Community Matters Blog
Read our blog posts below by Rick Phillips, Executive Director, staff members and guest bloggers, as they discuss the issues of bullying, cyberbullying and school climate.
Whole School Climate
As educators and caring adults, we’re always looking for ways to reduce student’s risky behavior, increase their attendance and improve their achievement. What we have often failed to recognize, is that having students serve as the “change agents and peace makers” on school campuses goes a long way to optimizing the conditions for learning and positive behavior to occur.
Over the last decade a variety of factors have coalesced and contributed to significant changes in how schools address discipline issues. As a result of pressure from the government, coupled with a recognition that suspensions are often meted out disproportionately and often don’t result in improved behavior, schools are moving away from “zero-tolerance” policies and toward alternative approaches that are more effective.
With the widespread adoption of social media and smartphones by teens and even younger children, bullies have another playground in which to inflict meanness on their targets: cyberspace.
It’s déjà vu all over again, as another start to the school year is upon us. This is a time to reconnect to our reasons for caring about students and doing all we can to ensure that they attend schools where they feel welcome, safe and connected to caring adults.
When we take a sober look at harassment and bullying in school communities, we know that anti-gay bullying is rampant and often unchecked. As students realize their sexual identity and gender orientation younger, it is essential that this school community’s population have the emotional support to ensure their mental and physical health and well-being.
There is increased recognition of the value, benefits and effectiveness of implementing school climate improvement reform. To address both the opportunities and the challenges, a clear and compelling climate roadmap for schools is needed...
Administrators and teachers say that they keep bullying, violence and drug use out of their schools. But school staff can't see everything and they can't be everywhere for everyone. That's why it's so important to teach us students how to recognize situations that could easily escalate, and how and when to act.
I know I wasn't the worst, but I sure didn't help. When I was in high school and all of my friends were picking on C.L., I joined in without a thought.
The good news is that within the new Local Control Funding Formula requirements, school climate is one of eight areas of primary focus for improvement, signaling an increased recognition of the value, benefits and effectiveness of improving school climate for better academic and social outcomes.
Back-to-school is obviously an exciting time, yet for many children, starting the new year can seem like a minefield filled with risk, vulnerability and concern for their safety. Here are some concrete and effective actions you can take to help your students start the school year with the best chance for success:
The evidence-based Safe School Ambassadors Program (SSA) empowers elementary, middle and high school students to recognize mistreatment when it’s happening, to have the courage and skills to intervene, and to transform it into self-awareness, kindness and compassion.
As bullying, cyberbullying and intolerance affect more and more children, it’s increasingly crucial that adults, both parents and teachers, increase their awareness and understanding of how their children interact with each other, both in person and online. Here are some practical steps you can take to better protect the young people in your care.
There’s no way around it… whether you’re conversant and comfortable with the “ins and outs” of data collection and measurement - or not - at the end of the day, data drives decisions. That’s why it’s important to understand what the data is illustrating about climate and then to select measures that are easy to collect and simple to explain.
One thing for sure is that there is no shortage of plans, lists of to do’s or action steps to be taken when it comes to improving our schools. However, too often those plans don’t ever reach their intended or desired end results. Somewhere between the plan and execution, things break down.
Why? In the 15 plus years we have been assisting schools in school safety and school climate change, we’ve identified some critical missteps...
Like most changes in life, even policy changes that have the potential to positively affect school climate will likely be met with at least some level of resistance. It just seems to be human nature to fear and resist change, so effective leaders need to learn to work with the resistance.
A school climate assessment is a step-by-step process that assists school leaders in determining what’s working, what’s not and what’s missing in their current climate efforts. Using a thorough analysis process provides the foundational information necessary for effective planning and implementation of the many climate mandates and initiatives that schools are expected to manage.
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.
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.
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.