Blog: schools

Teen Drug Overdose Death Rate Doubles Over Last Decade; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Teen Drug Overdose Death Rate Doubles Over Last Decade (Psychiatry Advisor)
Trust For America's Health released a new report with findings that the American drug overdose mortality rate has more than doubled over the last ten years, and especially among young men between the ages of 12 to 25 years old. Prescription drugs were found to be responsible for many of the overdoses, and were also found to be connected to heroin addictions in young people.

November is Native American Heritage Month

first-nation-908605 (2)President Obama has proclaimed November as "Native American Heritage Month." This is a time to celebrate the many significant historic and contemporary contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives, a population of 5.4 million people in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In the juvenile justice field, this month is not only a time to celebrate Native American heritage, but also an opportunity to make visible the unique youth justice challenges faced by Native American communities, and to highlight steps for collaboratively working with tribal communities to improve conditions for Native American youth and their families.

Though 1990 was the first year "Native American Indian Heritage Month" was recognized as a national legal holiday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, the pursuit of a holiday to celebrate heritage began in the early 20th century when Dr. Arthur C. Parker - a Seneca Indian and director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, New York - promoted a day to celebrate "First Americans." In May 1916, the first "American Indian Day" was declared by the state of New York, and many states observed a version of this day for years before official national recognition in 1990 for the month of November.

President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

FACT SHEET: President Obama Announces New Actions to Promote Rehabilitation and Reintegration for the Formerly- Incarcerated (The White House)
On Monday President Obama announced steps the Administration will take to create "meaningful criminal justice reform," including reforming the reentry process of formerly-incarcerated individuals. Among the measures announced was the "Juvenile Reentry Assistance Program Awards to Support Public Housing Residents," a program to make fresh starts possible for youth with expungeable convictions. In an effort to promote second chances for youth, the Obama Administration will no longer use the term "juvenile delinquent,' and will now exclusively use the term  "justice-involved youth."

Opportunity Board Roundup: Juvenile Justice Grants, Jobs, Webinars and Events

opportunityBelow you'll find a selection of the latest grants, jobs, webinars and events posted to our Opportunity Board. Please share the Reclaiming Futures Opportunity Board with your colleagues in the juvenile justice, adolescent substance use and teen mental health areas. We encourage you to browse and to post!

Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Report: Racial Justice, LGBTQ Advocates Should Partner on School Issues (Juvenile Justice Information Exchange)
National advocacy organizations released a report this past week demonstrating the need for advocates of youth of color and advocates of LGBTQ youth to form stronger relationships in order to more effectively address disparities in school discipline, and to work toward dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

Helping Students With Mental-Health Issues Return to School; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Helping Students With Mental-Health Issues Return to School (Education Week)
Dr. Laura C. Murray provides recommendations on how to best support youth recovering from mental health issues as they transition back to school after time away.

Mental Health and Safe Communities Act Introduced in the U.S. Senate; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance use treatment, and teen mental health. 

Mental Health and Safe Communities Act Introduced in the U.S. Senate (The Council of State Governments Justice Center)
On Wednesday U.S. Sen. John Cornyn introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015, which is designed to improve outcomes for individuals with mental health disorders who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The hope is that this bill will address the prevalence of mental illness in jails, the exacerbation of disorders while incarcerated, as well as the resulting cost to taxpayers.

Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities; News Roundup

Every week Reclaiming Futures rounds up the latest news on juvenile justice reform, adolescent substance abuse treatment, and teen mental health. 

Why Schools Over-Discipline Children With Disabilities (The Atlantic)
As the U.S. Department of Education celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the high rate at which special-needs students are disciplined raises questions about the current state of equal access to services like public education. Some researchers and advocates refer to this issue as "the discipline gap," and data from the Department of Education finds that the disparity increases when race is added.

New Research Finds Excessive Discipline Harms Student Achievement

In a report by the Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative, discrepancies in school discipline are found to be a serious problem that result in a wide range of negative student outcomes, including lowered academic achievement, increased risk of dropout, and increased likelihood of contact with the juvenile justice system.
Funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and Open Societies Foundations, the Collaborative consists of 26 researches, educators, advocates, and policy analysts that spent nearly three years working to develop and support a policy agenda for reform to improve students outcomes in school discipline and encourage effective interventions.
Some of the key points discussed in the briefing papers include:

  • Removal from school for minor rule breaking happens too often and increases dropout risks, juvenile justice involvement, and can severely impair the economy.
  • Excessive disciplinary exclusion harms some groups more than others, including black males and Latinos.
  • There are effective and promising alternatives to exclusionary discipline and interventions, which can improve learning conditions for all students.

Find the full briefing papers from the Discipline Disparities Series here >>
 

National Institute of Justice Announces Funding Opportunity To Increase School Safety

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has announced the fiscal year 2014 funding opportunity, Investigator-Initiated Research: The Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. The goals of this initiative are to improve the knowledge and understanding of school safety and violence, and enhance school safety programs through social and behavioral science research.
Under the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative, NIJ will allocate approximately $15 million for multiple grants to fund research that will address school safety issues directly and strive to achieve the following:

  • Examine the root causes of school violence
  • Develop new technologies
  • Apply evidence-based practices
  • Test pilot programs to enhance school safety

As a starting point, Congress has identified a number of factors and issues related to school safety programs that investigators might consider for research and evaluation:

  • The school-to-prison pipeline
  • Gaps in the nation’s mental health system
  • Exposure to violence in the media
  • Bullying prevention programs or other violence prevention programs/initiatives
  • Crisis/emergency management
  • Efforts to address disparate treatment of students (based on race, disability, sex, etc.)
  • School discipline alternatives and restorative justice

NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic

Our small community has been deeply affected by bullying. Last year, two teenage girls committed suicide after being bullied. This school year, we’ve already had five students bring weapons to school to protect themselves from bullies. And two out of three students referred to our Teen Court program for simple assault, simple affray or disorderly conduct are there because of bullying-related incidents.

Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, our young people, police officers and community members decided to take a stand by creating a short movie. The movie was written and acted by students, many of whom have been involved in bullying.

[VIDEO] Zero-Tolerance in Schools can Harm Young Boys

Since the 1990s, young boys have increasingly become the victims of zero-tolerance policies in schools, resulting in 70% of expulsions across the U.S. The reason? According to Christina Hoff Sommers, American Enterprise Institute (AEI) resident scholar, boys, who for the most part love to engage in action narratives involving heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups, are being punished for acting like typical little boys.
The concern school officials have with such play is not a new concept, fearing that if the behavior is not dealt with in a harsh manner and at a young age it may result in future psychological disorders and malicious actions. Schools have even gone so far as to eliminate games like dodgeball, red rover, tag and have even renamed “tug of war” to “tug of peace.”
Experts argue that play is a critical basis for learning and boys’ heroic play is no exception. Researchers Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey even found that “bad guy” play:

  • Improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing
  • Builds moral imagination
  • Increases social competence
  • Imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint

Logue and Harvey also fear that growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play may be detrimental to early language development and weaken their attachment to school.
The following video published by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), explores the growing gender gap in education and its implications for future generations:

The Many Faces of Teacher Activism

When I was recently asked if I thought teachers today needed to be activists I didn't hesitate in my answer. "Being a teacher, almost by definition, means being an activist."
That might come as a surprise to those teachers who have never wrote a letter to the editor, marched in a rally, retweeted a Diane Ravitch tweet, or "Occupied" anything but their classrooms. But I'm holding to my belief, as firmly as some teachers hold their protests signs declaring things like, "Let Teachers Teach" and "Protect Our Students": being an activist is an essential part of being a teacher.
For most teachers activism is an everyday thing because students and their needs are every day. There's a lot to watch out for in a classroom -- even on good days they are a moil of energy -- aside from whether a lesson is hitting home. A student who can't read the board because her family can't afford glasses. A cough that doesn't go away. A young boy who refuses to go to rec. because he gets picked on. A nasty bruise on the arm of the girl who doesn't meet your eye. The immigrant student struggling with a new culture and a new language. The issues are real -- poverty, neglect, abuse, poor health and nutrition, bullying, depression, low self-esteem -- and they are all a part of an average school day.
Good teachers don't complain, they just act, doing what needs doing to help their students learn. It may be a home visit, a talk with a school counselor, an offer to tutor after school, a walk around the playground at lunchtime, or a spare change collection in the teachers' room for eyeglasses. Some teachers (and it's a growing number) feel the need to address these concerns in a broader context, "taking to the streets" to confront such issues as health care, drugs, physical and sexual abuse, bullying, immigration, the current educational policy itself. But whatever teachers do, they take action, becoming activists for their students.

Why Missing School Matters

Missing school matters, for obvious reasons. The first and most compelling, is that if kids don’t learn to show up, it will impact their ability to successfully shape the course of their lives, and showing up for life is a learned skill. Central Texas students (and this number shocked me!) miss 2.4 MILLION days of school each academic year, costing a loss of more than $34 million dollars annually for our schools. Children suffer academically when they aren’t in class. Chronic absence is an indicator for future drop out rates. Individual classrooms are affected by absence as students miss participation in key elements of their learning. So why do kids miss so much school?
According to Communications Director, Rick L’Amie of the E3 Alliance, when kids were asked why they missed so much school, 49% of them said, it’s boring. At MAP, we think there’s more to it than that. We work with at-risk and disenfranchised youth on a daily basis, and in our work we explore a lot of serious life circumstances and issues with these kids. What I find is that our kids (and I suspect many are like them) often find it difficult to articulate the challenges they face in their daily lives. A 10 year old who misses school because her older brother got in a fight with a neighbor’s kid across the street and the fight led to retaliation which resulted in her house getting burned down and the family having to flee the neighborhood in fear, is not going to verbalize the complexity of that situation. It’s easy to say, I’m bored. But what that kid is also saying is, nothing I’m learning here feels relevant to my life experience.

REPORT: School Exclusionary Discipline Policies Expensive, Ineffective

A new report, Breaking Rules, Breaking Budgets: Cost of Exclusionary Discipline in 11 Texas School Districts, by nonprofit Texas Appleseed shares the negative impacts of the exclusionary disciplinary methods in Texas schools. The study surveyed 11 school districts to discover the cost-benefit ratio of exclusionary discipline and how it affects students and communities. Exclusionary discipline includes out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to alternative education programs which leads to high human and financial costs.
In 2011, the Council of State Governments released a groundbreaking report documenting the negative impacts suspension and expulsion have on students in Texas. With many schools utilizing discretionary sentencing for minor violations, the high costs and negative impacts of exclusionary discipline are hindering the Texas public school system.
Excessive state money is being spent on out-of-school suspensions and school security rather than social work services. With 75% of violations strictly school code violations, the annual cost to educate one student through exclusionary discipline methods is three times the average cost of educating a student in the regular classroom.
The Texas Appleseed report gives the following recommendations to help reduce the human and financial costs of exclusionary discipline:

California Legislation Targets School Discipline

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills that seek to reform school discipline in California schools.
The first, Assembly Bill 1729, introduces intervening means of behavior correction prior to suspension or expulsion. Such behavior correction could include tiered interventions that occur during the school day, a parent-teacher conference, a restorative justice program, or an after-school program focusing on positive activities and behaviors.
The second, Assembly Bill 2537, clarifies that over-the-counter medication and toy guns in schools do not immediately trigger zero-tolerance penalties. School administrators may still make such a determination, but it is no longer automatic. This permits some degree of case-by-case analysis into an individual student’s behavior and intent.
 
 

NC Teens, Police, Community Join Forces to Stop Bullying Epidemic

Our small community has been deeply affected by bullying. Last year, two teenage girls committed suicide after being bullied. This school year, we’ve already had five students bring weapons to school to protect themselves from bullies. And two out of three students referred to our Teen Court program for simple assault, simple affray or disorderly conduct are there because of bullying-related incidents.

Recognizing the need to address bullying in schools, our young people, police officers and community members decided to take a stand by creating a short movie. The movie was written and acted by students, many of whom have been involved in bullying.

Ineffective School Discipline Policies Threaten Public Safety

Law enforcement leaders recently banded together to highlight an important – but perhaps surprising –issue in public safety: school discipline.
San Bernardino County, CA District Attorney Michael Ramos, Sheriff Keith Royal, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel, Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk, and the president of the California Police Chiefs Association all recently gathered in California to highlight ineffective school discipline policies that actually detract from public safety.
The officials noted that suspending and expelling students for minor offenses increases the number of youths out of the supervised school environment and on the streets, where they are far more likely to engage in troublemaking or even criminal behavior. The law enforcement coalition further pointed out the link between suspensions and dropping out of school, impacting both crime rates and educational gains.
The Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, and District Attorney spoke out after a report released by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids found high rates of suspension for low-level misbehavior. The group contrasted these poor outcomes with the positive gains and cost savings possible with alternative, more traditional school discipline measures which often involve restorative justice.

Stop Bullying by Promoting Pro-Social Skills on the Playground

For too many children, violence in the news, on television, on the Internet and even just beyond the schoolyard fences, is a part of their daily lives. The last thing we need is for our children to be exposed to violence in school. Unfortunately, violence does occur in schools every day, in the form of bullying. Bullying is defined as the “intentional aggressive behavior that tips the balance of power and is often repeated over time.”And according to the National School Climate Center, every seven minutes a child is bullied on a school playground.
When bullying, teasing and name-calling are present on a school campus, it contributes to an environment in which students’ physical and social-emotional safety is at risk. It is the responsibility of the school, and in the best interest of the grown-ups working there, to create safe communities that ultimately help contribute to learning.
The good news is that there is a way to prevent bullying, one that focuses on recess and extends into the classroom. At Playworks, we have been promoting safe, healthy play on schoolyards for the past 16 years. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University showed that Playworks schools not only prevent bullying, but increase students’ feeling of safety and inclusion.

Back to School Survey: Teens' Take on Drugs, Alcohol in Schools

A survey of over 1000 12 to 17-year-olds across the United States revealed the drastically high rate at which schools are becoming increasingly “drug infected” as well as the easy accessibility that teens have to drugs. The “Back to School Survey”, published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA Columbia), also covers teens’ perspectives on their attitudes toward drugs and alcohol and their parents’ opinions on drug and alcohol use, as well as the impact that drug and alcohol related images have on their peers.
The 2012 report stated that 60% of students reported that their schools are drug infected, meaning that drugs are used, kept or sold on school premises. Nearly 97% percent of students say that they have friends who use drugs or alcohol and nearly all students questioned said that they knew students who used while at school. Students estimated about 1 in 5 of their classmates are using drugs or alcohol while at school. This trend of drug infected schools isn’t specific to public schools. The gap between drug infected public and private schools has continually narrowed since the survey began in the early 1990s. In 2012, 54%, an increase of 50% from 2011, of students who attend private schools reported that their schools were drug infected.

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