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Though it happened almost two weeks ago and two time zones away, the shooting at a Florida high school on Valentine’s Day still profoundly affects our education world. Our hearts remain broken for the students, parents and educators who experienced the trauma. These events are difficult to hear about and take in – time and time again.
Of course our support and love continue to go out to the victims and their families, and we stand united with our colleagues in the Florida and Broward County Public Schools communities.
As Coloradans, we have never forgotten the tragic events that have occurred in our schools, from Columbine to Platte Canyon to Arapahoe high school. And, unfortunately, there are others. The terror of a school shooting is never something we want for our children or teachers to endure or even have to prepare for. But, unfortunately, in today’s world that is something we need to put into our school plans.
As these events occur, educators in Colorado may be wondering what resources are available to support them in creating safer environments. In today’s Spark, we have a lengthy article about how teachers can help promote anti-bullying school cultures. And after Florida’s shooting, we put a link on our home page to all of our resources on building safer school environments.
I think it is important for you to know about some of these important resources:
- We have our own webpage on Safety and Security information. This page includes links to virtual toolkits, guides of operations and planning advice.
- We also have a webpage on Youth Violence Prevention. This page includes bullying prevention resources, violence prevention resources and the Safe2Tell website.
- Safe To Tell is a critical tool for all schools, districts, parents and educators across the state. It is an anonymous tip line that can get help to students and schools immediately. Please visit this site if you have not yet.
- And you can link to the Colorado School Safety Resource Center for additional resources, toolkits and support.
- Here is a link to support parents in talking to their children about violence.
All of these websites have numerous resources that are helpful to districts, teachers, parents and students.
Please help me in spreading the word and sending our love to Florida.
Research shows that when students see teachers make an effort to decrease bullying, bullying incidents are reduced over time.
Alternately, when schools have climates that are described as not supportive, there is an increased risk for students being involved in bullying.
“At a high level, this work is about creating safe and engaging schools, a place where everyone belongs, is supported and encouraged to be their best selves,” said Wes Ogburn, a program manager with Denver Public Schools’ Positive School Culture & Bully Prevention office.
It is paramount for adults to take action to begin to reduce the incidents of bullying. But even that is trick. Studies also have proven that some time-worn traditional disciplinary practices in dealing with bullying can inadvertently reinforce the behavior.
Some common mistakes include:
- Blaming bullies or excluding them from the social context.
- Forcing victims to interact with perpetrators who may be further reinforced by the interaction.
- Failing to remember the role bystanders play in bullying. Instead, schools should support “active bystanders” who speak up when they see bullying.
Indeed, the statistics around bullying are alarming and heartbreaking. An estimated 160,000 students across the United States miss school every day because of bullying, and 87 percent of LGBT students report being bullied with 30 percent reporting they have been attacked.
Closer to home, one in five Colorado high school students reported being bullied at school at least once over a year’s time, according to the 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey.
What can a school do?
In 2011, Colorado's legislature passed House Bill 1254 creating a School Bullying Prevention and Education Grant with the goal of reducing the frequency of bullying incidents in Colorado schools. Since its inception, the grant has provided up to $4.1 million to 73 schools, serving approximately 34,000 students.
The money is being used to purchase evidence-based bullying prevention programs and train teachers on how to stop bullying. The grant is helping develop student leadership and voice to lead bullying prevention efforts. The funds, which originate from marijuana tax revenue, are also being used to survey students, staff and parents about bullying and to hire coaches to encourage implementation of high quality bullying prevention practices.
The result has been a statewide focus on anti-bullying efforts.
“We are very optimistic about results,” said Wes Ogburn, a program manager with Denver Public Schools’ Positive School Culture & Bully Prevention office. “Our schools are diligently working to generate a positive impact for all students.”
Districts are using evidence-based bullying prevention programs that have demonstrated success. The Colorado Department of Education commissioned a review of several of those programs. Denver Public Schools, for example, uses the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which surveys students about bullying, creates school rules regarding bullying behavior and provides direction on how to lead schoolwide prevention and intervention efforts.
Ogburn works with schools to implement the initiative, which includes support to help identify school culture goals and promotion of social-emotional learning and character education.
“Bullying prevention is first about teaching and norming desired behaviors,” Ogburn said. “We do not bully others. We treat others respectfully. We embrace and celebrate diversity. We solve conflicts peacefully. We stick up for those who can’t stick up for themselves.”
The work, he said, focuses on delineating bullying from other types of behavior – how to solve conflicts peacefully, being kind to each other, building empathy - “all important steps to ultimately create a better world,” he said.
- Stop the bullying immediately. Stand between the bullied student and the bully(ies), blocking eye contact. Don't send any bystanders away. To avoid escalating the tension, wait until later to sort out the facts. Talk to the parties involved separately once they are calm.
- Refer to school rules regarding bullying. Speak in a matter-of-fact tone of voice to describe what you heard or saw. Let all students know bullying is always unacceptable.
- Support the bullied child. Do this in a way that allows him or her dignity and to feel safe from retaliation. Make a point to see the child later in private if he or she is upset. Increase supervision to assure bullying is not repeated.
- Offer guidance to bystanders. Let them know how they might appropriately intervene or get help next time. Tell them you noticed their inaction or that you're pleased with the way they tried to help.
- Impose immediate consequences. Wait until all parties have calmed down. Do not require that students apologize or make amends that may be insincere. The consequences should be logical and connected to the offense. A first step could be taking away social privileges i.e. recess or lunch in the cafeteria.
- Notify colleagues and parents. Let the bully know he or she is being watched.
- Follow up and intervene as necessary. Support the bullied child and the bully, enabling them to vent feelings and recognize their own behavior. The bully may need to learn new methods of using his or her power and influence in the classroom.
- Do not confuse bullying with conflict. Bullying is a form of victimization, and addressing it as a "conflict" downplays the negative behavior and the seriousness of the effects. Educators should strive to send the message that "no one deserves to be bullied," and to let the bully know the behavior is wholly inappropriate.
- Do not use peer mediation. It can be very upsetting for a child who has been bullied to face his or her tormentor in mediation. Giving both parties an equal voice can empower the bully and make the bullied student feel worse. In addition, there is no evidence that peer mediation is effective in stopping bullying.
- Do not use group treatment for bullies. Some schools use therapeutic strategies such as anger management, skill-building, empathy-building and self-esteem building to reach the bully. In practice, group members can actually reinforce each others' bullying and antisocial behavior.
CDE has launched a survey to gather public feedback on a proposal from the science standards review committee to adapt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Colorado. Take the survey via Survey Monkey by Monday, March 19.
The science standards review committee is recommending that Colorado adapt the NGSS as Colorado’s science standards. Proposed adaptation of NGSS would take substantial parts of the NGSS and incorporate them into the Colorado Academic Standards for science.
The science standards review and revision committee will present its final recommendations to the State Board of Education at its April and May meetings.
Teachers will have a bit more time to complete the Teaching & Learning Conditions Colorado (TLCC) survey as the deadline was extended a week longer.
The anonymous survey of all Colorado public school teachers began Jan. 24 and will continue through March 5. It offers educators an opportunity to anonymously voice their opinions on their work environment and career satisfaction.
Results will help amplify teacher voices as well as inform district and school leaders about ways they can support their staff and elevate the teaching profession.
Teachers may remember the old version of this survey as the TELL survey. However, the new survey will take only 15 minutes -- half the time it took to complete the TELL survey. It also can be accessed on any device, including smart phones, and is not required to be completed in a single session.
Feedback from the TLCC will provide additional data to support school improvement efforts and identify positive trends in school conditions and areas that merit further discussion.
Schools and districts will need more than 50 percent participation and at least five responses to access their data. Each respondent will receive a unique, anonymous code from their association representative or principal. If the access codes are missing or did not arrive, contact the TLCC Help Desk by visiting the website.
The TLCC survey is offered in partnership between CDE, Colorado Education Association, Colorado Education Initiative and others. View an interactive report of historic district and school level TELL data.
Stories of Promising Practice feature outstanding work being done in schools and districts around Colorado. Stukey Elementary School in Northglenn was struggling academically before it got involved in CDE's Turnaround Network. The school now has risen from the state's lowest rating on the school performance framework to the highest rating on the scale.