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.

Students Creating School Climate Improvement
September 18 2014

Students Creating School Climate Improvement

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.

7 Outside-the-Box Ideas to Help Fund Your School Safety & Climate Improvement Programs
September 8 2014

7 Outside-the-Box Ideas to Help Fund Your School Safety & Climate Improvement Programs

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.

Back to School - Setting the Stage for Positive School Climate
August 11 2014

Back to School - Setting the Stage for Positive School Climate

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.

The Power of Community in Influencing School Climate
May 21 2014

The Power of Community in Influencing School Climate

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.

Cyberbullying – A New Face on an Old Problem
May 9 2014

Cyberbullying – A New Face on an Old Problem

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.

School Climate and Student Empowerment
April 29 2014

School Climate and Student Empowerment

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.

15 Years After Columbine: How Safe Are our Schools from Bullying and Violence Today?
April 15 2014

15 Years After Columbine: How Safe Are our Schools from Bullying and Violence Today?

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.

Partnering with Parents as a Strategy for Improving School Climate
March 31 2014

Partnering with Parents as a Strategy for Improving School Climate

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.

How School Staff Can Improve Climate and Discipline
March 17 2014

How School Staff Can Improve Climate and Discipline

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.

Restorative Justice in Practice, Part 2: How to Get Started
February 25 2014

Restorative Justice in Practice, Part 2: How to Get Started

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.

Now Is the Time for Restorative Justice
February 12 2014

Now Is the Time for Restorative Justice

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: the foundation for building safer and higher performing schools
January 23 2014

School Climate: the foundation for building safer and higher performing schools

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?

Happy 13th Anniversary!: Safe School Ambassadors First Ever Program Launch
January 6 2014

Happy 13th Anniversary!: Safe School Ambassadors First Ever Program Launch

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).

Auditing Your School Climate: The First Step to Achieving Safer and High Performing Schools
December 5 2013

Auditing Your School Climate: The First Step to Achieving Safer and High Performing Schools

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...

5 Action Steps For Reducing Suspensions and Creating Safer Schools - Costs of Suspensions Part 2
November 26 2013

5 Action Steps For Reducing Suspensions and Creating Safer Schools - Costs of Suspensions Part 2

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...

Giving Thanks
November 19 2013

Giving Thanks

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...

The Cost of School Suspensions: It’s Higher Than You Think! - Part 1
November 8 2013

The Cost of School Suspensions: It’s Higher Than You Think! - Part 1

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...

Building a Safer, Thriving School through the Inside-Out Approach
October 24 2013

Building a Safer, Thriving School through the Inside-Out Approach

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...

From Bystander to Peacemaker - One Student’s Journey that Changed Their Life
October 22 2013

From Bystander to Peacemaker - One Student’s Journey that Changed Their Life

Students are confronted with bullying at every turn. Often they look to the popular 'leaders' in their group for cues as to whether to passively stand by or speak up to stop it.

Meet Donny Giovanni, one student who made a decision to learn valuable skills to stop bullying and how it changed his school and his life.

Donny's talk was taken from a presentation he gave in November 2012 on his experience as a Safe School Ambassador - the bystander education training program. Click here to read the rest of the article...

National Bullying Prevention Month - A Call to Action: 5 Things You Can Do to Improve School Climate
October 8 2013

National Bullying Prevention Month - A Call to Action: 5 Things You Can Do to Improve School Climate

Improving the school climate may seem like a daunting task, but the truth is each of us can and do impact climate, whether we intend to or not. We can all do that in a more intentional way by making a commitment to initiate positive interactions with each other. It is these small acts, when done consistently over time, and with a focus on relationships, that we begin the change process. Read the rest of this article...