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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, September 17

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on September 17, 2014

Do students learn more when their teachers work well together? Washington Post

Student achievement may be connected to the quality of relationships among teachers. “A number of studies suggest that good things happen for students in schools where teachers work together routinely,” the blog states, which highlights work from organizational behavior scholars Carrie Leana and Frits K. Pil from University of Pittsburgh. Students who have disadvantages of lower achievement due to socioeconomic status may be able to offset their chances if they have teachers of high social capital.

Preschool Program Focuses on the Brain KVNF

“Focused Kids” is a program that helps preschoolers focus and calm their minds so they are ready to learn. The young students tend to come from lower income and broken families, so even at the age of five, they can learn to take “charge of their own brain.” The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning in Chicago have studies that have found that “developing kids’ social and emotional skills is critical to being a good student, citizen and worker. And, it can prevent or reduce risky behaviors.” Focused Kids utilizes the SEL model as their foundation.

One to Grow On/Releasing the Will to Learn Educational Leadership-ASCD

How can educators motivate students to learn? Student success requires motivation, but barriers to this are parental support, lack of time, and lack of resources (Education Week Research Center, 2014). The “Three Concentric Circles” are the areas discussed in this ASCD piece that affect student motivation: The Personal Sphere, The Social Sphere, and The Academic Sphere. Read about the concerns of students and how teachers can respond to them.

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Research Roundup, September 3

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on September 03, 2014

Download the Parent Toolkit App NBC News- Education Nation

If you’re familiar with the Parent Toolkit website, the Parent Toolkit app will make access much simpler. From customization to creating a list to review later, the freshly released app will help parents benchmark their children’s learning and development and how you can support them in the process. Available on both Android and iOS, now you can use the Toolkit anywhere you go. Brand new sections on Social & Emotional Development will be available in October on the website, so stay tuned!

Kids and Screen Time: What Does The Research Say? npr

Could your child or student be missing out on human emotion recognition? A study conducted by UCLA shows that increased time spent on technology can inhibit the ability to read emotions. One group of sixth grade students were sent to an education camp for five days without access to electronic devices, while another group spent their lives as usual.  After the end of the five days, students who went to camp “scored significantly higher when it came to reading facial emotions or other nonverbal cues than the students who continued to have access to their media devices.” With the evolving classroom incorporating more screen time for students, how will this affect their learning?

How to Get Kids to Class NY Times

Students that come from lower income backgrounds often struggle keeping a perfect attendance in school. Research shows that “chronically absent students have lower G.P.A.s, lower test scores and lower graduation rates than their peers who attend class regularly.” This opinion piece by president of Communities in Schools Daniel Cardinali says bringing in social services may be the answer to help these students with the extra support they lack.

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Research Roundup, August 13

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on August 13, 2014

War Not Won, but Bullying, School Violence Have Declined Online Athens
The National Center for Education Statistics released numbers that indicate reported instances school violence has declined 74% over a course of 20 years, but educators and researchers acknowledge that the problem has not been resolved. A decline in bullying has also been evident, and schools and organizations are investigating to find out what more can be done to create a positive school climate.

White Students No Longer to Be Majority in School ABC News
Make more room for diversity—The National Center for Education Statistics releases more numbers for this fall: although white students are still the largest racial group, non-Hispanic white students make up 49.8% in U.S. public schools, while the total group of minority students become the majority. The reality of these demographics suggests the need to address “issues of immigration, poverty, diversity, and inequity.”

33 States Don't Protect LGBT Students in Anti-Bullying Laws Vox
Yes, it’s still legal for school personnel to discriminate against LGBT students in many states, and several of them do not include LGBT students in their anti-bullying policies. GLSEN illustrates these states through several maps of enumerated anti-bullying laws, nondiscrimination laws, and “no promo homo” laws. How implementing laws against discrimination can help students know they are protected, respected, and treated equally.

Special-Education Overhaul Leaves Students Less Violated, but Schools Struggle to Keep up Chalkbeat NY
Students with special needs in New York City are bussed to distant schools in order to receive the appropriate services, but the city is now facing the importance of inclusion for all students through new special-education policies. Although this is a step closer to inclusion, schools are having a difficult time putting these policies into practice. Schools need the support to make inclusion a reality in their buildings.

Tests That Look Like Video Games nprEd
How do you get students to be excited to take a test? Researchers measure the mind to see how students learn and “how they make decisions and how they respond to feedback” using web-based games.  In order to do well in the games—or tests—you need to learn something to move on to the next level.  The game will record the steps it took for the student to get to the right or wrong answer. Ultimately, Dan Schwartz, director of the AAA Lab at Stanford University, believes “the goal of education is to create independent thinkers who make good decisions… we need assessments that test how students think, not what they happen to know at a given moment.”
 

Research Roundup, November 18

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on November 18, 2013

Research shows all-girls education sets students on path for success Southtown Star

The National Coalition of Girls Schools recently commissioned research by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute that confirms all-girls schools consistently produce graduates with high levels of confidence, engagement and aspirations.


Research confirms effectiveness of early childhood education investments The Herald Sun

Education research clearly documents that investments in early childhood programs are among the smartest investments that states can make.


Research: Playing Educational Games Together Enhances Learning Game Politics

Playing education games cooperatively with others can motivate students to learn according to a new study from New York University.


Being a bully linked to casual, risky sex NBC News

Teens who bully other kids, or are both bullies and bullied themselves, are more likely to engage in risky sex, according to a new study. That's especially the case among heterosexual teens, researchers say.


A Promising Academic Model for Students With Disabilities Education Week

There is general agreement—a rarity in the warring world of education reform—that the focus of special education reform must change from procedural compliance to academic outcomes.


This Research Roundup was compiled by Chanelle Spencer, Research Fellow at NSCC

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