On December 18, the Trump Administration’s Federal Commission on School Safety released its recommendation to remove 2014 guidance issued by the Education Department and the Department of Justice to eliminate disparities in school discipline. This guidance came about after a comprehensive review and study and talking extensively to all stakeholders seeking to interrupt the disgraceful and disproportionate suspension of students of color and disabled students from school.
For more information on Breaking the School To Prison Pipeline, read the report DREDF authored for the National Council on Disability.
The guidance the Administration seeks to withdraw created minimum standards and basic protections for children with disabilities and other at-risk students from discriminatory practices that feed the school-to-prison pipeline. Withdrawl not only harms students, but also families, communities, and our nation. Data shows, and DREDF sees firsthand, that often students of color, foster kids and children with disabilities—many students fit into all of these categories—are subjected to the most punitive and exclusionary discipline. The administration’s regressive recommendations would reverse hard fought improvements to correct these established, irrefutable disparities.
A federal panel led by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that’s charged with making policy recommendations on school shootings in the wake of the massacre at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School last Valentine’s Day promised to have its report out by the end of the year. That means we will see the commission’s report any day now.
So what do we already know about what may be in it? And what should we be watching for? Here’s your quick preview.
The report will almost certainly call for scrapping the Obama administration’s 2014 guidance dealing with discipline disparities. So what happens next?
Almost every advocate watching the commission believes it will recommend ditching Obama guidance, jointly issued by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. (The Washington Post reported that this is a for-sure thing last week.) The directive put schools on notice that they may be found in violation of federal civil rights laws if they enforce intentionally discriminatory rules or if their policies lead to disproportionately higher rates of discipline for students in one racial group, even if those policies were written without discriminatory intent. You can read about the arguments for and against the guidance here.
The big question will be, how do school districts react to the change? How many will decide to keep using the practices they set up to respond to the guidance, which supporters say has helped school districts revise their discipline policies to benefit of all kids? And how many will decide to make changes, in part because some educators say the guidance has hamstrung local decision-making on discipline? And will Democrats in Congress, who will control the House as of January, move to somehow formalize the guidance in law? It’s unlikely that would pass a Republican-controlled Senate, but it would send a message and keep the debate going in Washington.
What does the report say about arming teachers and about guns in general?
President Donald Trump said that the massacre at Stoneman Douglas might not have been as bad if educators had been armed. “A teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened,” Trump said, referring to Nikolas Cruz, the former student who is accused of the slayings.
Since this is Trump’s commission, after all, it’s hard to imagine the report would come out against arming teachers. But it’s an open question how strong the language will be on this topic. Will the report encourage districts to arm educators, and point out that, under the department’s interpretation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, federal funds can be used to arm educators? (Democrats who helped write the law have a different take.)…
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By Ronald W. Holmes, Ph.D., Special to the Outlook
Parents have the choice to send their children to traditional public schools in their communities as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. However, these schools must offer students a quality education. They must also keep them safe from any potential or dangerous crime. When they do not, parents have the right to choose other alternatives to educate their children. One alternative is homeschooling. This type of schooling is where children obtain all or most of their education at home. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a projected enrollment of homeschooled students ages 5 through 17, exceeds 1.5 million.
With school shootings becoming a frequent occurrence in America’s public schools, the critical question to be asked is: Is it time for more parents to choose homeschooling?The answer to this question will be found in my next book to be released in February of 2019. The book will explore the success stories of parents who have homeschooled their children, as well as those who are currently homeschooling their children.
In addition to a quality education and a safe school environment, there are many other reasons parents homeschooled their children. This book will highlight the program structure, curriculum options, partnerships and other resources afforded to homeschoolers for an enriching educational experience. It will also highlight the extent of technology integrated into the instructional process.
If you would like to participate in this book project as someone who has successfully homeschooled a child or currently having success in homeschooling a child, please contact Dr. Ronald Holmes at email@example.com.
I am a former teacher, school administrator, test developer and district superintendent. I am the author of 16 books and publisher of The Holmes Education Post, an education-focused Internet newspaper. These books include How to Eradicate Hazing; How to Eradicate Cyber Bullying; How to Eradicate Schoolyard Bullying; and How to Eradicate Workplace Bullying. These books serve as a reference guide to an online anti-bullying program that provides training for all students, parents, employees, and managers. These books are also equipped with a 24-hour Web-Based Reporting, Tracking, Training and Documentation System that allow individuals to report bullying incidents anonymously from the home, school, work, and community.
I’m sure President Obama’s heart was in the right place.
A few years ago, his Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, studied school discipline data and came to a troubling conclusion: African American students in the 2011-12 school year had been suspended or expelled at a rate three times higher than White students.
This news sent shock waves throughout the community and government. There were already concerns of a “school-to-prison pipeline” that funneled disadvantaged children to jail. Now, there was renewed agreement that things had to change.
And so, in 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice put public schools on notice. If they suspended or expelled students of any racial group more than any other, they could face a federal investigation. In place of discipline to punish bad behavior, they were urged to use positive reinforcement instead.
As the grandmother of five school-age kids, I watched this closely. And as one of the Black students who integrated an all-White Richmond, Va., school in 1961, I was hopeful.
I hoped this policy would lead to safer schools. I prayed it would help students get a better education. And I felt confident it would open the door to a brighter future for our kids.
But like so many other parents and grandparents, I was wrong.
The federal government’s warning had an immediate impact. Schools across America quickly changed their discipline policies and reduced their suspension and expulsion rates. In doing so, they avoided the investigation threatened by the President. But at the same time, they put our children at risk.
Today, kids who bully and assault their classmates too often do so without fear of punishment. They know teachers have lost control. And they realize they can get away with behavior that never used to be tolerated.
As a result, when this summer is over, many students will once again face the fear of going back to school. That’s a tragedy! Schools should be joyous places where learning takes place. That’s what my classmates and I fought for in 1961. And it’s what should be the reality today.
Instead, danger lurks behind schoolhouse doors.
Joevon Smith is a heartbreaking example. A 17-year-old student with special needs who attended Ballou High School in Washington, D.C., Joeven was beaten up in his classroom and sprayed with a chemical. He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but never recovered. A few weeks after his brutal assault, Joevon died.
According to media reports, Joevon’s assailants wanted to steal his cell phone. That may be so. But because they were repeat offenders, loosened school discipline policies are also at fault.
That’s the case up the road in Baltimore, too. There, Jared Haga, age 10, and his 12-year-old sister Tamar have been bullied and threatened with violence. Tamar has even been sexually harassed and assaulted. In school!
As chronicled by “The Daily Signal,” Jared and Tamar’s mother tried to get this to stop. But when she complained to the principal, she was told nothing would–or could–be done.
Joevon, Jared, and Tamar aren’t alone. According to numerous reports, public schools are now less orderly and more dangerous. As Walter E. Williams has observed, the policy President Obama put into place has allowed “miscreants and thugs to sabotage the education process.”
Teachers apparently agree. In anonymous surveys, they describe how badly school safety has deteriorated. As one stated, “We have fights here almost every day. The kids walk around and say, ‘We can’t get suspended–we don’t care what you say.’”
That sentiment was echoed by another teacher: “Students are yelling, cursing, hitting and screaming at teachers and nothing is being done but teachers are being told to teach and ignore the behaviors. These students know there is nothing a teacher can do.”
This is crazy.
Every child deserves to get the tools they need to make their dreams come true. But if they are too scared to focus, they won’t get them. Many will drop out, limiting their chance to get a job, raise a family, and pursue their life goals.
All because directives from Washington have made school districts fear they’ll be investigated for keeping their classrooms safe.
We can’t bring Joevon back, and Jared and Tamar may never forget the trauma they’ve experienced. But we can take action to fix the mistake that has been made.
For starters, the Education and Justice Departments’ school discipline policy should be rescinded. And if any threats remain, every family should be empowered with school choice, so they can choose safer learning options for their children.
I know President Obama meant well, but his administration’s action was wrong. So, it’s now time to make things right.
July 26, 2018 — During today’s meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety, NSBA’s Chief Legal Officer, Francisco Negron, Jr. shared our insight on how information-sharing and accountability supports school officials’ commitment to eliminate disruptive behavior and violence and ensure that our schools are safe learning environments. School boards set rigorous standards for student conduct and through these policies set disciplinary practices and procedures to maximize the opportunities for all students and provide them with safe and successful in-school experiences. While decisions in matters of student discipline, particularly as they relate to instances of individual behavior, are best left in the hands of local education experts, there is a significant role for the federal government. Greater and sustained federal resources are vital to helping support and sustain school resource officers, school counseling, emergency preparedness and response training and locally determined programs that expand access to mental health services and support comprehensive “wraparound” services. Collaboration and communication with local law enforcement agencies is an essential part of prevention, preparedness, mitigation and emergency response and recovery plans. The removal of barriers that get in the way of the collaboration of such agencies will greatly benefit local education leaders and the children they serve.
Educators’ fear of overstepping federal student privacy laws can make it tougher for law enforcement and schools to share information that could prevent a potential school shooting, advocates told President Donald Trump’s School Safety Commission at the panel’s latest hearing, held in Washington on Thursday.
Clarence Cox III, the president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officers, told the commission that fear of overstepping privacy laws can be impediment to information sharing.
“For law enforcement, this is one of the greatest hindrances facing intelligence gathering,” he said.
And Francisco Negrón, the chief legal officer at the National School Boards Association, argued that local districts would benefit from being able to use their discretion in deciding when to share information.
“Collaboration and communication with local law enforcement agencies is an essential part of these efforts. That is why school boards would benefit from eliminating barriers that hinder the collaboration of agencies providing services to children,” Negrón said.
He added that: “Local educators know and care about their students and their school communities. They know the school climate, community concerns, the history of student interactions, and their needs. They are in a unique position to share information when necessary to maintain a safe school environment.”
The panel has heard in the past from student privacy rights experts, but none spoke at Thursday’s hearing.
The commission, chaired by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, was created in response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. thursday’s hearing was one of the rare meetings that involved all four members of the commission: DeVos; Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services; Kirstjen M. Nielsen, the secretary of Homeland Security; and Jeff Sessions, the attorney general. This hearing, which focused on “proactively protecting students,” was organized by the Justice Department.
Sessions seemed sympathetic to the idea that the feds could tweak—or at least clarify—the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act—so that educators and law enforcement don’t have to worry about collaborating to head off a possible violent incident. Sessions said the 2004 approval of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act gave more discretion to educators in helping students in special education. He thinks that might the right strategy for FERPA.
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The message they got from the speakers at this traveling town hall, over and over, was this: Vote.
As it matures over the course of its months-long Road to Change tour through the United States this summer, the March for Our Lives movement’s broad goal of ending gun violence is increasingly focused on voting, one of the most essential of all civic responsibilities.
The rally here on Thursday was the 24th since the tour hit the road in June. It took place a stone’s throw from Virginia Tech, the site of the nation’s second deadliest school shooting, in 2007, which left 33 dead.
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A trendy product that has stirred concern among many child health advocates went undetected in many school hallways, bathrooms, and even classrooms when students first started using it.
The tiny device, called a Juul, looks more like a USB drive than what it actually is, a form of e-cigarette that allows students to inhale flavored nicotine vapor, often without detection by adults.
Here’s what educators need to know about “juuling” (and vaping in general).
‘Juuling’ can be really difficult for teachers and principals to detect.
Students have become really crafty about concealing their vaping habits, principals told Education Week.
The device’s flavor cartridges come in kid-friendly varieties like mango, creme brulee, and gummi bear. And the scents they give off are not always immediately recognizable to unfamiliar adults, principals say…
There’s also a whole juuling culture online, where students share YouTube videos of how to hollow out highlighters to conceal the compact devices, and how to slide them up shirt sleeves. There are even covert videos of students taking quick puffs in the back of their high school classrooms. And some companies now market specially designed apparel that allow vapers to use their device while it is concealed in the drawstring of a hoodie or the strap of a backpack.
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Highlights of this month’s Board meeting include: The Utah State Board of Education will meet on Thursday, June 7 beginning at 8 a.m. The Board will hold Finance Committee, Law and Legislation Committee, and Standards and Assessment Committee meetings on Friday, June 8 beginning at 9 a.m. The Board will also meet as the Governing Board of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind on Friday, June 8 at 12:30 p.m. and meet in a study session that same day at 1:45 p.m. All meetings will be held the Board’s office, 250 E 500 South, Salt Lake City.
Consideration of a contract with Pearson for a hybrid statewide test for grades 9-10 that combines items from ACT Aspire and SAGE.
Review of the state’s grades 3-8 statewide test changes.
Representatives of President Donald Trump’s school safety commission, which is charged with making recommendations to combat school violence in the wake of February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and other tragedies, spent the morning at Hebron Harman Elementary School here learning about positive behavioral supports and interventions, a widely-used system to help improve school climate and student behavior.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who chairs the commission, and others heard plenty of discussion of restorative behavior practices in which students resolve conflicts through conversation, common expectations for behavior, and community building circles.
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