The Total Child

Blog Tour: Impact School Safety by Learning to Love

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest post by Dr. Bernadine Futrell, Director, Leadership Services at AASA, The School Superintendents Association. This blog was written as part of National Healthy Schools Day.

When considering the question, How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social – emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?, I look to love.

Centuries of research continue to point to a loving and caring adult as a principle factor in a child’s life¹ . Coupled with high rigor and expectations, love can be a significant tool in the search for solutions for school safety.  

In my experience as a district administrator, educational researcher and now through my work in professional learning at AASA, love – self-love and the love of others has always been a goal in public education. Because it has consistently nourished healthy environments.

Schools who focus on the social emotional needs of students have shown the most advances in other areas of student outcomes including student achievement. Simply put, when students feel like they belong (are loved) the academic outcomes are also positive.  

Students learn love from a variety of ways, including exposure to positive examples of people from all backgrounds and experiences. Creating opportunities for students to develop mental models of success that reflect themselves as well as others helps students develop love and compassion. School across the country are making intentional efforts to introduce diversity in their district leadership, classroom and curriculum.

This mental modeling, helps children see a future that is attainable and positive for them. It also helps all students see value in all humans.

Simple, yet powerful, when kids learn to love, communities learn to love, and when love is spread – environments are safer for all – including in and out of school.

¹Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/resilience/

Nothing About Us, Without Us’: Advancing Health through a Youth Driven Lens

(Coordinated School Health, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest Post by Cameron Estrada, a School-Based Health Alliance Youth Development Intern and a member of the Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council.

 SBHABlogApril2018

 School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) have been a safe haven and a reliable resource for me throughout middle and high school. Now as a college student, I still advocate for youth health and leadership with the School Based Health Alliance. I hope to share my experiences, what I have learned, and strategies for how other centers can become more youth driven.  

I have seen each side of school-based health from a student’s perspective. I have gone into my SBHC for check-ups for my physical wellbeing, seen a provider for mental health, and was the president of my SBHC’s Youth Advisory Council. From the primary care side of the center the staff was amazing. They cared about me, remembered my name, and encouraged me to take an active role in my health. My staff treated every client with respect and confidentiality and made the transition to a youth driven SBHC simple. When my SBHC wanted to be more youth driven, they asked the students they served the best way to start a group. The Youth Advisory Council increased the center’s focus on youth. As a council we launched student health initiatives with our SBHC that were important to students. We knew when and how to reach our peers. This aided our center’s ability to help more students and provide the services they needed.

From my experience, there are three key steps to making an SBHC more youth driven.

  1.  The first step is to build relationships. Building relationships with students begins the moment they walk through the door. Be authentic with them and reassuring. You do not have to pretend to be their best friend but encourage the healthy behaviors they are exhibiting. Provide students with youth friendly literature in the lobby. If a student has something they want to know more about but are too afraid to ask, a pamphlet or poster might be the answer for them. It might even give them the confidence to ask questions. Build relationships with the faculty at your school. Faculty can be a great resource especially the health teacher, the advisor of student council, or an advisor of any service organizations on campus. These relationships can connect you to students who might want to be involved with the SBHC beyond a patient level. Lastly, build relationships with community partners. My home state is fairly conservative and my SBHC wasn’t allowed to provide full sexual health services or education (only STI screening and condoms without advertising their availability). Partnering with community agencies who could meet these needs meant building relationships and establishing a steady referral process. This holds true to any service your center cannot provide. Relationships are the foundation for the next step.
  2.  The second step to making an SBHC more youth focused is to ask for help. Ask your students if they would be interested in starting a council. Ask the National Honor Society if they want to fulfill their service hours by helping to create a health fair. Ask your student council if they want to start a campaign surrounding sexual health. It is important to remember that the center is not only a resource to the school, but the school is a resource for the center. You can partner with different people within your school to improve the function and reach of your SBHC. The center can not only be a place of healing and learning, but also a place of opportunity and development for students to make a difference in their schools and in their health.
  3.  The final step is to take action. With better school integration, use your new relationships and resources to do something. This can take on many forms. Ask your youth what needs they have. If your council wants more education and access to reproductive health services, help them educate stakeholders at the school, local, and state levels for better policy suited for this. If your student council wants to create their own pamphlet about the health risks of underage drinking to be handed out with every prom ticket, your center can help provide information to guide them. Even something as small as a school club asking for a staff member from the SBHC to come speak at a meeting about anxiety can be a powerful action. The information you gather from asking for help should fuel the actions the SBHC takes.

 My school-based health center was more than a place where I got my physicals for sports. I learned how to be a leader, how to organize and how to be an advocate. It is no coincidence that, even in college, my involvement in youth health has not stopped. I am a School-Based Health Alliance Youth Development Intern and a member of the Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council. On my campus, Texas Christian University, I am involved in setting up an event called “Take Back the Night” that raises awareness about sexual violence and supports survivors. The skills and confidence that I gained in high school are the basis of my advocacy and a youth driven SBHC was instrumental to my life. From my experience, an SBHC serves students better when they recognize them as partners and assets to inform and lead the movement for quality, equitable health care.

 

2018 National Healthy Schools Day AASA Blog Tour: School Safety and Positive Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Overview

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

 National Healthy Schools Daynewsletter

 As part of National Healthy Schools Day today, AASA Children’s Programs Department hosted a blog tour on school safety to help stimulate conversation on healthy schools and positive SEL, in response to the debate surrounding our schools in light of recent violence in Florida and elsewhere. Participants were asked to one or both of the following questions:

  1. Considering the continued threat of gun violence in our schools, what does a healthy school look like to you today? Have school shootings altered your view of what it means to be a healthy school?
  2.  How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social-emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?

CoCAT school safety pop up

Below is a list of the posts that were published as part of the Blog Tour:

Superintendent Voice

Public Health Organizations

Higher Education Researchers

LGBTQ & Student Voice 

  • Time Out Youth, a youth center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies, ages 11-20, in Charlotte, NC and the surrounding areas.  

AASA

Blog Tour: Healthy and Safe at School: If not now, when?

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

The following is cross-post by Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE , Executive Director of the National Association of School Nurses. The original post can be found here. 

What do you say when a third grade student asks a trusted teacher if she is safe from violent intruders in the school? Who champions implementation of a dormant school wellness policy in order to support students with the best nutrition and physical activity choices? How do you press past frustration with social factors that impact the health of children and youth? On this National Healthy Schools day we ask: How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social-emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) envisions school communities where students are healthy, safe, and ready to learn. Violent acts, such as school shootings, threaten the safety and well-being of students and school staff; action must be focused on common sense solutions. As with any complex and multifaceted situations, a multi-disciplinary approach enables interventions.

What we do know is that a healthy school environment begins with a student-centered collaborative approach by leaders within schools and communities. The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model centers on the whole child and incorporates 10 components vital for a healthy and safe school environment. The WSCC model components include.

  •  Counseling, Psychological & Social Services
  • Social & Emotional Climate
  • Physical Environment
  • Employee Wellness
  • Family Engagement
  • Community Involvement
  • Health Education
  • Physical Education & Physical Activity
  • Nutrition Environment & Services
  • Health Services

 That third grade student who wonders if she is safe from violent intruders in her school relies on the trusted teacher who depends on the school administrator who convenes an emergency preparedness of staff and community partners to plan, mitigate, train, and practice response to the plan. The specialized instructional support team, i.e., school counselor, school nurse, school psychologist, and school social worker, focus on counseling, psychological, social and emotional climate.

NASN Blog Tour April 2018

A new school nurse who found an untapped wellness policy in her school district organized a wellness committee that would oversee implementation of wellness policy activities. Parents, school superintendent, principals, school nurses, and community members became the wellness committee. After completing the CDC’s School Health Index – a self assessment and planning tool – the wellness committee had the information needed to learn the school strengths and growth opportunities. The next step involved identifying recommendations to foster a healthy and safe school environment.

Another aspect of attending to student well-being is to acknowledge the factors that are barriers to health. School nurses assess social determinants and connect students and families with community resources that may address those factors.
NASN’s vision is for all students to be healthy and safe in schools. Now is the time for making schools healthy and safe environments.

Blog Tour: Telemedicine Offsets Loss of Learning Time

(Children’s Health Insurance , Coordinated School Health, National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

The following is a cross-post which was originally published by the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the Milken Institute School for Public Health at George Washington University on March 30, 2018. 

This post is by Dr. Dan Leikvold, Superintendent, Lead-Deadwood-School District (South Dakota)

The Lead-Deadwood School District is a rural district located in the Northern Black Hills of western South Dakota. It has a K-12 population of around 710. The tourism, gaming, and mining industries are the primary economic drivers in the Lead-Deadwood Community.

Although there are many outstanding opportunities for workers in the area, as with many school districts, we too have our share of challenges that are directly associated with the effects of poverty. This includes behavioral issues, transiency, limited access to transportation, and a lack of affordable housing. The free and reduced lunch rate in our district is around 50%. 

Over the course of the last ten years, the school district has identified and worked with multiple local and regional agencies to address the needs of our children and families affected by poverty. We realize we cannot be all things to all people, but we recognize the crucial connection between our children being happy, healthy, safe and supported and their ability to learn at school.

As part of this comprehensive approach, the school district entered into a partnership with Behavior Management Systems (BMS) in 2013 to bring a Family Pathways therapist from BMS to our schools/community full-time. All of the children and adolescents with whom the therapists work must meet the severely and emotionally disturbed criteria as outlined by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the program is open to anyone with this diagnosis whether or not they have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). This partnership has been a win-win opportunity for both parties and has benefited our children and families immensely. Family Pathways is a fee-for-service program, so the direct costs to the school are minimal and include providing the therapist with an office and internet access, use of a copier, and parking.

After five years of a successful partnership in which we have been able to serve approximately 100 children and families onsite, we have identified another very important issue to address in order to have an even better program. In conjunction with BMS, we will now be providing mental health services to the students in the Lead-Deadwood School District via telemedicine free of charge to students and families, as well as the school district, during the school day.

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services, such as health assessments or consultations, over the telecommunications infrastructure. It allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients without the need for an in-person visit with the medical provider. TeleMed is the service provider BMS and the district use for the service.

 The TeleMed program will alleviate barriers for families, so that medication and other therapies are consistent and maintained. Many times, appointments are missed due to challenges with transportation facing students and families. As a result, obtaining and maintaining adequate medication therapy is interrupted. This new approach will alleviate that problem.

This is how it works. A parent/guardian must be present at each appointment with BMS. BMS will handle all release requirements prior to our students receiving services in our schools. Before each BMS appointment, the School Nurse takes weight and blood pressure data for each student so the BMS provider has this information, but the District is not responsible for or charged for any portion of the services provided in the Lead-Deadwood School District. We are responsible for providing a computer and technical support during the time of the TeleMed appointment with BMS. Our students meet virtually with the BMS provider once per month or more if needed.

Students that receive free lunch will qualify for BMS services at no cost and there is a sliding scale rate for students that do not qualify. We will make referrals to BMS based on school and parent communication, similar to what we currently do with BMS on-site counseling services. BMS has contacted the Lead and Deadwood pharmacies and both are capable of receiving escripts.

Instead of taking a student out of school from three to four hours to an entire day, these virtual, in-building appointments will take a maximum of 20 minutes to half an hour. This will allow parents to come to the elementary school, eliminating the barriers of time, transportation hassles for parents and students, and loss of attendance. We appreciate this partnership and are excited to be able to offer this new service to our children and families.

 Dr. Leikvold is also an Education Advisor to the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at the Milken Institute School for Public Health at George Washington University for a RWJF-funded project to provide state and local stakeholders in the education and health sectors with tools they can use to develop a sustainable, cross-sector infrastructure to provide integrated supports for the healthy development and academic success of students. For more information visit the Center’s website or Partner Build Grow: An Action Guide for Sustaining Child Development and Prevention Approaches.

Blog Tour: Three Supportive Ways School Districts Can Create Healthy Schools and Reduce Threats of Weapon Violence

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest post by Ron Avi Astor and Rami Benbenishty  

  

 RonAviAstor  RamiHeadshot
Ron Avi Astor Rami Benbenishty

 
Ron Avi Astor, is the Stein-Wood Professor of School Behavioral Health at the University of Southern California in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and the Rossier School of Education. Rami Benbenishty is a professor in the School of Social Work, Bar Ilan University. They work together on international efforts designed to support school climate improvement and prevent bullying and school violence. They are co-authors of "Welcoming practices: Creating schools that support students and families in transition" and "Mapping and monitoring bullying and violence: Building a safe school climate." The opinions expressed in this commentary are their own.

We are in the midst of a national battle over what our schools should be. How do we create citizens who are A+ human beings in addition to being A+ students? How do we create thriving, optimal academic school environments where the interactions between students, teachers, parents, and the community create a better union both within our schools and for the future of our fractured society? Indeed, we are debating not only what we want our schools to be but also what we want our society to be.

One vision for our nation’s schools upholds the belief that the path toward lasting safety comes from welcoming, caring, and supportive environments. This path focuses on improving school climate, engaging in social emotional learning (SEL), and fostering a compassionate community — in addition to offering a high-quality academic program. This vision advocates for humane social supports, institutional linkages, and community resources for those students struggling with mental health, societal obstacles, and family or community strife.

Another vision is a response to mass shootings. This strategy uses tools and ideas that originate in law enforcement, prison architecture, and military and anti-terror strategies. This approach tries to “harden” schools and aims to protect students from murder by creating prison-like, high-security environments patrolled by armed staff members. 

This is not only a philosophical and ideological debate, it also raises a set of empirical and scientific questions. We believe the answers are quite clear. Decades of well-conducted, large-scale studies from across the world strongly support one vision and not the other. Schools with a positive climate, where SEL is integrated into their DNA, have significantly less bullying and victimization, and have lower weapon use, threats by a weapon, and students reporting they have seen or know of a weapon on school grounds. There is no evidence for the success of “hardening” schools with armed staff members, zero-tolerance measures, and harsher law enforcement measures. In fact, the lion’s share of findings and studies point to negative outcomes of these approaches, including higher drop-out rates, a school-to-prison pipeline, higher expulsion and suspension rates, and climates of fear or restricted freedom.

Our research and experience in numerous schools around the world suggest three main principles that could guide district superintendents to create better climate, more welcoming schools, and lower violence on school grounds.

  1. District- Level Vision: Go for central air vs. window air-conditioning.

Be clear with all district administrators and school site principals how climate, SEL, academics and school safety are integrated into the mission of the district and of each school. There is a need for an overall and comprehensive approach that encompasses every aspect of the lives of schools — a “central air conditioning,” rather than an endless and short-lived series of disjointed programs (“window air-conditioning”). Research shows that when this comprehensive and integrated approach is adopted, climate, safety and welcoming environments are more sustainable, and can more easily spread to multiple schools within a district. When programs addressing SEL, climate, safety and the school’s academic mission separately, these missions compete against each other and are not easily sustained over time.

 From this perspective, the best investment districts can make is to build a core team of pupil personnel, social workers, psychologists, and counselors who work with every school and build sustainable capacity at the district and school level. The long-term yield and the flexibility of this group of professionals would be greater than an evidence-based-program that is not directly linked to the specific social or mental health needs of the schools in that community. Well-trained pupil personnel can sustain and extend evidence-based and youth empowerment interventions district-wide. They can reach beyond program limitations and adapt interventions specifically to the school and community’s cultural needs.

A stable group of district- and school-level pupil personnel staff members is an important defense against the inevitable turnover among school and district personnel. They can help train new educators and other staff members, and maintain the organizational memory.

 2.    Good school safety is an extension of the principal’s vision and organization of the school.

 Research from around the world has shown that the principal's vision and organization of each school is the strongest safety tool a district can employ. In schools where strong leaders have an integrated vision of climate, SEL, academics, and safety, many types of interventions can be effective. In schools with weak organizations and leadership, most safety approaches fail. Superintendents need to find ways to support principals and provide them with resources that can help them carry out the district’s safety mission. These include in-service training for all district and school employees, technological support, and flexibility in using safety resources.  

Strong and knowledgeable school leaders are aware of the unique safety concerns and characteristics of their schools. They resist a “one-size-fits-all” approach in order to create a unique blend of school safety policies and practices that reflect both the shared district vision and the uniqueness of their site. 

3.      Listen to the voices of teachers, students and parents, and empower all stakeholders to take responsibility in creating welcoming schools.

 In Israel and California schools, we’ve employed mapping and monitoring processes that gather the experiences and ideas of principals, teachers, students, and parents. This data helps district and school leaders identify which schools and student groups are experiencing bullying, discrimination, and victimization. Furthermore, it helps identify schools in which students see weapons, are threatened by a weapon, or bring a weapon to school. This mapping process takes a public health approach that focuses on primary prevention across all schools, with a special emphasis on providing resources and support to schools with more challenges. It’s done in a kind and supportive educational way rather than through law enforcement. Evidence-based programs such as threat assessment can be used in schools where threats are high.

We have implemented these principles in several places around the world. In California, monitoring the multiple views of students, staff members, and parents (using the California Healthy Kids Survey) helped leaders understand their schools' challenges and needs, and work toward responses that were relevant for their own particular sites. These schools used students’ voices and self-reports to improve their school’s climate, reduce violence, and create welcoming schools. By building pupil personnel teams that work with administrators, parents, students, and teachers and by allocating resources based on the unique needs of each school and district, there were significant positive changes.

In a recent seven-year study on the use of these methods in 145 schools in California (serving over 100,000 students), we found (for secondary schools):

  • A 55% reduction in gun carrying on school grounds
  •  A 37.5% reduction in knives, guns, clubs or other weapons being used to injure someone or to threaten injury.
  •  A 40% reduction in seeing a weapon on school grounds
  •  A 44% reduction in gang affiliation and participation

Every district is different; every superintendent is unique, but we do think that the principles we outline are flexible enough to allow every superintendent and every district to find their own unique path. Programs without trained staff members do not work. Creating a welcoming and caring setting with a strong knowledgeable staff is the best way to both prevent violence and create thriving school settings that do not feel like prison.

 

Blog Tour: School Safety and Positive Social Emotional Learning (SEL): 2018 National Healthy Schools Day

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

 National Healthy Schools Daynewsletter

As part of National Healthy Schools Day today, AASA Children’s Programs Department is hosting a blog tour on school safety to help stimulate conversation on healthy schools and positive SEL, in response to the debate surrounding our schools in light of recent violence in Florida and elsewhere.

Join the Conversation

Join the conversation today on social media by using the hashtag #HealthySchoolsDay. Post blogs, videos and photos on what a safe learning environment looks like to you. Be sure to tag @AASATotalChild so we can share your posts.

 If you would like to post a blog, we encourage you to answer one or both of the following questions:

  1.  Considering the continued threat of gun violence in our schools, what does a healthy school look like to you today? Have school shootings altered your view of what it means to be a healthy school?
  2.  How can school system leaders help children in their district feel safe, as well as have their physical and social-emotional needs met in a healthy school environment?

Resources and Events 

In response to the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, AASA has assembled a set of resources to support school system leaders.

These resources include an excellent guide on "Talking To Children About Terrorist Attacks and School and Community Shootings In the News" from our partner, the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. Access the resource library.

In late March, the National Prevention Science Coalition (NPSC) organized a Congressional Briefing on School Violence, Safety and Well-Being: A Comprehensive Approach.” You can view the briefing here.

Dr. David Schonfeld, who was one of the expert panelists, is the director of AASA’s partner, the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. He discussed how people process grief in a variety of ways from denial to anger. 

Lauren Hogg, a 14-year-old student who survived the Parkland shooting, gave an emotional account of her experience of what happened to her and her classmates before, during and after the shooting. Dr. Julie Phillips Pollack, the stepmother of Meadow Pollack, who was one of the 17 killed during the shooting, talked about what this tragedy and loss meant to her as both a parent and how it impacted her in her job as an emergency physician.

Celebrating 2018 National School Breakfast Week

(Alternative School Breakfast , Healthy Eating and Active Living , National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Since 2011, AASA has engaged 30 school districts in the Alternative School Breakfast Initiative, supported by the Walmart Foundation. This program increases the number of children who eat school breakfast, by taking breakfast out of the cafeteria and into the classroom and hallways through Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab ‘n’ Go, and Second Chance options.

The eight districts in our most recent cohort held activities during National School Breakfast Week to raise awareness of their school breakfast programs. Here are some shining examples.

National Recognition 

Alhambra Unified School District receives USDA’s 2018 Champions of Breakfast Award

USDA awarded Alhambra Unified School District (CA), the Western Region's 2018 Champions of Breakfast Award for the category, Implementation of an Innovative School Breakfast Model. This award recognizes schools and districts that operate exemplary school breakfast programs. Alhambra USD implemented a Grab N' Go Breakfast Model.

National School Breakfast Week Activities: Breakfast Samples, Active Living Prizes and More 

First Lady of Virginia Samples Grab N’Go Breakfast in Chesterfield County Public Schools

 Chesterfield first lady visit
 The First Lady of Virginia, Pamela Northam, preparing to sample breakfast on a Grab N' Go Kiosk at an elementary school in Chesterfield County Public Schools (Va.). Photo Credit: The Office of Governor Ralph Northam.

As part of National School Breakfast Week, Pamela Northam, The First Lady of Virginia, visited one of the elementary schools participating in AASA's alternative school breakfast initiative program in Chesterfield County Public Schools (VA). The elementary school offers Grab N' Go Breakfast with a kiosk in the hallway. Read more about this event.

An Array of Activities Celebrating Breakfast at Community Consolidated School District 21 (Ill.)

 WheelingNSBW2018
Community Consolidated School District 21 had a variety of activities to celebrate NSBW including Dress Up Days like crazy hat day and school spirit day. Students and staff wrote thank you notes to cafeteria staff, and principals at breakfast with their students. A principal was selected as a breakfast champion. Students who participated in breakfast that week won prices included scooters and swim passes.

Chef Tables Offer Opportunity to Sample School Breakfast at Stamford Public Schools (Conn.)  

Stamford Smoothies NSBW 2018

 Students sampled breakfast smoothies and oatmeal (flavors included apple pie and peaches and cream) at a chef table at an elementary and middle school in Stamford Public Schools (Conn.) during lunchtime. A dairy farmer from the New England Dairy Council visited the middle school to illustrate the importance of ensuring optimal nutrition for cows.  

AASA Also Got Out to Support Districts

New York State Press Event

On March 15th, Kayla Jackson presented at an event in Albany, NY which was held by The American Dairy Association North East. With the goal of highlighting Governor Cuomo's "No Student Goes Hungry" campaign, the event presented a "state of the state" on New York School Breakfast. Crystal FitzSimons from FRAC highlighted the great work that several NY districts had done on school breakfast, specifically calling out the success of school breakfast in Newburgh Enlarged City School District and Schenectady City School District. Jessica Pino-Goodspeed, a mentor from Hunger Solutions New York, shared findings from "Bridging The Gap: Ending Student Hunger with Breakfast After the Bell 2018 New York State School Breakfast Report."

Kelly Masline, Senior Associate Director of the New York State Council of School Superintendents was also in attendance.

AASA was invited to share the importance of superintendent support for breakfast as a crucial component for success and sustainability and to introduce two of our currently funded districts, Rochester City School District and Enlarged City School District of Middletown, both of whom shared the success of their school breakfast work.

 Yogurt Parfaits at Enlarged City School District of Middletown (NY) 

MiddletownSmoothies MiddletownKiosk
 During National School Breakfast Week, students in the Enlarged City School District of Middletown tried new Fruit -N- Yogurt Parfaits.

 

Grief Over the Holidays: Educators Can Help Students Cope

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

The following is a post from the National Center for School Crisis & Bereavement. Learn more about ways to offer support to grieving students at the Coalition to Support Grieving Students website. AASA is part of the Coalition. 

All across the nation, Thanksgiving and the December holidays are a special time for families, schools and communities. Everywhere we look, we see signs of celebration. In schools, there may be pageants, food drives, decorations and parties. In stores, we hear familiar music. On the streets, people wish each other happy holidays and talk about getting together with extended family and close friends.

 
During these times, most of us also think about people we miss, including loved ones who have died. These memories can be especially acute for children and teens who have lost a loved one. They may experience periods of deep sadness, a renewal of their grief, or sudden and unexpected reactions of anger, despair or fear.

These responses may happen the first or second year after a death, or many years later. Educators spend a lot of time with students and are uniquely poised to observe grief responses over time. They can take steps to anticipate challenges. The support and understanding they offer grieving students over the holidays can be especially helpful.

Grief Triggers Can Be Strong

Grief triggers are sudden reminders of the person who died that cause powerful emotional responses. These can include smells or sounds, hearing a song, participating in a family tradition, or even imagining a lost opportunity such as a holiday dinner with the loved one.

 Our holidays are filled with these kinds of reminders, so grief triggers can be frequent and quite strong during these times.

Emotions Can Be Powerful

Grieving children may feel particularly vulnerable when they have grief responses to holiday events. They may isolate themselves from peers or celebrations in an effort to avoid triggers. They may be frustrated or disappointed that they can’t manage these responses. It’s common for children to feel, “I should be past this and able to stay in control now.”

Goals for Educators

By reaching out to grieving students, educators have an opportunity to promote several important goals, including:

  1.  Decreasing students’ sense of isolation. It’s common for grieving children to feel that others do not understand their experience.
  2.  Offering students an opportunity to talk. Students will be thinking about their loved one. They will be reflecting on memories, experiences and feelings.
  3.  Encouraging students to talk with others. In most cases, it is helpful for students to talk honestly with peers and family about their thoughts, feelings and memories.

Steps to Take

  •  Ask open-ended questions. Listen more than talk. For example, ask, “How are the holidays going for you? I wonder what thoughts you’ve been having about your dad lately.”
  •  Accept expressions of emotion. Students may express sadness, pain, frustration, anger or other powerful emotions. Avoid minimizing students’ feelings or trying to put a “positive” spin on their expressions. For example, saying, “It’s important to focus on the good times you had with your dad,” is likely to communicate that you don’t want to hear a student talk about painful things.
  • Reach out to grieving students at school events. The absence of a loved one may be especially noticeable during the classroom party or holiday band concert. Make a point to touch base in some way. Let a student know you’re happy to see her here at the party, or are looking forward to hearing her play in the concert. 
  •  Introduce class activities in a way that acknowledges absences and offers alternatives. For example, if students are making cards for members of their family, invite them, if they wish, to also include cards for someone who is no longer living, or who does not live with the family.
  •  Lead class discussions about holiday stories and experiences with sensitivity. Poems, stories and discussions may present triggers for grieving students. Open up the possibility during discussions (“Sometimes people have sad reactions to the holidays because they miss people. Have any of you ever had an experience like this?”). Consider reaching out after class to see how a grieving student is doing, or learn what he or she thought of the discussion.

 
Children experience grief differently over time. What is true this year for the holidays may not be the same next year. This is why one of the most important things educators can do is ask questions and then listen, with presence and patience.

*Share this flyer, which includes this information in this post.

 

School-Based Approaches to Bullying Prevention

(National Awareness, Student Support Services) Permanent link

Guest post by Becca Mui, M.Ed. Education Manager at GLSEN

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a perfect time to think about anti-bullying practices in schools. As a former school teacher, I remember how important the beginning of the year can be to setting up your classroom community. Now, in my role at GLSEN as the Education Manager, I get emails and messages every day from educators across the country asking how to support their students and address bullying and harassment.

Many of our supports are developed from our research on school climate. Our 2015 National School Climate Survey reported on the school experiences of LGBTQ youth including the extent of the challenges that they face at school and the school-based resources that support their well-being. This report found that anti-LGBTQ harassment and discrimination negatively affected the educational outcomes of LGBTQ youth, as well as their mental health.

In addition, From Teasing to Torment: School Climate Revisited, reports on the school experiences of all students to provide an in-depth look at the current landscape of bias and peer victimization across the nation. From this report we were able to determine that, compared to their non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ students are twice as likely to have missed school in the past month due to feeling unsafe or uncomfortable.

It’s important that the adults in school systems take a proactive approach to bullying and harassment by setting up a culture of LGBTQ visibility and support. Based on the research, we recommend four major supports that schools can use to cultivate a safe and supportive environments:

Enumerated Policies
Anti-bullying policies that are comprehensive and specifically include protections based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression can help in addressing and preventing bullying and harassment. Check out GLSEN’s model policies for some examples. Read about the latest LGBTQ student rights and policies on The Leading Edge.

Supportive Educators
As GLSEN’s Education Manager, I’m constantly meeting and hearing about educators who are doing all they can to support their students. We are constantly teaching, in what we say and what we don’t say, in the people we include in our lessons and the stories we share. Having educators advocating for LGBTQ youth and amplifying their messages can take some of the burden off LGBTQ youth. Educators can use our Safe Space Kit for information and tips for how to become an active ally to LGBTQ youth.

Student-Led Clubs
GSAs (gender-sexuality alliance type clubs) often advocate for improved school climate, educate the larger school community about LGBTQ issues, and support LGBTQ students and their allies. LGBTQ students need a safe space where they can be themselves and feel a sense of community. GSA type-clubs can be this space, and can also center youth activism to continue to make change in a school. You can find GSA activities and ideas on our website.

Inclusive Curriculum
In any subject, having LGBTQ visibility and inclusion in your lessons and being mindful of gender-neutral language can be a tremendous support. LGBTQ students in schools with an LGBTQ-Inclusive curriculum were less likely to miss school in the past month (18.6% compared to 35.6%, National School Climate Survey, 2015). Inclusive curriculum ensures that LGBTQ students see themselves reflected in the lessons they are being taught, and also creates opportunities for all students to gain a more complex and authentic understanding of the world around them. Overall, inclusive curriculum can contribute to a safer school climate.

Implementing these four supports in K-12 schools can help to address and prevent bullying and harassment and work towards cultivating a school environment where all students feel welcome and ready to learn.

RESOURCES

ThinkB4YouSpeak Guide for Educators of Grades 6-12 - provided by GLSEN
“That’s so gay.”- Research shows that slurs like this one are incredibly common in our schools. The crazy part? Most students don’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings – they’re just using everyday words and phrases. But as we know, they may be just three little words, but their power to hurt is huge. In order to address this unintentional-but-all-too-frequent harassment, GLSEN has partnered with The Ad Council to create the first national multimedia PSA campaign to raise awareness among teens and adults about the power their words have to hurt. With knowledge and a simple call to think before speaking, we hope to cut down and prevent the use of homophobic language in our schools.

GLSEN Safe Space Kit
Designed to help you create a safe space for LGBTQ youth in schools, this Safe Space Kit is GLSEN’s Guide to Being an Ally to LGBTQ Students. The guide provides concrete strategies that will help you support LGBTQ students, educate about anti-LGBTQ bias and advocate for changes in your school.

Gender Inclusive Schools Tool Kit - provided by Gender Spectrum
Gender inclusive schools and classrooms welcoming all children and teens are within any school community’s reach with our education focused resources.

GLSEN National School Climate Survey
The GLSEN National School Climate Survey is our flagship report on the school experiences of LGBTQ youth in schools, including the extent of the challenges that they face at school and the school-based resources that support LGBTQ students’ well-being. The survey has consistently indicated that specific school-based supports are related to a safer and more inclusive school climate, including: supportive educators, LGBT-inclusive curriculum, comprehensive anti-bullying policies, and supportive student clubs, such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs).

Bullying Resources from the CDC
As bullying remains a serious problem among teens in the U.S., the CDC has developed a number of resources to help local education agencies better understand, prevent, and respond to bullying in their schools; some of which include: Understanding Bullying, Anti-Bullying Policies and Enumeration, Bullying and Absenteeism
 
Bullying and LGBT Youth
Visit www.Stopbullying.gov to learn more about:

  • Creating a Safe Environment for LGBT Youth
  •  Federal Civil Rights Laws and Sexual Orientation