessions.”

With his wife, Studdard is launching a foundation to “allow children to experience the joys of the outdoors . . . without fear of being singled out on account of being disabled, or slow, or poor … or different.”

Studdard is part of a Special Olympics’ campaign to stop the use of  “the r-word” (retard). It’s often used as an insult.

Here’s an argument in favor of keeping “retarded” as an acceptable term for intellectual disability.

Stacie Lewis, who has a disabled daughter, agrees that the word “retard” isn’t the issue. “Treating the disabled humanely is.”

Why schools have bullies

The Bully Business is booming, writes Cevin Soling in The Atlantic. An entire industry has emerged to advise schools that “bullies feel bad about themselves, have deep insecurities and crave attention,” he writes. 

Bullying is a symptom of frustration, argues Soling. “The law requires children to be in a place many of them do not want to be, where they must associate with people they do not like, and where they must take arbitrary orders in a docile manner.”

Trapped and powerless, some will “bully others to attain some feeling of control,” he writes. More autonomy will lead to less bullying.

I share his doubts about the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs. However, Soling loses me when he compares The Bully Project‘s call for “safe, caring, and respectful schools and communities” to slave owners wanting their slaves to sing and dance.

cover_EPUB copy

Soling is the author of the Student Resistance Handbook, which advises students on legal tactics to “disrupt the operation of school, substantially increase the costs involved in its operation, and make those who work for and support schools as miserable as they make the students who are forced to attend.”

A commenter writes: “About the best I can say about the stupidity and injustices of the public school system is that they prepare you for the stupidity and injustices of life. This is not a sufficient reason to cripple kids’ curiosity, creativity and enthusiasm. Cevin Soling has written a book I wish I had when I was nine. It’s a bit late now. But every kid should have a copy. Handy.”