The Total Child

'13 Reasons Why' Discussion Resource Library for Educators and Parents

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

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The new Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, based on 2007 the young adult novel of the same name, revolves around a 17 year old girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. She leaves behind audio recordings to 13 people- 12 students and one school counselor- who she perceives as playing a role in why she killed herself.

 Due to the realistic and graphic depictions of – among other topics-- bullying, rape and the protagonist’s suicide in the show, AASA compiled a resource library for parents and educators on how to talk to youth about the issues conveyed on the show.

 As the National Association of School Psychologists states , “ this is particularly important for adolescents who are isolated, struggling or vulnerable to suggestive images and storylines,” and it is vital to reinforce the message that “suicide is not the solution to problems and help is available.”

The following are the resources we have compiled as of Friday April 28, 2017. We will update the resource library on an ongoing basis on the following page: http://aasa.org/13ReasonsWhyResources.aspx 

Staff Contact

 Kayla Jackson, Project Director
703-875-0725
kjackson@aasa.org

 Resource Library

  •  National Association of School Psychologists. "'13 Reasons Why' Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators"
    •  This resource includes cautions related to the show, guidance for families and educators in recognizing the signs related to youth suicide, safe messaging when talking to students , and additional websites, fact sheets and books to reference on this topic.
     
  •  Child Mind Institute. "Why Talk to Kids About '13 Reasons Why.'" A blog post by Peter Faustino, PsyD, who is a school psychologist in the Bedford Central School District (NY) and a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of School Psychologists.
  •  The Jed Foundation and SAVE. "13 Reasons Why: Talking Points for Viewing & Discussing the Netflix Series"
    •  Talking points , available in both English and Spanish, to assist parents, teachers and other educators in talking to youth about suicide as it relates to the situational drama that unfolds in '13 Reasons Why.' 
     

New School Wellness Resources for the New Year

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post from Cheryl Jackson Lewis, Director, Nutrition, Education, Training, and Technical Assistance Division, Child Nutrition Programs, Food and Nutrition Service. 

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Have you set any goals for health and wellness in 2017? There are many ways superintendents can help schools create and cultivate a culture of academic success and wellness. District leaders across the country are championing Local School Wellness Policies, with an understanding that kids with healthier eating patterns and enough physical activity tend to have better grades; remember what was taught in class; behave better in class; and miss less school time. A Local School Wellness Policy is a written document that guides school district’s efforts to establish a school environment that promotes students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn. Superintendents play a critical role in helping children have healthy places to learn; and it’s easier than ever to bring everyone together on this important issue.

The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 added new provisions for the implementation, evaluation, and public involvement and reporting on the progress of Local School Wellness Policies. The Local School Wellness Policy final rule, published July 21, 2016, requires schools to engage parents, students, and community members in the annual development and assessment of local school wellness policies. It’s important for everyone to be a part of this process so the wellness policy is representative of the community and student’s needs. Local educational agencies must fully comply with the requirements of the final rule by June 30, 2017.

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 Parents, school staff and administrators, and community members work together to develop the Local School Wellness Policy and put it into action.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Team Nutrition initiative provides a free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit that superintendents, school wellness leaders, and schools can customize to communicate information about their Local School Wellness Policy to parents, principals, and other school staff. The kit includes:

  •  A letter to the wellness coordinator;
  • Sample letter to school principals;
  • Informational flyers, in English and Spanish;
  • Presentations for parents and school staff;
  • Sample newsletter article; and
  • Social media posts and graphics.

 The free Local Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit is available at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy-outreach-toolkit.

Parents and school staff are not always aware of the Local School Wellness Policy and how it is being put into action. These tools can help and may be customized to reflect information specific to the school/school district’s policy. Additional Local Schools Wellness Policy resources on creating, implementing, and evaluating school wellness policies are available at Team Nutrition’s Web site: https://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/local-school-wellness-policy.

January is a great time to reflect on how to further your efforts to engage parents, school staff and the community in school wellness efforts that support academic performance and health. Start with these ready resources and put a plan into action that works for your schools.  

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 Nutrition education and promotion are part of a Local School Wellness Policy.

Plan Ahead to Cope With Death and School Crisis

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness) Permanent link

A guest post by Dr. Tom Demaria from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who develops a number of topical articles on bereavement for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. This blog is a follow-up to the post from November 28, 2016 " Death In a School Community: Four Goals for Supporting Students"

 A death in a school community has a deep impact. The loss will usually touch many individuals—students and staff alike, often the entire school.

It is vital that schools plan ahead to be prepared to deal with a range of possibilities involving the death of a student, teacher or other staff member. Plans should include:

  •  Procedures for informing staff, students and their parents/guardians.
  •  Guidelines about what information is appropriate to share, both generally and in specific situations (for instance, what should be said in cases of suicide, violent death, death after a long illness).
  •  Procedures for providing appropriate supportive services for students and staff. This often includes establishing partnerships with community professionals before an event occurs.
  •  Guidelines for both students and staff about interacting with media.
  •  Policies about funeral attendance, memorialization and commemoration.

 All schools should have a school crisis team in place that develops the response plan and reviews it regularly. While these events are inevitably challenging, having an effective plan in place allows schools to respond quickly in a thoughtful and productive manner. While it will not take away the pain people feel about the death, it will offer the greatest likelihood of offering the support students and staff most need.

 Find out more about the specific steps schools can take at the website for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students (www.grievingstudents.org). AASA  is a member of the Coalition.

 

Death In a School Community: Four Goals for Supporting Students

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness) Permanent link

A guest post by Dr. Tom Demaria from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who develops a number of topical articles on bereavement for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. 

 A death in a school community has a deep impact. The loss will usually touch many individuals, students and staff alike, and often the entire school.

 It is vital that schools plan ahead to be prepared to deal with a range of possibilities involving the death of a student, teacher or other staff member. Information about the death is likely to spread quickly among students and staff. Responding rapidly and appropriately can limit rumors, misinformation and gossip.

 There are four important goals for supporting students at this time:

 1.      Normalize common experiences. Grief is personal and every individual will experience it differently. However, people who are grieving have similar types of needs. These include being acknowledged, understood and supported.

 Help students understand the range of feelings common after a death. Share ways people often express these feelings. Discuss how the feelings are likely to change in the days, weeks and months to come.

2.      Help students express and cope with their feelings. Invite questions and comments. Provide a safe, non-judgmental setting for these conversations. Classrooms and small groups offer students a chance to see how others are responding. They can share coping strategies and provide mutual support.

3.      Help students find additional resources. Many students will have a fairly straightforward reaction to the death and cope well with the grieving process. Others may have more complicated reactions. This might include students who were close to the deceased or the family, who had conflicts with the deceased, or who identify in some way with the person who died. It might also include students facing other challenges, such as a seriously ill family member, a recent death in the family, or pre-existing emotional challenges.

Talking with a counselor who has experience in bereavement can be helpful. This is especially important for any student experiencing a worsening of anxiety symptoms, depression or thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

4.     Help younger students understand concepts about death. Younger students may have more trouble understanding certain concepts about death, such as that all living things eventually die, or the fact that the person who died is no longer feeling fear or pain.

All schools should have a school crisis team in place that develops a response plan in the event of a death. Having an effective plan in place allows schools to respond to these challenging events in a thoughtful and productive manner. While it will not take away the pain people feel about the death, it will offer the greatest likelihood of offering the support students most need.
Find out more about the specific steps schools can take at the website for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students (www.grievingstudents.org). Our organization is a member of the Coalition.

 The Coalition to Support Grieving Students was convened by the New York Life Foundation, a pioneering advocate for the cause of childhood bereavement, and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, which is led by pediatrician and childhood bereavement expert David J. Schonfeld, M.D. The Coalition has worked with Scholastic Inc., a long-standing supporter of teachers and kids, to create grievingstudents.org a groundbreaking, practitioner-oriented website designed to provide educators with the information, insights, and practical advice they need to better understand and meet the needs of the millions of grieving kids in America’s classrooms.

ESSA Advocacy and Your Role

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness) Permanent link

A guest post by Dr. John Skretta, Superintendent of Norris School District (NE). Dr. Skretta. Dr. Skretta participated in AASA’s School Administrator Training Cadre for Coordinated School Health. 

The new Every Student Succeeds Act federal accountability law replacing the lockstep No Child Left Behind expands the definition of quality education to be more than core and replaces the NCLB narrow emphasis on "core academic" areas. Broader measures of student success are now a part of the equation.This creates a tremendous opportunity for school districts to institute best practice programming in coordinated school health with the support of federal resources and accountability measures. At Norris and in many similar school districts that have robust school wellness councils, that has included the following:

  •  Instituting and sustaining school wellness councils as a part of the broader school improvement effort of our district.
  • Offering a second chance breakfast to increase the number of qualified school breakfast participants getting the nutrition needed to be ready to learn on a daily basis.
  • Incorporating classroom furnishings like movement stools and stability balls for classrooms, as well as pedal desks and standing desks to eliminate sedentary learning environments.
  • Offering integrated professional development for teachers, coaching them on classroom-based physical activity strategies.
  • Providing highly qualified mental health services to students in need of higher level interventions through the services of LMHPs and other credentialed professionals.

 However, the realization of ESSA’s expanded intent and potential for improving whole child education in your district will not happen without purposeful and intentional efforts from advocates. Get involved! How?

 Here are some of the key advocacy opportunities for teachers related to whole child initiatives and ESSA implementation:

  •  Your presence and participation in professional development opportunities that expand the scope of student success beyond core academic areas. Norris will be bringing the Edu-Ninja Jennifer Burdis (an Elementary teacher who has appeared on two seasons of American Ninja) to our district in January 2017 to coach our teachers on modeling positive nutrition practices and PA breaks for the classroom.
  • Your willingness to share the research on the connection between health and academic outcomes. It is important that all educators become aware of the extent to which nutrition and physical health can positively impact cognition.
  • Expand the scope of federal Title services in your school to ensure that systems of support for safe and healthy schools children become a part of the Title block grant program in your district.
  • Participate in state level discussions through your Department of Education and local districts regarding the development of state accountability plans for ESSA to ensure health and physical education are elevated as content areas.

 Undoubtedly, there are many challenges that lie ahead with the implementation of ESSA in our respective states. The President’s request and the congressional authorization of block grants that can help schools institute coordinated school health are currently woefully underfunded – the law authorizes $1.65 billion and currently block grant authorizations are in place for just $275 million.

 The time is now for all of us to get involved and get behind a broader notion of accountability and school performance to nurture the total child. ESSA provides this opportunity, now let's capitalize on it!

Youth and Superintendents Engage Through a Fuel Up to Play 60 & AASA Partnership

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living) Permanent link

 “Don’t underestimate your influence as student leaders to bring change in your schools.”  

 -Dr. Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY)

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  In Spring 2016, Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassadors, from throughout the country were selected to participate in a Youth Engagement Network, where they connected with Superintendents and AASA staff. They learned effective ways to influence decision-makers in school districts on making healthy changes happen in their schools, by communicating their own personal stories.

“My goal, our goal is to support and enhance the health and wellbeing of students and families by improving the school environment, policies, and educational opportunities, explains Student Ambassador Zhela, a 9th grader from Arizona.

 “If kids are taught these healthy ways and activities at a young age, then they are more likely to grow with this knowledge and keep up with the healthy ways,” adds Student Ambassador Sydney, an 8th grader from New Hampshire.

As part of this pilot, AASA connected the Student Ambassadors to superintendents for an hour long call. During this call, the superintendents discussed their favorite part of their position—meeting with students, and their least favorite part of their position—the meetings.

The three superintendent participants were Dr. Scott Kizner, Superintendent of Harrisonburg City School District (VA), Dr. Roberto Padilla, Superintendent of Newburgh Enlarged City School District (NY), and Rodney Watson, Superintendent of Spring ISD (TX).

 When asked:

What do superintendents care most about when it comes to students?

 The superintendents responded:

 Superintendent Rodney Watson: “That we meet all kids’ social, emotional, and academic needs.”
Superintendent Scott Kizner: “That we keep kids safe.”
Superintendent Roberto Padilla: “That all students have access to a robust education, preparing them for like. We take that seriously.”

Furthermore, the superintendents offered advice to the students on how to approach and present an idea to them. Key pieces of advice included:

  •  Be sure to be objective and not emotional; do not be intimidated.
  • Make sure that your information is research-based.
  • Idea should be coherent between the presentation and the plan. The need and the idea must match and fill a gap.
  • If using Power Point, do not read word for word. Give descriptions so people will understand.
  • Do not underestimate your influence as a student leader – use your courage to create solutions

 One 8th grade Student Ambassador from Wisconsin, Andrew, shared how his conversation on school wellness went with his superintendent. “[The superintendent] said he actually got a degree as a physical education teacher, so wellness was very important to him,” said Andrew. “[The superintendent] also said he liked the way where our school was going with the events we were doing to improve physical activity. Of course I agreed. He shared a life story of his, how he always loved to be active when he was young.”

 To help other students feel comfortable reaching out to school administrators like Superintendents, the Student Ambassadors developed a guide to empower students to make presentations to their school. This guide offers advice on how to overcome obstacles when students tell their story such as picking out main points or avoid freezing up. Read the best practices guide.

 Learn more about the Youth Engagement Network through their final report.

 

A Call To Action: Superintendents Can Lead Movement for Healthier Schools

(Coordinated School Health, Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness) Permanent link

The following is a guest post by AASA member Joanne Avery, Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 (SC). She writes about her district's work with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation's Healthy Schools Program. In this past year five schools in Anderson School District 4 has been on the Alliance's list of America's Healthiest Schools.

By Joanne Avery, Superintendent of Anderson School District 4 (SC)  

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 Anyone who has worked at, attended or even visited their child’s school knows that there are many people who are responsible for our children’s education. From the groundskeepers who keep our schools safe and clean, to the school nutrition professionals who keep our students nourished, to the teachers who work miracles in the classroom each and every day.

As superintendents, we have a unique vantage point to see how all these pieces come together, and to evaluate what’s working in individual schools and across our districts, at every grade level and in every unique community. And as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.  

 I believe it’s our responsibility as superintendents to educate the total child. And the best way to do that is by putting students’ basic needs first. When children are healthy and safe, they’re better able to listen in class, retain information and demonstrate their knowledge on tests.

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 Nearly five years ago, Anderson School District 4 joined forces with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program to focus our wellness efforts, set goals and work strategically to achieve them. Thanks to support from our Healthy Schools Program Manager Beth Barry, every school in our district has met the Alliance’s healthy school benchmarks outlined in the Framework to earn the National Healthy Schools Award! This past year, five Anderson schools were named to the Alliance’s list of America’s Healthiest Schools.

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Superintendent Joanne Avery with elementary students during a Walk to School event.

 

 I’m thrilled with what we’ve accomplished, and I’d love to see more administrators at the helm of district wellness efforts. After all, when district leaders make wellness a priority, principals, teachers and all of the other people who play a role in our children’s education follow suit, which can truly transform the culture of health in schools. Change starts at the top and I invite you to join me as a leader in this movement by:

  •  Role modeling healthy habits. Make sure your board and council meetings serve only foods and beverages that meet the same national nutrition standards you require your schools to meet. If you want teachers to add physical activity breaks into their lessons, show them how to make movement a part of every day and create time in the schedule for them to do so.
  •  Educating. At our core, we’re all educators. And educating the entire school about the importance of a healthy lifestyle should be part of every school’s curriculum. There are many ways to do this: Involve gardening in science lessons, focus on life-long fitness skills during physical education or offer a healthy cooking lesson for parents at back-to-school night.
  •  Building support. Incentivize the types of behavior you want to see students and staff exhibit at school. We’ve used punch cards to track healthy habits, prizes (such as a drawing to win a healthy classroom celebration), and partnerships with local businesses to provide rewards (such as gift cards for parents to purchase healthy food).

Don’t take my word for it. At Anderson 4, where we’ve put our focus on educating the total  child, we’ve seen our graduation rate improve every year since 2010. And in 2016, our high school students’ SAT scores were the highest they’d been in five years.

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 We know that the success we’ve experienced is a result of many different individuals and initiatives working together toward a common goal. But we’re confident that our mission to put children’s health above all else is key to setting our students up for a lifetime of prosperity. Will you join Anderson 4 schools in the movement to make every school one of America’s Healthiest Schools?