Community Matters Blog
Read our blog posts below by Rick Phillips, Executive Director and other staff members, along with other content related to the issues of bullying, cyberbullying and school climate.
The good news is that there is increased recognition of the value, benefits and effectiveness of implementing school climate improvement plans.
The not so good news is that many administrators and line staff are experiencing overwhelm, frustration and confusion when dealing with the many requirements, mandates and top-down directives that they’re expected to address, all of which can lead to resistance and a significant diminishment in their likelihood of success.
To address both the opportunities and the challenges, we are presenting a five-part series of blogs to provide a clear and compelling climate roadmap for schools to use.
As we recognize National Bullying Prevention Month, we can take heart in knowing that shifts are taking place and that many schools are committed to school climate transformation. While there is still much work to be done, more and more schools are taking positive actions to ensure that their students feel welcome, safe and connected.
We know we can’t legislate civility nor can we punish children into being more tolerant. The only viable solution to the spread of the bullying virus on school campuses today is to change the social norms that allow it to occur.
From the coming and going of the Title IV Safe & Drug-Free Schools funding to President Obama’s latest Now Is the Time initiative that’s partially directed towards school climate improvements, administrators have had to be creatively adept with their budgeting, cutting back in lean times, and cautiously expanding when external funding has become more available and fluid.
Whether you’ve been waiting expectantly for the first day of school to begin - or you’re shaking your head thinking "Is it that time again?” - one of the first priorities that needs our attention as teachers and administrators is remembering how important it is for our students to feel that school is a kind, inclusive and safe place to learn and grow.
Community as a determinant of school climate is one of the more indirect influences, but it is no less important. It is reflected in the emphasis that the community places on education, and on nurturing the educational and social-emotional well-being of its youth.
With the widespread adoption of social media and smartphones by teens and even younger children, bullies have a new playground in which to inflict meanness on their targets: cyberspace.
Students are 90% of a school population, yet they are often underutilized. Adults often see students as consumers rather than contributors. If students are part of the problem, we also know that they must be a part of the solution. At Community Matters we believe that if we can harness their power and potential, we can begin to shift the climate from the inside out.
Columbine shattered our long held belief that our schools are safe havens for our children. To re-establish our schools as places where all children can feel safe, welcome and included requires courage, leadership and the commitment of each one of us.
How can we engage more parents in school climate efforts? Research shows that students from schools with positive climates demonstrate increased academic achievement and participation. And some of the greatest influencers of the school climate may not be coming through the doors everyday, in particular the students’ families.
We now have enough evidence to know that when schools make climate a priority and the staff see themselves as educators and role models who make hall-friendly behavior their practice, schools can be safer places where effective teaching and learning take place.
As we wrote about in Part 1, Restorative Justice and Restorative Practices stand as both a philosophy of discipline and an approach whose time has come.
Despite the best efforts of our nation’s schools, bullying, harassment, hazing, and cyber-bullying are persistent and pervasive issues that impact far too many students. These issues compromise both teaching and learning, negatively affect children’s social and emotional development, take excessive staff and administrative time, and cause many school districts to fall short of achieving the educational outcomes they are charged to reach.
School climate is a key pillar to achieving a safer and higher performing school. This is not news to educators who know that a nurturing, positive and safe environment is a requirement for students to learn and thrive in. The question that needs to be answered now is: How do we get there?
I am writing this blog on the 13th anniversary of the first ever Safe School Ambassadors program ever launched. On December 13 and 14, 2000, three of our local high schools attended a two-day training conducted by Rick Phillips and Chris Pack for a brand new program they called Safe School Ambassadors (SSA).
It’s no secret that the responsibilities of school administrators have increased significantly. Challenged every day to fulfill the core mandates of getting students to attend school, keeping them safe, improving academic performance, and achieving higher graduation rates, they also have to comply with ever-expanding laws and imperatives to address bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment and discrimination. What we know is that all the above expectations can be best achieved by focusing first and foremost on School Climate. Click here to read the rest of the article...
In Part 1 of our “The Costs of Suspensions” series, we looked at the rising use of out-of-school suspensions in districts all across the country. Establishing higher control procedures, instituting “zero tolerance” policies and increasing student suspensions has been a means to combatting relational aggression, violence and other disruptions in the school environment. But this “outside-in” approach is costing dearly. Click here to read the rest of the article...
I’m a person who really appreciates the Thanksgiving holiday. Not only for the turkey and fixings, but because my greater focus is on gratitude and taking time to reflect on all that I have to be grateful for. It’s easy to lose sight of gratitude in the fast paced, 24-hour news cycle we live with every day. Click here to read the rest of the article...
In the wake of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999, the primary reaction by district officials was to beef up security, establish higher control procedures, institute “zero tolerance” policies and increase student suspensions.
Yet anyone who’s been following the research knows that these control-oriented school discipline policies have taken a high toll on student graduation rates and increased costs for schools across the nation. And the amount of those costs are even higher than previously considered. Click here to read the rest of the article...
We all want schools to be safe and thriving places where students can excel, staff are inspired and parents are comforted in knowing that their children are in safe and nurturing environments. Unfortunately, as we hear on the news too often, many schools have become places where violence and mistreatment is the norm. School successes are secondary to school safety, teachers are suffering from burn out, parents are distrustful of schools, and students are subjected to the norm of “cruel is cool”.
So what can be done about this toxic school bullying virus? How do we protect our children, staff and communities from the violence and mistreatment? Click here to read the rest of the article...