First Person

This week's safe schools snippets

Common Sense Media runs new campaign to curb cyberbullying

When you hear the word “cyberbullying,” the victim and bully come to mind. What about the bystanders? These silent witnesses play a big part in the vicious circle of bullying. That’s why speaking up has never been more important. Take the pledge and watch the video at Common Sense Media.

Emily’s Parade promotes school safety

A parade for both motorcyclists and runners that pays tribute to the memory of Emily Keyes, victim of a school Emily Keyesshooting, raises money, and promotes school safety. The event will be held Sunday, Sept. 25.

The Parade consists of two events: a 45 mile motorcycle ride between Columbine High School, 6201 S. Pierce St., Littleton, and Platte Canyon High School, on U.S. Highway 285 near Bailey, Colo., an annual ritual initiated by riders 10 days after Emily’s death, and a timed 5K run at Platte Canyon in tribute to emergency first responders around the country. Both events are open to the public. Suggested donations and participant sponsorships support The “I Love U Guys” Foundation programs and initiatives.

Online registration for the ride is at http://iloveuguys.org/ride_registration.pl For the ER5K use http://iloveuguys.org/run_registration.pl. At Columbine, gates open at 8 a.m., bikes out at 11:15 a.m. At Platte Canyon, gates open at 9 a.m., runners out at 11:15 a.m. Steve Crenshaw and friends will be playing at Platte Canyon.

More bullying cases have parents turning to courts

Jon Timothy and Tami Carmichael of Cleburne, Texas, are convinced their 13-year-old son Jon’s suicide in March 2010 was the result of daily bullying by peers and the lack of action taken by school officials. Read more in USA Today.

“48 Hours” to air special on bullying in the digital age

Reported by correspondent Tracy Smith, the program airing Friday, Sept. 16 (8 p.m. ET/PT) reveals how the explosion in technology is only making bullying worse, as victims cannot find relief from their tormentors in a 24/7 digital world. The report will have important new information for parents, educators and legislators about how bullying affects children and how to address it. Check out this CBS News report.

Panel finds post-Columbine disciplinary policies criminalize students

Colorado lawmakers and police said Monday that strict disciplinary policies at schools created after the Columbine High School shootings should be scaled back or scrapped and that administrators should have more control over student punishment. Read more in the Washington Post.

N.J. schools brace for anti-bullying rules’ impact

Supporters of New Jersey’s newly amended anti-bullying law say it will create a tough safety net for students who had been afraid to go to school because of continued bullying, even as administrators and others brace for the impact from increased reporting requirements. Read this EdWeek story.

In suburb, battle goes public on bullying of gay students

ANOKA, Minn. — This sprawling suburban school system, much of it within Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district, is caught in the eye of one of the country’s hottest culture wars — how homosexuality should be discussed in the schools. Read more in the New York Times.

Bullying prevention via Shakespeare in Colo. schools

Colorado Shakespeare Festival actors will perform a 17th century play in more than 25 schools from Fort Collins to William ShakespeareTrinidad this fall to set the stage for modern-day discussions about school bullying as part of a collaboration between the festival and the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

From Sept. 20 through Oct. 21, the three-person theater troupe will perform a 50-minute abridged version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” followed by a post-show talk with the actors and classroom workshops centered on bullying prevention. Participating elementary, middle and high schools will receive a study guide about the play’s contemporary relevance and proven anti-bullying interventions and information from the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence. Read more in this CU press release.

Broomfield police to host school safety presentation

The Broomfield Police Department will host a school safety discussion, “Speaking a Common Language During a School Crisis,” at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Broomfield Auditorium, 3 Community Park Road.

John-Michael Keyes, executive director of the I Love U Guys Foundation, will present the School Safety Standard Response Protocol. The protocol has been adopted by Adams 12 and Boulder Valley school districts, as well as numerous districts across the country.

The I Love U Guys Foundation was created after the shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, in which student Emily Keyes was killed by a gunman. The foundation was named after the last text message she sent to her parents while being held hostage. The Standard Response Protocol was developed by the foundation in collaboration with law enforcement and safety agencies, school administrators, students and teachers.

Topics of the Oct. 4 presentation will include the story and aftermath of the Platte Canyon High School shooting, dispelling the concept that “it can’t happen here,” and a new way to engage in the conversation about school safety. The presentation is ideal for students and families, school administrators and faculty, emergency managers, fire personnel, emergency medical services, law enforcement and public health officials, according to a news release.

For more information, call Broomfield Police public education coordinator Joleen Reefe at 720-887-2084.

University study links school bullying to lack of sleep

A new study suggests not getting enough sleep can get you into trouble — and not just with your doctor.

That was the conclusion of a University of Michigan study published in the journal “Sleep Medicine” last month that suggested children who are bullies are more likely to have sleep problems.

It’s also something Elgin School District U46 officials said they see in schools “all the time.” Read more in the Courier-News.

Psychiatrists prescribe remedies for school bullying

Bullying in school is a process that arises out of toxic group dynamics, not a problem originating with a single troubled person. It may not feel that way when you’ve just been jeered at by one of the stars of the school’s athletic program or the meanest girl in your grade just posted a nasty comment on your Facebook wall, but that is how the American Psychiatric Assn.’s first foray into the subject describes bullying, and it shapes how the nation’s psychiatrists propose to help stamp out the practice. Read more in the Los Angeles Times.

Boulder Valley high schools get concussion help for athletes

Centaurus High School athletic director Paul Roper has started paying more attention to student concussions.

Last school year, he instructed coaches to introduce a gradual return to play for athletes with concussions, starting with exercise and low-impact practices instead of an immediate return to full contact play.

This year, he will have another tool — baseline concussion testing — to help gauge when it’s safe for an athlete to get back in the game. Read more in the Colorado Hometown Weekly.

Elementary student brings live bullets to Boulder school

A student at Boulder’s Foothill Elementary brought two live bullets to school Monday, separating one of the bullets from its casing by hitting it on a rock, according to a letter from the principal sent to parents.

During third-grade recess, the student set off the bullet’s primer while hitting it on the rock, making a loud noise, according to Principal Melissa Ribordy. But the .22-caliber bullet was never fired, and no one was hurt. Read more in the Daily Camera.

Parents and teachers learn valuable info at  school safety forum

Since the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 and the recent outbreak of reports of kids committing suicide due to bullying, the safety of students has become a concern of utmost importance for parents, teachers and school administrators nationwide. Read more in Our Colorado News.

First Person

‘I didn’t feel like I had anyone to ask for support’: Why it matters to have teachers who look like me

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

For 10 years — the first decade I was in school — all my teachers were white women.

As a Mexican-American kid, I didn’t get the chance to have a man of color as a teacher until high school. Going into my senior year, I like how diverse my teachers are now, but I wish I’d had the same experience when I was younger.

When I think about why it matters to have a teacher I can relate to, I think back to fifth grade. A classmate said to me, “Mexicans are illegal—they cross the border every day! How about you, did you cross the border?” This bothered me. So, after class, I asked the teacher for help. But all she said was, “That’s OK, he was just playing.” From there, I had nowhere to go. She was at the top of the food chain.

In 1990, before they met, my mother and father came over the border from Mexico. My mom’s parents weren’t making enough profit from their cattle ranch, so they had little choice but to immigrate. My mom came with them to the United States and worked at a restaurant so she could send money back home. My father followed his older brother here because he wanted to start a new life. Little did he know he would one day cross paths with my mother and eventually start a family.

But my classmate was “just playing” when he insulted all of this. I wish my teacher had done something else.

If I’d been the teacher, I would’ve taken a different approach and worked to understand why we were acting and responding the way we were. Maybe the other student and I could’ve found common ground. But, unfortunately, we never had a chance to try.

Up until ninth grade, I had zero male teachers of color. I didn’t feel like I had anyone to ask for support when things like the fifth-grade incident happened. Many of us students felt that way — and that’s why I want to be a teacher, a fifth-grade teacher in particular. I want to make my culture an asset in the classroom and be a teacher students feel comfortable confiding in, no matter their background.

A teacher’s perspective: Cut from the same cloth: Why it matters that black male teachers like me aren’t alone in our schools

In middle school, I started seeing more male educators, but they were all white. Then, when it came time for me to start high school, I ended up going to school in a different neighborhood — an hour commute away—and things finally changed for me. Since starting high school, I’ve had six male teachers of color, and it’s made a huge difference.

My high school makes a big deal out of the whole “building relationships” thing. To my teachers and everyone else at the school, relationships are just as important as academics. At first, it was hard to get used to, but eventually it started making sense to me. I’m in an all-male mentorship group led by two African-American men who openly share about their struggles growing up in New York, and give us advice in any area of life — including what it means to appreciate our cultures. This is one of the things I like most about my school.

It’s hard to explain the way it feels to have a teacher who looks like you; they’re like older brothers who become a huge part of our lives, even if it’s just for four years. They make it easier to connect and socialize and help me feel more like I belong. To me, learning from someone who reflects who you are is one of the best things a student can experience.

Near the end of the school year, my mentorship group did an activity where we took turns getting asked questions by other students and staff. One of the mentors asked me, “What’s it like being Mexican American and how has your background influenced your goals?” No one had ever asked me that before, and it took a long time for me to process the question.

After a few moments, I spoke a bit about my family’s story and shared some of the stereotypes I had encountered and how they affect me today. Everyone was so supportive, and the mentors encouraged me to continue breaking stereotypes and defining myself rather than letting others define me.

It was nerve-wracking at first, telling my story in that group, but after three years of high school, we’d developed that level of trust. It was the first time I’d shared my story with that many people at once, but it felt intimate and very different from the time in fifth grade when that kid tried to tell my story for me.

Finally having teachers that look like me has made a huge difference. They don’t just mentor me and help me with my academics, they also make my goal of becoming a teacher seem more realistic.

Having men of color I can look up to and model myself after is a big part of why I have no doubt I’ll make it to college — and eventually be able to give other kids the type of help my mentors have given me. I know where I’m needed, and that’s where I’m headed.

Jose Romero is a senior at EPIC High School North in Queens, New York. This piece originally appeared on the blog of TNTP, a national nonprofit and advocacy group that trains new teachers.

First Person

A Queens teacher on Charlottesville: ‘It can’t just be teachers of color’ offering lessons on race

PHOTO: Bob Mical/Creative Commons

In a few short weeks, school will resume in New York and I’m already thinking about how we are going to address racism within the four walls of my classroom. I’m thinking about what texts, historical and current, we can read and films and documentaries we can watch to support dialogue, questioning, and solutions for combatting that ugly, pervasive thread in the fabric of our country’s patchwork quilt called racism.

Last year we read “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” a former slave turned abolitionist, and juxtaposed its reading with a viewing of Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th,” which discusses modern-day slavery in the guise of mass incarceration. Students asked questions of the documentary as they watched it and discussed those queries within their groups and with the class at large afterwards.

We do our children and ourselves a disservice when we don’t have these difficult conversations as a part of our collective curriculums. However, many teachers from various walks of life are neither well-versed nor fully comfortable discussing race on any level with their students. Not talking about racism won’t make it go away. If anything, not talking about racism in the classroom further perpetuates racist ideologies that are, at their root, born out of ignorance. Education’s goal is to dispel ignorance and replace it with truth.

With that being said, just how many teachers feel equipped to facilitate lessons that touch heavily upon race in the classroom? Not nearly enough.

According to Teaching Tolerance, “The dialogue about race should start in the classroom — the teacher-prep classroom, that is. Preservice teachers should be exploring multiculturalism and discussing ways to honor diversity in their future classrooms.”

But often, Hilton Kelly, a professor of education at Davidson College in North Carolina told the site, the coursework isn’t giving future teachers the training they need to talk about race. “Even when future teachers take courses on diversity and multiculturalism,” Kelly said, “those courses don’t take the critical approach to race that future teachers truly need.”

“Food, folklore and festivals are not the same as an analysis of race in America,” Kelly argued.

But an analysis of race in America is exactly what needs to happen. Furthermore, it can’t just be teachers of color solely facilitating such lessons in their classrooms.

I don’t want to write about the events going on in Virginia. I don’t want to think about it. I’m so tired of the hatred and I long for peace, but I can’t very well in good conscience remain silent. That would be akin to protesting with those hate-mongers in Virginia last weekend. I can’t just write about back-to-school shopping, lesson planning, and business-as-usual while my brothers and sisters in Virginia are being murdered in cold blood by white supremacist American Nazis.

Are the children of Virginia safe? Are our children anywhere safe? What can I do to make a difference within the hearts and minds of the children whom I teach? If education is our best vehicle for bringing about change — which it is— how am I going to infuse the lessons I teach with critical thinking and analysis about racism in the United States for the seventh-graders entrusted in my care? How are other educators planning to address these events with their students at every grade-level?

I pose these questions to all who are reading. Whether you are a teacher, a student, a parent, an administrator, or a community member, I plead with you to work together to create answers that work toward healthy conversations and hands-on action in the fight against racism.

Vivett Dukes is a teacher at Queens Collegiate: A College Board School. A version of this post first appeared on New York School Talk