April 24, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Gov. Patrick Signs Next Steps in Anti-Bullying Legislation

Governor Deval Patrick Thursday signed into legislation a bill that requires school districts, charter schools, approved private-day schools, residential schools and collaborative schools to develop bullying prevention plans that will ensure they remain safe and supportive places for the students to learn and thrive throughout the state. Bill H. 3909 also includes procedures for collecting, maintaining and reporting bullying incident data.

“This legislation is an important step toward ensuring that all young people are able to learn and thrive in our Commonwealth’s schools,” said Governor Patrick in a statement issued Thursday afternoon. “With this new law, we are continuing our dedication to our teachers, parents and kids to give them the tools and protections they need so that every student has a chance to reach their full potential.”

Under the legislation, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will be required to analyze collected bullying data and publish annual reports on the frequency and nature of incidents, according to the statement. Additionally, DESE will develop a survey administered to students every four years to assess overall school climates and the prevalence, nature and severity of bullying to better determine measures needed to prevent it.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and passed with strong bipartisan support in the Legislature.

In 2010, Governor Patrick signed landmark anti-bullying legislation to strengthen efforts in schools to keep Massachusetts students safe. The 2010 law increased efforts to educate students about bullying including regulations on student handbooks and classroom instruction; instituted new rules and expectations for reporting incidents of bullying; provided new opportunities for training for all adults in schools on how to identify, prevent and manage incidents of bullying; and enhanced efforts across state and local education, health and law enforcement agencies to build more collaboration to ensure the new efforts are effective. The law also included new reporting requirements for all school staff to fully and swiftly detail any instance of bullying or retaliation to the appropriate school official. Additionally, the measure directed the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to establish statewide academic standards that include instruction in bullying prevention and requires schools statewide to provide age-appropriate instruction on bullying prevention.

“This new law is the next step on our path to protect children from bullying,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “It will better protect students who we know are most vulnerable to bullying, including our LGBTQ students and those with disabilities. It will also allow us to better track the effectiveness of our bullying programs across the Commonwealth. I applaud Governor Patrick for his commitment to combating bullying in our schools. And I also would like to thank Senate President Murray, Speaker DeLeo, co-sponsors Senator Chang-Diaz and Representative Peisch, and MassEquality and the Anti-Defamation League for their leadership on this important issue.”

http://medford.patch.com/groups/politics-and-elections/p/gov-patrick-signs-next-steps-in-antibullying-legislation

at 11:29 pm

Teen files suit over alleged bullying at St. Charles East High School

By Kalyn Belsha
kbelsha@stmedianetwork.com

April 24, 2014 12:00PM

Daniela Kapusta


Updated: April 24, 2014 6:24PM

ST. CHARLES — A former St. Charles East High School student is suing the district and several staffers, alleging she was bullied, hazed and harassed by members of her drill team and that coaches and district officials did nothing to stop it.

The former student alleges that the continued bullying led to severe emotional distress that required outpatient hospitalization and “extensive psychiatric treatment.”

Daniela Kapusta, now 19, filed the lawsuit last week in Kane County Court, naming the district, school board, six drill team coaches, two athletic directors and two principals of St. Charles East High as defendants. She is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

On Thursday, St. Charles District 303 spokesman Jim Blaney declined to comment because the district had yet to see the lawsuit. A lawyer for Kapusta could not be reached immediately by phone.

Kapusta, who is now a university student, alleges that the bullying began in 2009, when she started attending St. Charles East High, and continued through 2013.

Shortly after Kapusta made the St. Charles East High drill team, she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition she reported to her coaches.

Around that time, her teammates started calling her names like “crazy” and ostracizing her, the lawsuit said. She was later forced to participate in an “initiation” ritual wearing an embarrassing costume and “do[ing] humiliating actions in front of others,” according to court documents.

In November 2010, Kapusta started to become depressed and had thoughts of suicide. Three of her coaches “threatened to impose consequences if [she] missed practice to seek medical help,” the lawsuit states.

Kapusta was told to ignore her teammates and that “girls will be girls.”

The lawsuit alleges that Kapusta’s coaches and district officials “retaliated” against her when she reported the bullying and that she had been slapped by a teammate.

Kapusta’s coaches failed to videotape practices to accommodate her disability, the lawsuit states, and her coaches repeatedly excluded her from communications about practices and meetings and from participating in team events and competitions.

Coaches and district officials also failed to provide Kapusta with a full uniform, the lawsuit states, and imposed rules on Kapusta that were different from those her teammates were made to follow.

In May 2012, Kapusta was hospitalized for three weeks in an outpatient program due to thoughts of suicide, severe depression, anxiety and self-harm, the lawsuit states.

Her anxiety and depression were made worse by the bullying, according to the lawsuit.

According to news reports, Kapusta went on to speak out about her bullying and depression while she was still a student at St. Charles East High. She served on the board of the school’s Hope Club, which focuses on suicide prevention.

She also participated in a charity fashion show for an organization dedicated to suicide prevention, which led to her being featured on Vogue Italia’s website and taking on part-time modeling work.

A conference on the case is scheduled for July 10.

http://beaconnews.suntimes.com/news/27031618-418/teen-files-lawsuit-over-alleged-bullying-at-st-charles-east-high.html

at 11:28 pm

Officials facing down bullying problem at Cedartown High School

Officials at Cedartown High School handle bullying as it comes up, but say they can use parents’ help.


“It is as much a parenting issue as it is a school issue,” said Darrell Wetherington, CHS principal.

Wetherington said the school handles issues on an individual basis. He said there are many incidents where one child’s word is pitted against another. In that case, a school official can’t take sides so it is difficult to determine how to resolve the situation or set punishment.

The principal said sometimes officials call the parents, or have guidance counselors mediate between the students, and sometimes school officials will call police.

He said police are called if there is an actual threat.

A parent filed a report with the Polk County Police Department on April 9 concerning harassing telephone calls and text messages to his daughter from another CHS student.

Police confirmed the text messages were threats of a harassing nature. The victim’s parents said they have addressed multiple incidents with CHS authorities and were told by the CHS resource officer that they needed to file a formal report.

The county officer told the parents and their daughter to avoid contact with the other girl and ignore text messages.

Wetherington said many bullying incidents start off campus.

“A lot of times, a lot of stuff happened outside of school,” he said.

He said that makes it difficult to handle the spillover on campus, but school officials then become responsible.

Wetherington said the past few incidents have been isolated and are to be expected.

“You are going to have incidents of bullying in every public and private school in the country,” he said, adding that the CHS student body has proved themselves to be a superior group to teach.

He said that compliment goes back to the parents.

Wetherington said he isn’t trying to avoid any responsibility the school has in dealing with bullying, but wants more of a partnership with parents to prevent it. He said, as a parent, he would discipline his children at home for anything they participated in at school.

The principal said he would love for more parents to schedule teacher conferences and communicate better with CHS officials to address problems.

Students being bullied by one another is an ongoing national problem. According to statistics published on Stopbullying.gov from various reports including one completed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011, some 20 percent of high school students in America surveyed reported being bullied at one time or another in school.

Those students surveyed also reported that 70.6 percent of have seen bullying in their schools and 16 percent of high school students were electronically bullied in the past year.

The site also stated that students reported bullying taking place mostly in school, outside on school grounds or on the school bus.

Superintendent William Hunter said bullying is a problem not just in local schools, but across the state and nation. He said Polk County Schools has a zero-tolerance policy against any kind of bullying whether physically or emotionally, whether on school grounds or the internet.

“There are different levels of bullying of course, but we’re not going to tolerate it,” he said. “Kids should be able to go to school and feel safe. We’re taking a hard line on bullying.”

He said a lot of the issues involved come down to incidents being reported, and that the more kids speak out, the better Polk County Schools can deal with the problem.

“A lot of the problem is just a matter of being able to deal with it, to find out who is at fault and what’s going on and to prevent it,” he said.

Hunter said this summer will provide school administrators an opportunity to take part in training to better handle bullying problems at school.

http://www.northwestgeorgianews.com/polkfishwrap/news/local/officials-facing-down-bullying-problem-at-cedartown-high-school/article_4e2d511e-caf1-11e3-aaf0-0017a43b2370.html

at 5:28 pm

Kids caught distributing pot in elementary school

Posted by in School

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http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/04/24/elementary-kids-sell-pot-colorado/8087147/

at 5:28 pm

Colorado cyber-bullying bill fails, despite initial 54-10 vote in state House

I neglected to blog about this earlier, I’m afraid, but I figured better late than never. From the Denver Post, April 10, 2014:

A Colorado proposal cracking down on bullies who harass young people through text messages and social media has failed, shocking the bill’s sponsor and prompting her supporters to say they will try again next year.

“I am extremely disappointed and stunned, because it came out of the House with such strong support,” Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora, said Thursday.

Her bill sailed through the House last month on a 54-10 vote. It would have made it a misdemeanor to inflict “serious emotional distress on a minor” with texts or posts on websites such as Twitter or Facebook.

A Senate committee voted Wednesday to shelve the proposal amid concerns of infringing on free speech and subjecting young offenders to harsh penalties.

Our readers might remember that I thought the bill would criminalize a great deal of speech that was constitutionally protected and quite proper. Mike Krause (Independence Institute) and I even cowrote a Denver Post op-ed criticizing the bill on those grounds. I’m very glad to see that the Colorado Senate committee members took the free speech and overcriminalization concerns seriously, which seems to have also happened in recent years with similar bills in Arizona and Tennessee.

Bill sponsors “said they’re requesting the issue be studied by the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice to have recommendations for another proposal next year.” I just hope it will be a vastly narrower and clearer proposal.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/04/24/colorado-cyber-bullying-bill-fails-despite-initial-54-10-vote-in-state-house/

at 5:28 pm

Fairfax school board approves new proposals for later high school start times

Posted by in School

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http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/fairfax-school-board-approves-new-plans-for-later-high-school-start-times/2014/04/23/46807e18-cb15-11e3-a75e-463587891b57_story.html

at 5:28 pm

VH1′s ‘I Will Survive’ Anti-Bullying Ad Is Great Fun, but Does It Send a Good …

Gloria Gaynor’s disco classic “I Will Survive” gets remade as an anti-bullying anthem in this VH1 spot by Del Campo Nazca Saatchi Saatchi in Argentina, showing tormented boys and girls singing out their plans for sweet revenge in adulthood.

Expertly staged by music-video veteran Agustin Alberdi and boasting a great cast, the ad feels kind of like a musical number from Glee in its heyday. It opens with a kid enduring the indignity of a dual swirly/pantsing: “First I was afraid, I was petrified/They flushed my head several times, exposing my behind.” Other tortured middle-schoolers soon pick up the thread. One looks ahead to the day when, “Oh my power, I will abuse/I’ll be the CEO, you’ll be the one who shines my shoes.” Another promises, “I’m gonna call you night and day/And on weekends I’ll send texts/Ask you for all kinds of things, making sure you never rest.”

On one level, the video is a marvel of wish-fulfillment that anyone who’s ever been picked on or put down during lunch period or study hall can instantly relate to. Believing you can turn the tables feels great, and the spot hits all the right notes in that regard.

Still, the tone and message ultimately fall flat. The revenge motif, though lighthearted, seems to perpetuate the cycle of bullying, with today’s victims becoming tomorrow’s oppressors. Yes, it’s handled with a deft touch and good humor—and the jerks in the boy’s bathroom using that kid’s head as a toilet scrubber certainly have it coming.

Even so, breaking the cycle and discouraging the behavior should be the goal, shouldn’t it? There’s really none of that here. (Contrast VH1′s approach with Everynone’s short film on bullying from a few years back, which really captured the complexity of the issue.)

Also, ultimately, these bullies are free to go about their brutish business. Vague threats of corporate comeuppance 20 years hence seem pretty lame when victims ripe for pantsing are available in the here and now. Meanwhile, the terrorized kids tunefully suffer and bide their time, fated to wait decades for “revenge” which, let’s face it, may never come.

Bullies grow up to be bosses sometimes, and nerds aren’t always management material, no matter how earnestly kids in PSAs sing to the contrary.

Credits below.

CREDITS
Client: VH1
Spot: “I Will Survive”
Agency: Del Campo Saatchi Saatchi
Executive Creative Directors: Maxi Itzkoff, Mariano Serkin
Creative Directors: Juan Pablo Lufrano, Ariel Serkin /Dani Minaker, Sebastian Tarazaga
Agency Producers: Andy Gulliman, Felipe Calviño, Adrian Aspani
Account Director: Ana Bogni
Production Company: Landia, Stink
Director: Agustin Alberdi
Executive Producers: Daniel Bergmann, Andy Fogwill, / Diego Robino
Producer: Nell Jordan
Director of Photography: Carlos Ritter
Post house: Electric Theatre Collective
Sound: Pure Sound

http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/vh1s-i-will-survive-anti-bullying-ad-great-fun-does-it-send-good-message-157219

at 5:28 pm

Two London groups join forces to tackle cyberbullying

Posted by in Cyber Bullying

Two London groups that aim to prevent abuse and bullying have joined forces to tackle the widespread and growing problem of cyberbullying.

The London Abused Women’s Centre (LAWC) has partnered with the London Anti-Bullying Coalition for a two-year project funded by the federal government.

On Thursday, London MP Susan Truppe announced the government would give LAWC $155,542 for a project to address cyberviolence against young women and girls in the City of London and the County of Middlesex.

LAWC executive director Megan Walker called the announcement “huge,” and said she had partnered with the anti-bullying coalition for the project, which will aim to identify strategies for responding to cyberbullying, internet luring and cyberstalking against young women and girls.

The funding came in response to ongoing government research and a five-year-old survey that found cyberbullying already on the rise in 2009. As use of the Internet and social media continues to explode and become one of the primary ways people communicate, it is widely agreed that cyberbullying has become a bigger issue in recent years.

Ottawa has launched a campaign entitled Stop Hating Online that includes information about potential criminal consequences for cyberbullying and how to report it.

jennifer.obrien@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/obrienatlfpress 

http://www.lfpress.com/2014/04/24/two-london-groups-join-forces-to-tackle-cyberbullying

at 5:28 pm

Fairfax school board approves new proposals for later high school start times

Posted by in School

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This commenter is a Washington Post contributor. Post contributors aren’t staff, but may write articles or columns. In some cases, contributors are sources or experts quoted in a story.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/fairfax-school-board-approves-new-plans-for-later-high-school-start-times/2014/04/23/46807e18-cb15-11e3-a75e-463587891b57_story.html

at 5:28 pm

High school students are all about computers but get little instruction in …

Posted by in School

“It’s shocking how little there is,” said Rebecca Dovi, who has taught computer science for 17 years in Virginia schools and is an advocate for more courses statewide. Even when schools offer classes, she said, there are relatively few of them. “You might have one person teaching it in a school of 1,400 kids.”

Though computer science can lead to high-paying technology jobs and boost skills for a variety of fields, many students get little exposure to the subject in class. Across the Washington region’s school systems, fewer than one in 10 high school students took computer science this academic year, according to district data.

But, slowly, that might be starting to change. Spurred in part by national initiatives, some local districts are urging more students to take computer science courses and trying to address a glaring gender and racial disparity. By next school year, school leaders expect more computer science courses in Montgomery high schools, more enrollment in courses in Virginia’s Loudoun County and more schools offering classes in the District.

And Charles County, Md., with 26,500 students, has committed to bring such learning into every grade starting in the fall, in partnership with the nonprofit Code.org, which works to increase access to computer science in schools.

“We really believe the skills they will get from coding will help them in whatever career they choose,” said Charles County Superintendent Kimberly Hill, who pointed out that such learning requires logic and “habits of the mind” that have broader uses.

Computer science is not just for math whizzes and budding techies, she said.

“Typically it’s male. Typically it’s white male,” Hill said, adding that it begs the questions: “Where are all the girls? Where are all the African American and Hispanic kids?”

Under the county’s new plan, she said, the thinking is, “You can learn how to code, like you can learn how to read and learn how to write.”

Among the reasons many schools do not have computer science: It is not a priority core subject, and computer science teachers can be hard to find, with some drawn to higher-paying tech jobs. While an increasing number of states allow the courses to count as a math or science credit, they are usually not a requirement and are sometimes viewed by students as boring or intimidating.

Many parents mistake the computers they see in schools — and the seeming ease with which teenagers manage their devices — as a signs of computer science understanding.

“These skills are as fundamental as algebra,” said Marie desJardins, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who is leading a project to train 100 computer science teachers in Maryland and the District over a three-year period.

During the next decade, about 70 percent of new jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields will be for computing professionals, desJardins said.

“There is not a field right now that computer science doesn’t contribute to or support,” said Chris Stephenson, executive director of the Computer Science Teachers Association. Still, she said, “most kids don’t have a chance to get introduced to this content in high school, and the kids that are least likely to have these opportunities are in high-poverty, high-minority schools.”

Hoping to reach more students, especially girls and minorities, Montgomery’s school leaders also have signed on with Code.org. Ten county high schools are slated to offer more-engaging courses that go beyond programming, with inquiry-based learning and topics such as the Internet and human-computer interaction.

“As a school system and a nation, we’re stuck in a box where computer science is not what we teach kids; it’s just something that you learn maybe later,” said Pat Yongpradit, a former Montgomery teacher who is director of education at Code.org.

Code.org has brought widespread attention to the learning gap, first with a video early last year that went viral — “What Most Schools Don’t Teach” — and then in December with a week-long “Hour of Code” campaign that drew in millions of people worldwide. The organization has partnered with an increasing number of school systems nationally — 32 as of this month — providing professional development for teachers and new curricular materials.

In Rockville, David Silversmith needed no convincing. One recent morning at Thomas S. Wootton High School, the 17-year-old senior was puzzling over a line of code for a computer-based game of Connect Four. Silversmith has no plans to become a computer scientist but decided the class was important.

“I think whatever profession you do nowadays,” the Maryland teen said, “it will definitely help.”

In D.C. public schools, new courses were offered this school year at six high schools and another four high schools will get computer science classes in the fall.

“The kids like these classes, they’re showing up for them, they’re engaged,” said Anthony Priest, a D.C. schools program manager. The District’s H.D. Woodson High School made computer science a requirement for all ninth-graders.

There are smaller efforts to expand computer science, too. In Fairfax County, teacher Dan Tra jazzed up a programming course with lots of app development, worked hard to market it, and got about 130 students to take the class at Falls Church High School this year. More than 40 percent of the students were female.

Falls Church now has a Robotics Club and a Girls in Technology Club. More than 20 students entered a hack-athon in late March, some winning honors.

“In our school, there’s a thirst for it,” Tra said.

Computer science courses are poorly tracked nationally and often misunderstood, experts say. Many people confuse courses about using computer software with true computer science, which is about creating and ­problem-solving with computers.

The most reliable figures about computer science’s reach into high schools come from the Advanced Placement (AP) exam. In Fairfax County, which has nearly 52,000 high school students, 740 students took the most recent AP exam in computer science. In Montgomery, with more than 45,000 high school students, 521 took the most recent AP exam. There were a little more than 600 exam-takers combined for public school systems in the District, Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Alexandria and Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia.

Barbara Ericson, a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech who studies AP computer science results, said Maryland, Virginia and the District made the top-10 list for computer science participation per capita in 2013. Nationally, 29,555 students took the exam.

Still, Ericson said, it remains a course of the few: More than 270,000 students took the most popular AP calculus exam last year, and nearly 200,000 took biology exams. In 2013, girls accounted for 18.6 percent of computer science exam-takers, Hispanic students 8.1 percent and black students 3.7 percent.

Locally, there are signs of both the problem and new interest.

T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, for example, lost its computer science teacher and was unable to find another who was certified, so the seven students now in the course take it online, officials said.

In Loudoun, enrollment is on the rise and a Microsoft program called Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, or TEALS, has brought professionals into classrooms. All 13 Loudoun high schools offer computer science and AP computer science.

Dan Kasun, a Microsoft executive involved in the program, said the collaboration inspires teachers, who in turn get their students excited. About 1,075 students are expected to take classes next year in Loudoun, up from 845 this year.

“People are realizing these are the skill sets that are going to lead to 21st-century jobs,” Kasun said.


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http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/high-school-students-are-all-about-computers-but-get-little-instruction-in-computer-science/2014/04/23/13979eda-c185-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html

at 5:28 pm

School arrivals normal today — sort of

Posted by in School

SAN ANTONIO — A war of nerves between a presumed email hoaxster and elementary school parents unfolded Thursday morning under the watchful eyes of extra police patrols and, at many schools, a heavy outdoor presence of administrators and auxiliary employees.

Police and school districts had said the threatening emails sent to various Northside Independent School District elementary campuses last weekend were likely a hoax, but said they could not dismiss them out of hand. San Antonio police coordinated a response with every local district.

The threat implied a mass shooting at an unspecified school during a midmorning time frame, which came and went without incident.

Student arrivals proceeded normally, except that some school districts implemented a more restrictive access plan and limited campus entrances to a single door, with no parents or visitors allowed in.

Police Chief William McManus visited several Northside ISD elementaries to maintain visibility and reassure the public. Other SAPD officers were at schools all over the city, for the same reasons, he said.

“We 100 percent believe that this is not credible,” McManus said of the threat.

Marjorie Mautz, however, picked up her two grandsons, ages 5 and 9, just after they got to Shirley J. Howsman Elementary — the family had sent them before remembering it was the day specified in the threat, and she was there to bring them home.

In this day and age, Mautz said, someone could make good on a threat of mass violence, adding, “It might be a joke, but it’s not a very nice joke.”

McManus declined to say how close investigators were to identifying the person who made the threat. No arrests have been made.

“We’re on top of this,” he said. “We’re good with where we are.”

Absenteeism reduces state funding for school districts, which is based on average daily attendance. A consultant’s estimate of a $1 million loss, based on a scenario where just one out of 10 students citywide stayed home because of the threat, might actually be on the low side, said North East Independent School District spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor.

“Some schools’ attendance is looking like it is really low, and others are looking like they are OK. It really varies campus by campus and won’t be more clear until our numbers come out this afternoon,” she said.

Northside ISD spokesman Pascual Gonzalez predicted the district might not be able to release its attendance rate until Monday. At about 95 percent, the rate had been normal on Tuesday and Wednesday, he said.

“Every child marked absent will cost the school district anywhere from $30 to $50 in lost funding that is used to pay the schools’ utility bills, support services for students, fuel for buses and teachers’ salaries,” Gonzalez said via email. “Collectively … the losses could be significant.”

When Ana Acevedo first heard of the threats, her initial reaction was panic — and many of her friends decided to keep their children home Thursday from Northside’s Colonies North Elementary, she said. But after studying the language of the emails, she said, “It just sounded like someone that was crazy.”

Acevedo said district officials and police were handling it well. She took her two daughters, in the second and fourth grades, to school.

“I think the whole city coming together as a front really brings a lot of confidence,” she said.

Parental reaction to the threat was all but imperceptible outside Cambridge Elementary School in Alamo Heights, aside from the presence of a handful of additional school staff and a police officer stationed at the front door. A cluster of children walked to the campus unaccompanied by adults while others bounced next to their parents, swinging their backpacks.

Laurie Bauman, whose twins attend second grade at the school, said she had almost forgotten that “today was the day” someone had promised to attack a school. The sight of a police car reminded her.

“When I heard about the threat I thought, ‘Gosh, we live in such an evil world,’ but I wasn’t going to keep them home because I don’t want to live in fear,” she said.

James Corletta said he considered keeping his stepson home because a lockdown at the elementary school last year had scared him. Corletta said he’s been happy with the district’s handling of the threat and believes parents were kept well-informed.

“It’s just scary in general that this stuff has to happen; I don’t know why they do it,” he said, holding a five-foot skateboard that he had ridden to the school. “Maybe they’re bored. They need to ride a longboard.”

Alamo Heights ISD spokeswoman Patti Pawlik-Perales said the mood Thursday was calm.

“I think we try to communicate with parents and just try to keep them abreast of what we’re doing so I think they feel safe,” she said, waving to passing students and making small talk with parents.

James Justitz said that while he didn’t talk to his daughter, a first-grader, about the threat, she noticed the heightened security immediately.

“Kids are pretty perceptive,” he said. “She asked me why police were out and I said that it was because people were speeding.”

Justitz added that he didn’t want to alarm his daughter, adding, “I didn’t think it was a credible threat.”

Parents, students and teachers cheerfully streamed into Harmony Elementary School at East Central ISD, unwilling to crush students’ anticipation of a 20-year tradition at the school where first graders hold a Fiesta float parade of decorated shoeboxes down the hallways. Some were a tribute to comic book superheroes, others American pride, and a few showcased their own mascot, the mighty Hornet.

East Central officials decided to hold the event and allow parents to attend. Several districts adopted some form of a soft lockdown and cancelled events.

“We want it to be like any other school day,” East Central spokeswoman Ashley Chohlis said, who has three children at Harmony. “There are always going to be threats but we always work to have the best security possible any day.”

Christina Cornelius, a parent who has three kids in East Central, said she had “no doubt” this morning when getting her kids ready despite some of her relatives urging her to keep them home. She strolled with two of them into Harmony’s main building, as her daughter Cadence tightly clutched her Fiesta float in bright pink with her name on it.

“You have to teach your children not to be scared and go about their normal lives and should encourage them to have some trust,” Cornelius said.

A police officer greeted parents outside the school. Many already knew the officer.

A crew of maintenance workers also stood outside as parents dropped off kids. The district said it put auxiliary staff outside all its schools Thursday.

“I think it’s always on the back of a parent’s mind,” said Randy Shaw, whose son attends Harmony. “I feel like most parents bringing their kids to school today have trust in their school security and local law enforcement.”

Shaw added that his only other child, a 14-year-old boy, opted to stay home not really because of the threat, but more to extend his weekend since state-mandated testing concluded at his campus Wednesday and school is out Friday for the Battle of Flowers parade.

“OK, then you can mow the yard and weed eat some grass,” Shaw said he told his son. “We put him to work.”

Fvara-orta@express-news.net

Staff Writer Alia Malik contributed to this report.

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/education/article/School-arrivals-normal-today-sort-of-5426664.php

at 5:28 pm

High school students are all about computers but get little instruction in …

Posted by in School

“It’s shocking how little there is,” said Rebecca Dovi, who has taught computer science for 17 years in Virginia schools and is an advocate for more courses statewide. Even when schools offer classes, she said, there are relatively few of them. “You might have one person teaching it in a school of 1,400 kids.”

Though computer science can lead to high-paying technology jobs and boost skills for a variety of fields, many students get little exposure to the subject in class. Across the Washington region’s school systems, fewer than one in 10 high school students took computer science this academic year, according to district data.

But, slowly, that might be starting to change. Spurred in part by national initiatives, some local districts are urging more students to take computer science courses and trying to address a glaring gender and racial disparity. By next school year, school leaders expect more computer science courses in Montgomery high schools, more enrollment in courses in Virginia’s Loudoun County and more schools offering classes in the District.

And Charles County, Md., with 26,500 students, has committed to bring such learning into every grade starting in the fall, in partnership with the nonprofit Code.org, which works to increase access to computer science in schools.

“We really believe the skills they will get from coding will help them in whatever career they choose,” said Charles County Superintendent Kimberly Hill, who pointed out that such learning requires logic and “habits of the mind” that have broader uses.

Computer science is not just for math whizzes and budding techies, she said.

“Typically it’s male. Typically it’s white male,” Hill said, adding that it begs the questions: “Where are all the girls? Where are all the African American and Hispanic kids?”

Under the county’s new plan, she said, the thinking is, “You can learn how to code, like you can learn how to read and learn how to write.”

Among the reasons many schools do not have computer science: It is not a priority core subject, and computer science teachers can be hard to find, with some drawn to higher-paying tech jobs. While an increasing number of states allow the courses to count as a math or science credit, they are usually not a requirement and are sometimes viewed by students as boring or intimidating.

Many parents mistake the computers they see in schools — and the seeming ease with which teenagers manage their devices — as a signs of computer science understanding.

“These skills are as fundamental as algebra,” said Marie desJardins, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County who is leading a project to train 100 computer science teachers in Maryland and the District over a three-year period.

During the next decade, about 70 percent of new jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields will be for computing professionals, desJardins said.

“There is not a field right now that computer science doesn’t contribute to or support,” said Chris Stephenson, executive director of the Computer Science Teachers Association. Still, she said, “most kids don’t have a chance to get introduced to this content in high school, and the kids that are least likely to have these opportunities are in high-poverty, high-minority schools.”

Hoping to reach more students, especially girls and minorities, Montgomery’s school leaders also have signed on with Code.org. Ten county high schools are slated to offer more-engaging courses that go beyond programming, with inquiry-based learning and topics such as the Internet and human-computer interaction.

“As a school system and a nation, we’re stuck in a box where computer science is not what we teach kids; it’s just something that you learn maybe later,” said Pat Yongpradit, a former Montgomery teacher who is director of education at Code.org.

Code.org has brought widespread attention to the learning gap, first with a video early last year that went viral — “What Most Schools Don’t Teach” — and then in December with a week-long “Hour of Code” campaign that drew in millions of people worldwide. The organization has partnered with an increasing number of school systems nationally — 32 as of this month — providing professional development for teachers and new curricular materials.

In Rockville, David Silversmith needed no convincing. One recent morning at Thomas S. Wootton High School, the 17-year-old senior was puzzling over a line of code for a computer-based game of Connect Four. Silversmith has no plans to become a computer scientist but decided the class was important.

“I think whatever profession you do nowadays,” the Maryland teen said, “it will definitely help.”

In D.C. public schools, new courses were offered this school year at six high schools and another four high schools will get computer science classes in the fall.

“The kids like these classes, they’re showing up for them, they’re engaged,” said Anthony Priest, a D.C. schools program manager. The District’s H.D. Woodson High School made computer science a requirement for all ninth-graders.

There are smaller efforts to expand computer science, too. In Fairfax County, teacher Dan Tra jazzed up a programming course with lots of app development, worked hard to market it, and got about 130 students to take the class at Falls Church High School this year. More than 40 percent of the students were female.

Falls Church now has a Robotics Club and a Girls in Technology Club. More than 20 students entered a hack-athon in late March, some winning honors.

“In our school, there’s a thirst for it,” Tra said.

Computer science courses are poorly tracked nationally and often misunderstood, experts say. Many people confuse courses about using computer software with true computer science, which is about creating and ­problem-solving with computers.

The most reliable figures about computer science’s reach into high schools come from the Advanced Placement (AP) exam. In Fairfax County, which has nearly 52,000 high school students, 740 students took the most recent AP exam in computer science. In Montgomery, with more than 45,000 high school students, 521 took the most recent AP exam. There were a little more than 600 exam-takers combined for public school systems in the District, Prince George’s County in Maryland, and Alexandria and Arlington, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia.

Barbara Ericson, a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech who studies AP computer science results, said Maryland, Virginia and the District made the top-10 list for computer science participation per capita in 2013. Nationally, 29,555 students took the exam.

Still, Ericson said, it remains a course of the few: More than 270,000 students took the most popular AP calculus exam last year, and nearly 200,000 took biology exams. In 2013, girls accounted for 18.6 percent of computer science exam-takers, Hispanic students 8.1 percent and black students 3.7 percent.

Locally, there are signs of both the problem and new interest.

T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, for example, lost its computer science teacher and was unable to find another who was certified, so the seven students now in the course take it online, officials said.

In Loudoun, enrollment is on the rise and a Microsoft program called Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, or TEALS, has brought professionals into classrooms. All 13 Loudoun high schools offer computer science and AP computer science.

Dan Kasun, a Microsoft executive involved in the program, said the collaboration inspires teachers, who in turn get their students excited. About 1,075 students are expected to take classes next year in Loudoun, up from 845 this year.

“People are realizing these are the skill sets that are going to lead to 21st-century jobs,” Kasun said.


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http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/high-school-students-are-all-about-computers-but-get-little-instruction-in-computer-science/2014/04/23/13979eda-c185-11e3-bcec-b71ee10e9bc3_story.html

at 11:28 am

Governor Patrick to sign anti-bullying bill

THINKSTOCK

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is planning to sign a bill designed to build on the state’s 2010 anti-bullying law by strengthening protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students and students with disabilities.

Massachusetts lawmakers have already approved the bill which would also create new reporting measures for schools and recognize certain populations as more vulnerable to bullying.

Patrick plans to sign the bill Thursday at the Statehouse.

The 2010 law was designed to crack down on bullying and cyberbullying and require schools to establish anti-bullying programs.

The new bill would create a data collection and reporting mechanism designed to help educators, administrators and legislators identify trends and respond to them.

Schools would be required to report bullying data annually to education officials. The statistics would be passed on to the attorney general and lawmakers.

http://wwlp.com/2014/04/24/governor-patrick-to-sign-anti-bullying-bill/

at 5:28 am

SCCC anti-bullying program is Thursday night

SCHENECTADY — Robyn King presents “Eating Lunch in the Bathroom: The Psychosocial Impact of Bullying” at 6:30 p.m., Thursday in Taylor Auditorium, Schenectady County Community College. The program is free.

King is a 34-year college Student Affairs veteran; the last 13 have been as a mental health counselor at SCCC. She is now the acting director of wellness and support services at the college.

According to the college, King endured bullying as a child before becoming a target of bullying as an obese woman. She has experience counseling both bullying survivors and persons who bully.

She recently was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, the 2014 Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment Award by NYS Minorities in Criminal Justice, and was named Woman of the Year by the National Association for Professional Women.

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/SCCC-anti-bullying-program-is-Thursday-night-5425352.php

at 5:28 am

SCCC anti-bullying program is Thursday night

SCHENECTADY — Robyn King presents “Eating Lunch in the Bathroom: The Psychosocial Impact of Bullying” at 6:30 p.m., Thursday in Taylor Auditorium, Schenectady County Community College. The program is free.

King is a 34-year college Student Affairs veteran; the last 13 have been as a mental health counselor at SCCC. She is now the acting director of wellness and support services at the college.

According to the college, King endured bullying as a child before becoming a target of bullying as an obese woman. She has experience counseling both bullying survivors and persons who bully.

She recently was awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, the 2014 Woman of Character, Courage and Commitment Award by NYS Minorities in Criminal Justice, and was named Woman of the Year by the National Association for Professional Women.

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/SCCC-anti-bullying-program-is-Thursday-night-5425352.php

at 5:28 am

Olympia school bus driver accused of bullying disabled girl

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – A school bus driver has been placed on leave while the Olympia School District investigates accusations that he bullied a developmentally disabled 14-year-old girl.

The Washington Middle School student has been complaining about verbal abuse for more than a year but the district didn’t act until it saw video from a surveillance camera, her mother told The Olympian.

The district showed the mother video taken April 17 that shows the driver encouraging other special-needs students on the bus to call the girl names.

“You can clearly hear the driver calling my daughter names, encouraging other children to bully her,” the mother said. “All of the children on the bus are special needs with a variety of disabilities, which makes it even worse.”

The girl was recently frightened by a bee on the bus, and on the video the driver says he will bring a beehive on the bus, according to the mother.

The girl has an assigned seat at the back of the bus, where the heaters are located. When she has asked the driver to turn the heat down, he instead turns the heat up, the mother said.

The school district is treating the complaint very seriously, a spokeswoman said.

“We learned about the inappropriate verbal exchanges last week and immediately put the driver on leave. The district is now conducting an investigation. In the meantime, staff is committed to working with this family to ensure the student feels safe and supported on her way to school, at school and on the way home from school,” spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said in an email Monday.

The school district has refused to release a copy of the videotape. The mother has been in contact with a lawyer.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Olympia-school-bus-driver-accused-of-bullying-girl-256352061.html

at 5:28 am

Olympia school bus driver accused of bullying disabled girl

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – A school bus driver has been placed on leave while the Olympia School District investigates accusations that he bullied a developmentally disabled 14-year-old girl.

The Washington Middle School student has been complaining about verbal abuse for more than a year but the district didn’t act until it saw video from a surveillance camera, her mother told The Olympian.

The district showed the mother video taken April 17 that shows the driver encouraging other special-needs students on the bus to call the girl names.

“You can clearly hear the driver calling my daughter names, encouraging other children to bully her,” the mother said. “All of the children on the bus are special needs with a variety of disabilities, which makes it even worse.”

The girl was recently frightened by a bee on the bus, and on the video the driver says he will bring a beehive on the bus, according to the mother.

The girl has an assigned seat at the back of the bus, where the heaters are located. When she has asked the driver to turn the heat down, he instead turns the heat up, the mother said.

The school district is treating the complaint very seriously, a spokeswoman said.

“We learned about the inappropriate verbal exchanges last week and immediately put the driver on leave. The district is now conducting an investigation. In the meantime, staff is committed to working with this family to ensure the student feels safe and supported on her way to school, at school and on the way home from school,” spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said in an email Monday.

The school district has refused to release a copy of the videotape. The mother has been in contact with a lawyer.

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Olympia-school-bus-driver-accused-of-bullying-girl-256352061.html

at 5:28 am

The Grade Blog

Seven local schools — Bakersfield High School, Golden Valley High School, Taft High School, Tehachapi High School, Greenfield Middle School, Lincoln Junior High School and Rosedale Middle School– are piloting the Safe School Ambassadors app as part of a national anti-bullying program, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office announced this week.

Schools started testing the technology, which is free for local schools this year, in February.

The software will cost about $300 per local site next year — said Rob Meszaros, spokesman for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

Local feedback, gathered through May, will inform design for the app, which could reach more than 1,500 public and private school sites across 32 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada.

Those sites are part of an anti-bullying program that more than 45 Kern County school sites have implemented in grades four through 12 called Safe School Ambassadors.

Educators described Safe School Ambassadors as an evidence-based strategy to reduce bullying. The accompanying software allows each student ambassador to classify an incident of bullying or mistreatment in one of six different categories: exclusion, put down, physical, intimidation, act against campus such as litering and other. Students can also specify how they responded to the incident and intervened.

At BHS — a school with about 2,800 pupils — only 80 students are trained to use the software but few have used it.

Tiffani Alvidrez, a counselor and Safe School advisor at Bakersfield High, said she counted eight reports since March.

Safiyyah De Souza, a senior in the BHS Safe School Ambassadors program, said she has gotten so used to intervening and mediating during incidents that reporting them slips her mind.

Maria Rosas, a BHS senior who is not a part of Safe School Ambassadors, said she does not think the app is necessary because students should already know to tell an adult if they are being bullied.

The problem is they don’t, added Alexis Caudillo, another BHS senior who is not part of the program. They don’t want to get caught “snitching.”

“People might mess with them even more,” she said.

http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/grade/x1042364951/Safety-ambassadors-pilot-bullying-app-in-seven-schools?utm_source=widget_63&utm_medium=synapse

at 5:28 am

The Grade Blog

Seven local schools — Bakersfield High School, Golden Valley High School, Taft High School, Tehachapi High School, Greenfield Middle School, Lincoln Junior High School and Rosedale Middle School– are piloting the Safe School Ambassadors app as part of a national anti-bullying program, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools office announced this week.

Schools started testing the technology, which is free for local schools this year, in February.

The software will cost about $300 per local site next year — said Rob Meszaros, spokesman for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools.

Local feedback, gathered through May, will inform design for the app, which could reach more than 1,500 public and private school sites across 32 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and Canada.

Those sites are part of an anti-bullying program that more than 45 Kern County school sites have implemented in grades four through 12 called Safe School Ambassadors.

Educators described Safe School Ambassadors as an evidence-based strategy to reduce bullying. The accompanying software allows each student ambassador to classify an incident of bullying or mistreatment in one of six different categories: exclusion, put down, physical, intimidation, act against campus such as litering and other. Students can also specify how they responded to the incident and intervened.

At BHS — a school with about 2,800 pupils — only 80 students are trained to use the software but few have used it.

Tiffani Alvidrez, a counselor and Safe School advisor at Bakersfield High, said she counted eight reports since March.

Safiyyah De Souza, a senior in the BHS Safe School Ambassadors program, said she has gotten so used to intervening and mediating during incidents that reporting them slips her mind.

Maria Rosas, a BHS senior who is not a part of Safe School Ambassadors, said she does not think the app is necessary because students should already know to tell an adult if they are being bullied.

The problem is they don’t, added Alexis Caudillo, another BHS senior who is not part of the program. They don’t want to get caught “snitching.”

“People might mess with them even more,” she said.

http://www.bakersfieldcalifornian.com/local/grade/x1042364951/Safety-ambassadors-pilot-bullying-app-in-seven-schools?utm_source=widget_63&utm_medium=synapse

at 5:28 am

New Whisper app could lead to cyberbullying for students

Posted by in Cyber Bullying

HARTFORD, CT(WFSB) -

A new app called Whisper is stirring up a lot of controversy in schools and becoming the latest platform for cyberbullying.

But, even worse, predators may be using the app to send messages to kids.

Whisper, the latest must-have app among students, acts as a digital confessional and allows its users to blast out their innermost secrets anonymously.

The app uses GPS tracking to create a feed of comments from users in your area, but under the anonymous guise, the conversation can turn into a personal attack. 

“Hiding behind a screen is one thing, but when you do it anonymously, it takes it to a whole new level,” said Scott Driscoll, of Internet Safety Concept.

Driscoll said the app has become a venue for bullying.

Some users target their classmates by writing cruel messages that ultimately get students buzzing and brings cyberbullying into the real world. 

“At midnight, someone can put up a text or an anonymous posting – something mean about a classmate – by the time school starts, everyone is talking about it,” Driscoll said.

The creators of Whisper say in their terms that they have the right to remove any postings that are considered bullying and can even delete a user’s account. However, this may not be curbing the behavior.

The private messaging feature is the center of parent’s concerns. 

Driscoll, while posing as a young student, posted his own message and the response he got from users was disturbing. 

“Just yesterday, I had three pictures of gentlemen over the age of 21 – sending them to me thinking I was a 15-year-old girl,” Driscoll said.

Driscoll said the men wanted to meet up and didn’t seem to care that his persona was a minor.

The app does have a 17-year-old age restriction, but that hasn’t seemed to stop students and predators know that children are actively using the app. 

Driscoll said many mobile devices have parental control settings. He said parents should use those settings to control what apps are downloaded on their child’s phone.

Copyright 2014 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

http://www.wfsb.com/story/25320770/new-whisper-app-could-lead-to-cyberbullying-for-students