Rep. George Miller (D-CA), ranking member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, introduced a bill known as the Keeping All Students Safe Act on April 6th. The bipartisan legislation would prevent and reduce the use of inappropriate restraint and seclusion on public and private schoolchildren by establishing minimum safety standards in schools, similar to standards already in place in hospitals and non-medical community-based facilities. The bill first passed in the House last year with bipartisan support but was not voted on in the Senate.

“In the year since this legislation passed the House but failed to become law, more children were abused in school” says Rep. Miller. “The investigations and news reports about harmful restraint and seclusion show children being tied up with duct tape, sat on by untrained staff, locked in rooms for hours at a time—this behavior looks like torture. This legislation makes it very clear that there is no room for torture and abuse in America’s schools.”

In 2009 Rep. Miller requested that the U.S. Government Accountability Office conduct an investigation into allegations by the National Disability Rights Network that restraint and seclusion abuses were widespread in public and private schools. The GAO found hundreds of cases of abuse, most cases involving young children with disabilities. The report found children were bound with duct tape, rope, or bungee cords, locked alone in rooms for hours at a time, and hit or sat on by staff as routine disciplinary tactics rather than in response to an emergency. Such abuse can have lasting traumatic effects on young children. Several reported cases resulted in the student’s death when the restraint blocked air from entering the student’s lungs for an extended period of time.

Nonetheless, state regulations on the use of restraint and seclusion are irregular and inconsistent. Currently, 36% of states have no laws, policies, or regulatory guidance on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. Additionally, 88% of states still allow the use of prone restraints, which may restrict breathing. Keeping All Students Safe Act requires a federal safety minimum to ensure the safety of school children.

Specifically, the legislation would limit physical restraint and locked seclusion only in cases of imminent danger or injury and only when administered by trained staff. Mechanical, chemical, and restricted breathing restraints would be prohibited, as would aversive behavioral interventions such as denying students water, food, clothing, or access to toilet facilities. Such methods of restraint would not be allowed as planned interventions in students’ education plans, including Individualized Education Programs. Schools would also be required to notify parents after incidents when restraint and seclusion were used.

Overall, the legislation seeks to increase transparency, oversight, and enforcement to prevent future abuse. NASSP fully supports the Keeping All Students Safe Act.

For more information on the legislation, visit http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/blog/2011/04/keeping-all-students-safe-act.shtml

Witnesses and all present members of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities unanimously expressed concern for the growing trend in “cyberbullying”. The testimony took place during a subcommittee hearing on June 24 titled “Ensuring Student Cyber Safety”, as part of ongoing discussions of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

The term “cyberbullying” refers to any kind of bullying or harassment that takes place on the Internet, through social networking sites like Facebook, and through text messaging. With a Pew 2007 study reporting that 93% of teens aged 12-17 go online daily, 75% have a cell phone, and 73% use social networking sites, the danger of cyberbullying is an increasingly pressing issue.

In her opening remarks, Chairwoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) said that according to a February 2010 PEW report, 73% of wired American teens use social networking websites, and that daily text messaging has increased significantly in the past year and a half, from 38% in February 2008 to 54% in September 2009. She stressed that students cannot learn in environments that are unsafe due to cyberbullying from any forms of technology, and that the emotional and physical impacts of cyberbullying are so severe that we must swiftly address this issue. McCarthy concluded by urging strategic coordination between all interested parties, particularly the students.

Barbara-Jane Paris, principal of Canyon Vista Middle School in Austin, TX, and an incoming member of the NASSP board of directors, was the lone school-based witness and provided an invaluable perspective to the hearing of the effects of cyberbullying at school. As a high school principal five years ago, one of her students became suicidal due to cyberbullying, and Paris admits that at the time she felt powerless with no idea of how to address the issue. After much research she discovered Bully Policy USA, a watchdog organization that advocates on behalf of bullied children and reports on state antibullying laws, which provided her with strategies to combat cyberbullying at her school.

Paris also mentioned the research that came out of a report entitled The Principal’s Perspective: School Safety, Bullying, and Harassment that the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) published with NASSP’s collaboration in 2008. A survey from this report found that 49% of public school principals considered bullying, name calling, or harassment of students to be a serious problem at their school. Furthermore, 72% of principals estimated that students at their school engage in cyberbullying to some extent.

Two themes central to effectively addressing cyberbullying emerged during the hearing: awareness and collaboration. To raise awareness, renowned talk-show host Dr. Phil urged that parents close the “information gap” and learn more about their children’s use of the Internet and social networking sites in order to understand how to prevent cyberbullying. In response, Paris mentioned that she regularly holds “parent summits” at her school to educate parents on Internet safety issues, among other things. She also advocated that educators receive comprehensive professional development on how to ensure student safety while using technology as an educational tool. Dominique Napolitano, a rising high school senior and member of Girl Scouts’ Let Me Know program, which shares current issues facing teen girls online and tools to keep them safer online, noted that teenagers also need to become more aware of the harmful effects of cyberbullying as a prevention strategy since many do not fully realize the grave impact of this kind of bullying. Parry Aftab, a privacy lawyer and expert on cybercrime, announced that she is releasing a “Stop Cyberbullying” toolkit for parents and children this September that will be free and available for schools as a useful awareness tool.

Similarly, most witnesses noted collaboration among parents, students, educators, social and religious institutions, and the federal government as an essential component of cyberbullying prevention. Paris stressed that she and other school administrators cannot effectively ensure student cyber safety without the support of the federal government. Aftab and Dr. Phil urged parents to have an ongoing dialogue with their children about their Internet use and strategies to prevent either being the victim of cyberbullying or the actual perpetrator.

As a member of the National Safe Schools Partnership, NASSP has promoted federal policy recommendations to prevent bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools, which are embodied in the Safe Schools Improvement Act (H.R. 2262) and will hopefully be incorporated into a reauthorized ESEA. These recommendations propose that:

  1. Schools and districts have comprehensive and effective student conduct policies that include clear prohibitions regarding bullying and harassment
  2. Schools and districts focus on effective prevention strategies and professional development to assist school personnel address issues associated with bullying and harassment
  3. States and districts maintain and report data regarding incidents of bullying and harassment to inform the development of effective federal, state, and local policies that address these issues.

To view an archived webcast of the hearing, visit the NASSP homepage at www.nassp.org.

Senate Passes Internet Safety Bill

On May 27, 2008, in School Safety, by Mary Kingston

On May 22, the Senate passed the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act (S. 1965). As previously reported on the Principal’s Policy Blog, the bill would:

  • Require schools receiving E-Rate funds to teach students about Internet safety and the dangers posed by social networking Web sites and chat rooms, and provide information on cyberbullying awareness and response;
    • This bill would not require schools to block access to social networking Web sites and chat rooms as a precondition of receiving E-Rate funds;
  • Direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in collaboration with nonprofits, state and local governments, private technology companies, and Internet service providers, to conduct a public awareness campaign on strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children;
    • Require the FTC to submit an annual report to Congress on its promotion of Internet safety;
  • Establish an Online Safety and Technology working group at the U.S. Commerce Department to review and evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety through parental control technology and blocking and filtering software. The working group will include representatives from the business community, public interest groups, and federal agencies.
  • Require Internet service providers to report child pornography and significantly increases fines for failing to do so.

In a press release following passage of S. 1965, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), said “Keeping children safe on the Internet must be a multi-layered approach to safety, both on and offline…The Internet is a valuable resource for children and this measure improves safety and addresses parental control without infringing on the First Amendment.”

The House of Representatives must approve an identical version of the bill before it goes to the president for his signature or veto. We’ll keep you updated as developments occur, so check back often!

Although NASSP has not taken a position on the bill, we have developed a position statement on Internet safety that provides guidance and recommendations for school leaders to assist them in their efforts to protect students while preparing them for the technologies they will encounter. To view this statement, please visit www.nassp.org.

Have you had to address a teacher about inappropriate content in his/her online profile?
Final results

46% Yes
54% No

Total Votes: 152

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Probably more clueless than careless, many young teachers are entering the ranks of professional life and failing to consider how their collegiate online profiles continue to follow them. A Washington Post article highlights the issue and offers an anecdote of one administrator who reviews the teacher candidate’s Facebook profile with the candidate during an interview.

The words of one young teacher probably sums it up best: “I never thought about parents and students seeing [my Facebook profile].” And more and more principals are making it their jobs to get teachers to think about it. This poll is now closed, but we invite you to leave your comments on the results below.

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Should educators pursue litigation for cyberbullying and online pranks?
Final results

72% Yes, students need to know it’s a serious offense
17% Yes, only when there’s no school-based recourse
4% No, litigation won’t let the school heal
1% No, such activities rarely cause real harm
6% No, it’s a school matter only

Total Votes: 189

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It’s now trite to say that cyberbulling and online harassment are huge issues for administrators, and as ed law professor Scott McLeod pointed out in his session at the 2008 NASSP Convention this past weekend, the courts have not been particularly friendly to administrators who have taken action to curtail such activities. (Click here to see Scott’s PowerPoint, handout, and other guidance.)

Yet, as a recent Christian Science Monitor article explains, while school leaders’ hands are often tied to treat cyberbullying as a school matter, more and more educators are pursuing private litigation or criminal charges to strike back against online pranksters.

This poll is now closed, but we invite you to leave your comments on the results below.

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According to a recent survey of students by the National School Boards Association (NSBA), more children than ever before are connecting to each other online through social networking websites and other services. The report found that, in total, 96% of students with Internet access reported blogging, text messaging, chatting, or visiting online communities such as Facebook and MySpace.

Twenty-one percent of students said they post comments to message boards every day; and 41% said they post comments at least once a week–up from only 17% in 2002.

Thirty percent of online students said they download and view videos uploaded by other users at least once a week; and 49% said they have uploaded photos or artwork themselves at some point.

Additionally, 30% of students have their own blogs, and one in four students (25%) has a personal webpage that they update at least weekly.

As students continue to interact online, some parents and administrators may be surprised by the topics of conversation. Fifty-nine percent of online students reported talking about “education-related topics, including college or college planning; learning outside of school; news; careers or jobs; politics, ideas, religion or morals; and schoolwork.”

Interestingly, one out of two (50%) reported talking specifically about schoolwork as they connected online.

In light of this increased interaction and connectivity, one might expect a high rate of unwanted online contact. However, the report said that “students and parents report fewer recent or recurrent problems, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and unwelcome personal encounters, than school fears and policies seem to imply.”

Twenty percent of students reported having seen inappropriate pictures on social networking sites; 7% said they had been asked for personal information; 7% also reported having experienced cyberbullying; 3% reported repeated unwanted attempts by strangers to contact them online; and 0.08% of online student said they actually met in-person someone they met online without their parents’ permission.

Weighing the Pros with the Cons
No one can deny the potential dangers posed by social networking sites, yet the NSBA believes there may be a disconnect between school Internet policies and student practice. “School district leaders seem to believe that negative experiences with social networking are more common than students and parents report. For example…[52%] of districts…say that students providing personal information online has been ‘a significant problem’ in their schools, yet only 3 percent of student say they’ve ever given out their e-mail addresses, instant messaging screen names, or other personal information to strangers,” the report said.

Perhaps most importantly, the survey pointed out that social networking is not going to go away—it is only going to increase. And it’s not only students that are getting in on the act, 27% of school districts said that their schools participate in a structured teacher/principal online community.

NSBA recommends that schools should revisit their policies on the use of social networking Web sites. While danger exists, there is also great potential—both for increased student learning, and enhanced professional development and communication for school personnel. As school leaders seek to strike this balance between protecting children and enhancing education, NSBA encourages school leaders to explore social networking sites to acquaint themselves with their features and the world in which students interact. Doing so (it is hoped) will increase understanding and result in the development of intelligent school policies for social networking Web site usage.

NASSP recognizes that school leaders and policymakers often need guidance in the development of sound school Internet safety policies and has developed a position statement designed to address this issue.

Just before leaving for the August recess, lawmakers called attention to the issue of Internet safety and how to protect America’s children from online sexual predators.

On August 2, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduced the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act (S. 1965), a bill designed to increase public awareness of the dangers posed to children by the Internet and to develop technologies that would help parents protect their children from those dangers.

“This legislation will provide important tools to help protect our children from online predators and other cyber threats…The Internet is a significant part of many people’s lives, and we must ensure that our children are educated about how to safely use this resource,” Stevens said in a press release.

The Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act would:

  • Require schools receiving E-Rate funds to teach students about Internet safety and the dangers posed by social networking Web sites and chat rooms, and to provide information on cyberbullying awareness and response;
  • Direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in collaboration with nonprofits, state and local governments, private technology companies, and Internet service providers, to conduct a public awareness campaign on strategies to promote the safe use of the Internet by children;
    • Require the FTC to submit an annual report to Congress on its promotion of Internet safety;
    • Authorize $5 million to carry out this campaign for both FY 2008 and FY 2009;
  • Establish an Online Safety and Technology working group at the U.S. Commerce Department to review and evaluate industry efforts to promote online safety through parental control technology and blocking and filtering software. The working group will include representatives from the business community, public interest groups, and federal agencies.
  • Require Internet service providers to report child pornography and significantly increases fines for failing to do so.

This legislation comes on the heels of efforts in both chambers to focus national attention on the issue of Internet safety.

At an August 3 press conference, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the committee will hold hearings on the use of the Internet to perpetrate or facilitate sex crimes when Congress returns in September.

“We cannot allow the Internet to be a playground where our children are one mouseclick away from sexual predators. There have been several bills introduced that seek to strengthen federal tools of investigation and prosecution that are used to combat these crimes, and that are designed to toughen the federal laws that make such crimes illegal,” Conyers said in a statement.

NASSP understands that this is an important issue for students and administrators and has developed a position statement on Internet safety that provides guidance and recommendations for school leaders in their efforts to protect students while preparing them for the technologies they will encounter. To view this statement, please visit http://www.principals.org/s_nassp/sec.asp?CID=1285&DID=55883.

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Social Networking Web Sites Come under Scrutiny

On August 3, 2006, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

In an effort to protect teens from sexual predators on social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, the House approved legislation last week that would effectively make school administrators responsible for policing the Internet.

The Deleting Online Predators Act (H.R. 5319) would require schools that receive E-rate grants to certify that they have a policy in place to monitor the online activities of minors; block access to material that is obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors; and prohibit access to social networking Web sites or chat rooms “through which minors may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material.” The House approved the measure, 410-15, on July 26.

Voicing his support for the E-rate program, Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) stated, “I have seen the tremendous educational value which the Internet has brought to students throughout our district, and I recognize the importance of the E-rate in making that a reality. However, as with all technologies, the Internet is a double-edged sword, and Congress does have the responsibility to ensure that, to the extent that a federal program is involved, like the E-rate, it is doing all that it can to ensure that children are protected from online dangers. This bill represents another step in making sure that online experiences at school and the library are safe.”

Arguing that the bill would “delete legitimate Web content from schools and libraries,” Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) said that during committee hearings “there was not one mention of online child exploitation being a problem at schools or libraries. Perhaps this is because there is already a law on the books that requires schools and libraries who receive E-rate funding to monitor children’s Internet use and to employ technology blocking children or preventing children from viewing obscene and harmful content. Many schools and libraries already block Web sites such as MySpace. This legislation is largely redundant and raises many constitutional concerns.”

With a packed schedule this summer, the Senate is not expected to take up the legislation until September at the very earliest.

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Who Should Protect Children Online?

On July 18, 2006, in Technology, by Amanda Karhuse

With the ever increasing popularity of social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, many are concerned that teens are making themselves vulnerable to Internet sexual predators. The issue has received intense scrutiny from Congress, and in May, legislation was introduced to add policing the Internet as one of the many responsibilities of school administrators.

 

The Deleting Online Predators Act (H.R. 5319) would require schools that receive E-rate grants to certify that they have a policy in place to monitor the online activities of minors; block access to material that is obscene, child pornography, or harmful to minors; and prohibit access to social networking Web sites or chat rooms “through which minors may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material.”

 

At a subcommittee hearing on July 11, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) said that schools “have an obligation to ensure that their subsidized communications services do not become a hunting ground for pedophiles. If social networking sites are not taking the necessary precautions to prevent the exploitation of children on their sites, then at the very least, Congress should prohibit the use of federally-mandated funds to access Internet sites that put children in harm’s way.”

 

Arguing that the bill would “place an added burden on schools,” Ted Davis, an information technology director for Fairfax County Public Schools, stated, “The proposed legislation, though an extension of similar provisions in effect today, does not lend itself to a technical solution. It would require that schools block commercial social networking sites that ‘may easily be’ misused to perpetrate inappropriate contact with students. Unlike current restrictions against obscene materials that can be objectively identified, this legislation would require schools to subjectively predict which sites may be misused. Identifying and evaluating such sites would not take advantage of the technical capabilities of filtering vendors and likely lead to blocking of legitimate instructional sites.” Mr. Davis urged Congress to encourage more collaboration between schools, law enforcement, and technology vendors, and to foster an “information campaign” for students and parents about the dangers of the Internet.

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