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.
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...
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
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...
Adults make the rules, but the students set the norms on a school campus. So how can we, as adults, empower students to positively impact the school climate? For the past 12 years, Community Matters has begun this change process through our flagship program Safe School Ambassadors. Read the rest of this article...
If what we want from our schools is to have them develop and “produce” students who are capable, connected and contributing citizens, then school climate must be the foundation from which we begin.
Improving school climate is all about putting people first and recognizing the power of relationships. When school climate is seen as valuable as academic performance, discipline issues decrease and test scores go up. Read the rest of this article...
Metal detectors can’t keep out prejudice and zero tolerance policies don’t control student behavior when adults aren’t around. Check any news outlet on any given day, and you’ll see the proof that peer-to-peer mistreatment continues to permeate our schools, sometimes driving our children to unimaginable consequences. Read the rest of this article...
Current Research and years of study have demonstrated the importance of a positive school climate as the foundational building block for achieving educational success - safe and high-performing schools. Yet today, few schools have a “comprehensive school climate improvement plan” designed to serve as the guiding document for strengthening the organizational culture and fulfilling their educational mandates.
There are four main components or “drivers” that are needed to achieve a positive school environment:
1) The Will - leadership and courage
2) The Framework – a comprehensive plan to improve the school climate
3) The Resources – people, programs and funding
4) The Support – the “buy-in” from all stakeholders
Since 1999, our nation’s schools have invested more than $10 billion in school safety measures. The goal of this vast expenditure was to improve school climate and thereby increase success for each school’s mandates - academic achievement, safer environments and strong attendance and graduation rates.
In spite of these vast efforts students in too many schools still experience unsafe environments and too high levels of bullying. Click here to read more.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a time when we are reminded of the importance of preventing and stopping bullying from happening in our schools and communities.