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By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA-Health Information Network

As we head into summer, all of us at NEA Health Information Network want to talk with you about the things that can help make students and schools safer day in and day out.

And talking WITH is the key – by that I mean that educators can use the summer months to collaborate with other educators about the steps they can take to improve school safety.

Begin with the basics: clean air.  We know that educators often deal with unhealthy building conditions, such as mold or poor ventilation.  Identify the top environmental concerns in your school and check resources to help determine the best course of action to address them.

Some school employees risk exposure to blood borne pathogens – for example, from a student with a cut finger or a student who needs an injection.  Cut that risk with tips from the Red Book. ...

By Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith

Clement Coulston and Kaitlyn Smith are members of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee. They were recently asked to co-author one of the 11 Practice Briefs, focusing on School Climate and Inclusion.

Often times when society thinks of “valuable contributors” to issues, discussions and insights, the first image that appears in their mind is one of a well-educated and experienced adult; very rarely is that intuition one of a young person. Youth are constantly told and often led to believe that they are “the leaders of tomorrow,” but what about today? Youth are the ones in the schools, collaborating with educators, and hold the power to make a change. ...

Technology is an integral part of life in Washington’s Vancouver Public Schools (VPS), located just north of Portland, Oregon – and it has been for quite some time. They are the only district to host three NSBA Technology Leadership Network (TLN) site visits, the first in 1993, the second in 1999 and now 2013, which I was able to attend.

VPS serves 22,744 students in K-12 and it has 21 elementary schools, six middle schools and five high schools, as well as a school of the arts and Vancouver ITech Preparatory. The district is committed to providing an innovative learning environment for all students and helping them develop knowledge and essential skills so that they will be competent, responsible and compassionate citizens. During our visit to VPS, it was immediately apparent that the teachers, administrators and leaders are determined to serve each child. And while the commitment to the effective use of technology in classrooms is priority, the district also provides extensive supports for students and families. ...

By Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA)

For weeks now, teachers, parents and community leaders have been protesting Chicago Public Schools' plan to close 50 schools in what will be the largest single wave of school closures in U.S. history.

The media coverage has been dramatic, but what you see in the eyes of educators who are so adamantly opposed to this plan is the same thing you see in the eyes of educators all across this nation -- the innate instinct to protect the children we care about.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to shutter 50 (yes, 50) schools won't be good for Chicago's children, especially children of color. The New York Times reports that "in the 100 schools that have closed in Chicago since 2001, 88 percent of the students affected were black."

Not only is there evidence that all class sizes in the city will increase -- some by as much as 40 percent -- but recent studies have concluded that only a very small minority of students will be placed into substantially better school environments. And worse: children will have to leave their neighborhoods and ...

By Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., General Counsel/Associate Executive Director of the National School Boards Association (NSBA)

The one common thread from the many perspectives on school bullying is that advocates on all sides care deeply about kids. The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is determined to protect students' Constitutional rights and their rights to an education in a safe school environment. But those rights hold an inherent tension that at times collides.

So how can we find a middle ground?

We're encouraged by a set of guidelines that show ways public school students can safely share their views and engage in discussions about religious and political differences in environments that prohibit discrimination, bullying, and ...

By Nora L. Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Moore, Oklahoma, and the surrounding area. 

We mourn the tragic loss of lives and homes and livelihoods, even as we wonder at the acts of heroism by educators and members of the community who worked to protect and rescue hundreds of students and neighbors.

The tragedy in Oklahoma reminds us that bad things can happen. Keeping our children safe in school is all of our responsibility. Everyone in a school community needs to be at the table in planning since there is a role for everyone in a crisis. 

Because no two events will ever be the same, it is essential for school communities to create an emergency preparedness plan that has the flexibility to meet different needs. Certainly, a plan should address steps to prevent crises, but prevention is not enough. Comprehensive emergency preparedness plans incorporate prevention, response, and recovery. In other words, the plan should represent a process that carries a community from anticipating possible crises to managing them.

Emergency preparedness plans recognize that: ...

By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

One of my former classmates, who is now a superintendent of a small school district in Pennsylvania, once told me whenever he hires a new teacher, he starts the interview with the same question: “Do you believe in your students?” It seems like a simple question, one that has an obvious answer for educators. But if we look deep enough, I think we’d find that many adults who work with our children on a daily basis don’t truly believe in them.

Numerous studies have shown that there are wide discrepancies between what students believe and what adults believe. A majority of students believe they’ll graduate from high school and go to college, yet many teachers and parents believe their students will not graduate and will not go to college. And this belief drives their actions. Some of my own children’s teachers have made me want to ...

By Andrea Cahn and Betty Edwards

When you see me, I want you to see that we are alike.
When you see me, I want you to see that I get nervous sometimes.
When you see me, I want you to see a happy dancer.
When you see me, I want you to see a football player.
When you see me, I want you to see someone who tries to be a good friend.

The statements above are from It’s Our School, Too, a play reflecting poignant quotes and perceptions of students who for far too long have felt excluded from the fabric of the school—those with intellectual disabilities. Written by Suzy Messerole and Aamera Siddiqui and commissioned by Special Olympics Project UNIFY®, It’s Our School, Too! is based upon interviews with youth from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and members of Special Olympics Project Unify Youth Activation Committee. The play provides insight into the world of students with intellectual disabilities and the varying opportunities they have to be an integral part of the school.

Identified as a significant civil rights issue, social inclusion speaks to the needs of all youth to learn and live within an environment that recognizes their strengths and ...

By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network

School safety is more than just having a plan. It’s a process that needs to involve the whole school community.

LaPorte Community School Corporation is a rural school district in northwest Indiana.  It’s also a great example of a district that has brought everyone to the table to help keep kids safe. 

I recently joined Donna Nielsen, a bus driver and NEA member, and Glade Montgomery, the superintendent, on a panel led by Roxanne Dove of NEA’s Education Support Professional Quality Department (ESPQ) at the National Forum on School Improvement. We were there to share what LaPorte is doing right and talk about what other districts can do to protect their students. ...

By Betty Edwards, Chair of the Special Olympics Project UNIFY® National Education Leaders Network

The film “Cipher in the Snow,” a true story written in 1964 by teacher/guidance counselor Jean Mizer, tells the story of an ostracized teenager, Cliff, who has no friends and becomes a withdrawn "cipher" or nonentity. (Cipher is the mathematical notation for zero—something without weight, importance, or value.)

One day, Cliff asks to get off the school bus, collapses, and dies in the snow beside the road. Cliff’s math teacher is asked to write the obituary but realizes that hardly anyone recalls the student. When he tries to get a small group together to attend Cliff’s funeral, he can’t find 10 people who knew the student well enough to feel comfortable going. He vows to never let another student in his class feel unimportant and be unknown.

We wish we could say that this story could not be written today, but that’s not true. Many students in our schools feel insignificant, disengaged, and ...

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