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Social Media Threats Case Heard By Supreme Court - Implications for Schools

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on December 04, 2014

Social Media Threats Case Heard By Supreme Court - Implications for Schools

 

The Elonis v. United States case is bringing increased attention to the already complicated question of how to deal with school threats made on social media. The case, which is before the Supreme Court, involves a 27-year-old man who made threatening comments on Facebook about shooting up an elementary school. The specific question before the Court is whether, when someone is prosecuted for making threatening statements, the government should be required to prove that that person intended his words to be taken as a threat. The crux of the issue is whether one should have to prove a subjective element (that the speaker intended his words to be taken as a threat) or merely an objective element (that a reasonable listener would have understood the words as a threat -- a much lower burden). Proponents of free speech argue that "proof of subjective intent is required to ensure that protected speech is not chilled by the fear of criminal prosecution" (ACLU).

How the Supreme Court decides this case will have broad implications for how school administrators address threats made by students on social media outlets and impact how youth are treated when accused of such conduct.

Regardless of what standard of proof the Court deems appropriate, however, any standard that allows us to criminalize youth for their behavior on social media will likely do more harm than good. For this reason, although working to protect free speech is vitally important, when it comes to this kind of behavior by youth, arguing over whether the objective or subjective standard is appropriate misses the true issue at hand: how can we best prevent this type of behavior from occurring and work to remedy its harm as effectively as possible. 

Countless studies and data show that criminalizing cyber-bullying will not decrease bullying and will instead cause a less satisfactory school climate for all students, as well as significant harm to those students labeled "bullies," including perpetuating the school-to-prison-pipeline[1] (for a more detailed discussion of the issue of criminalizing cyber-bullying, see: New York's Cyber-Bullying Law Struck Down http://conta.cc/1vxFtzM). Similarly, the answer to dealing with school threats on social media should not be to put kids in jail. Instead, we should be focusing on prevention.

NSCC has been supporting prevention efforts specific to such social media concerns through our school climate measurement work and the creation of a new dimension that provides schools with data on the perceptions about social media behavior from key stakeholder groups - parents, students, staff - directly. In this way, we are able to support a more meaningful dialogue within the school community about how social media is being used - positively or negatively - and what can be done to promote online behavior that reinforces their core values and codes of conduct in all areas of school life. Ultimately, when schools are equipped with the right information, they can be more effective in prevention efforts related to mean, cruel or potentially harmful behaviors before they manifest as negative actions that require a more serious response from the administration or other officials. 

If the Supreme Court finds that an objective standard is proper in Elonis, it would make it easier to focus on punishment rather than prevention. This is the wrong approach. Our efforts should be spent working to prevent and remedy the underlying behavior instead of making it easier to criminalize the behavior and providing more opportunity to further crowd the school-to-prison-pipeline.

[1] R. Skiba, A. Cohn, & A. Canter, Zero Tolerance and Alternative Strategies, in  HELPING  CHILDREN AT  HOME AND SCHOOL  II: HANDOUTS FOR  FAMILIES AND  EDUCATORS, S4:103-S4:106 (A. Canter, L. Paige, et al., eds. 2004); National Association of School Psychologists, Zero Tolerance and Alternative Strategies: A Fact Sheet for Educators and Policymakers , NASP ONLINE, http://www.nasponline.org/resources/factsheets/zt_fs.aspx (last accessed April 24, 2014); American Psychological Association Zero Tolerance Task Force, Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools? An Evidentiary Review and Recommendations , AMERICAN  PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 63, No. 9, 852–862 (Dec. 2008) (hereinafter “Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools?” ).

 

Research Roundup Dec 1,2014

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on December 01, 2014

Bringing Education to African Girls   New York Times

Ms. Cotton was award the World Innovation Summit Education Prize for her role as founder of Camfed, an organization that has helped millions of young girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Through direct sponsorship to young women’s education, Camfed works to ensur girls remain in school. “Besides financially supporting students, the organization trains teachers, mentors and community activists. It has also created a 25,000-member network of Camfed graduates who use their own experiences to teach and advise their communities, something the organization calls a “virtuous cycle.”

 

What It Takes to Fix American Education The Daily Beast

“We’re spending way too much time focusing on who is ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ debates over education, and not enough on implementing proven solutions.” Jonah Edelman writes how education reform is not a quick fix, but a process that involves many long term changes. He believes students, teachers, and parents should all have a voice in the discussion. 

 

Sacramento City Schools Focus on Emotional Learning The Sacramento Bee

The school district of Sacramento is adding social learning to their curriculum for all grade levels. A teacher says, “The aim, is to move students toward responsible decision-making and making ethical and constructive choices about themselves and their social behavior.” Another questions, “It’s about what kind of future generation we are creating within our current set of students and what kind of world do we want to model for them? Social and emotional learning is at the heart of education. It has got to be. Otherwise we’re lost.”

 

IU Partnership Helps High School Students Learn Art of Film-making, Produce Movies The Republic

Susanne Schwibs, an experimental film professor at IU and Noel Koontz, a film literature teacher at academy decided to bring their classes together through service learning. “"When (IU students) learn and try to teach techniques to the high school students, they get a deeper understanding of what they themselves are doing," Schwibs said."Film-making is collaborative," Koontz said. He continues, "bringing the learners together helps to mimic the film-making process, and it gives his class a chance to try different kinds of techniques to create a narrative hands-on.”

 

Education policy lags behind research findings Boston Globe

There is new development in literature on how children develop skills that are crucial to academic and life-long success, and the development of the brain. The NIH study of a Chicago preschool program found that by age 24, children who participated in the program had lower rates of depression, violent crime and incarceration, and were more likely to attend four-year colleges and to have health insurance than children who did not participate in the preschool program. Learning requires that children be able to pay attention, be patient, persist, persevere, face their mistakes, and remain focused when frustrated. Each of these skills is rooted in the ability of children to understand, control and manage their own emotions.

17 Ways Schools Can Educate Parents About Bullying

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on November 23, 2014

By Dr. Michele Borba

Twitter: @MicheleBorba

Blog: http://micheleborba.com/blog/

 

REALITY CHECK: A meta-analysis of over 600 studies on bullying found that a key to reducing peer cruelty is parent education.


I’ve worked in bullying prevention with hundreds of schools around the world as well as on 18 US Army bases and I find the same thing no matter where I am: parent education must be a component in effective bullying prevention. In fact, the sooner we engage and educate parents about the dynamics of bullying and the most effective strategies to reduce it, the better we can help all our children-bullies, targets and bystanders.

 

I’ve included 17 ways I’ve seen schools and communities involve parents in bullying prevention. I’ve learned that there is no right way to strengthen the home-school connection about bullying prevention. Home-grown and organic strategies are always better, and when students are involved it strengthens your efforts even more.

[Read more…]

Research Roundup

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on November 14, 2014

School 'climate' affects teachers' expectations about students Z News 

The school environment in which teachers work affects their expectations about students, says a new study.The research conducted a multilevel analysis using data from 2,666 teachers in 71 secondary schools in Quebec. “From these data, the researchers could distinguish between two levels of variables -- the teacher: His/her perception of school climate, gender, age, courses taught; and the school: its academic, socio-economic, ethnic composition, and the way the entire school community perceived the school climate.”

 

Classroom Tech, Professional Development Top List of Faculty Concerns Campus Technology

This article discusses the changing role of social media in education.  “While technology is very helpful for student engagement and motivation, where it really shines is in providing professional development and opportunities for teachers to collaborate with colleagues. And social media is turning out to be a powerful tool for those purposes.” Sites proving to be most valuable are twitter, facebook, and google+ for conferences. 

 

Harding Elementary School teacher prepares students for high-tech future The Republic

A tech-savvy Ben Feight integrates technology into his 4th grade lessons. He says, “While assignments might feel more like entertainment, they align with Iowa Core 21st Century Skills like employability, financial, health, civic and technology literacy. He continues, "I want to make sure they are prepared for the world and show them the possibilities.”

 

BROADER MEASURES OF SUCCESS: SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL LEARNING York University

Broader Measures highlights the importance of teaching and measuring social emotional learning. The general positive outcomes include improved academic achievement, increased social-emotional skill, self-esteem and mental health. The report states, “The evidence is clear that it is very important to measure how students are progressing in the development of their core social/emotional competencies, and how classroom and school conditions are contributing to this vital aspect of their education. This is not just a vital aspect of their wellbeing, but a critical factor in their long-term academic attainment as well.”

Research Roundup, October 22

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on October 22, 2014

Getting the Word Out, Part II: How Empowerment and Environment Transform School Climate ASCD

Everyone plays a part in school climate. In the first part of “Getting the Word Out,” equity and engagement were the key topics. In this piece, Sean Slade writes about empowerment and environment. What can educators do to empower students in the classroom? How can principals empower their staff and community? And what can school personnel do to help create a positive environment, both physically and the social-emotional? Read to find out different approaches to empowerment and environment, and the impact school climate contributes to the success of the school.

Things are Improving for LGBT Students, But They’re Still Really Bad Huffington Post

The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) released a survey on Wednesday that illustrated improvement for LGBT students in 2012-2013 compared to the 2010-2011 school year. The survey found that “of the nearly 8,000 students ages 13 to 21 who were surveyed, more than 55 percent reported feeling unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation, down from 64 percent in 2011.” A few of the contributions to this discrimination in schools? Certain school policies, hearing staff make homophobic remarks, and not enough staff intervention.

Small Schools Work in New York NY Times

Smaller, specialized high schools with roughly 100 students per grade and typically in black or Hispanic neighborhoods tend to have a more rigorous curriculum, personalized education, organized around a theme, and “valuable support from community partners.” While research shows that not all schools can or should be small schools, the research group MDRC has conducted a study that found “disadvantaged students who make up a vast majority of the small-school…are also more likely than those in the control group to enroll in college.”

[Read more…]

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