National PTA Response to Federal School Safety Commission Report

After eight months of public input, commission meetings and field visits across the county, the Federal School Safety Commission released its report on ways to keep students safe at school. The report includes several recommendations aligned with National PTA positions and A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools–joint recommendations written and endorsed by our nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners – on improved access to school-based mental and behavioral health services, threat assessments protocols, comprehensive school safety plans, and role of school resource officers (SROs).

However, we would have liked to see the Commission include common sense proposals to limit youth access to firearms, strengthen background checks, fund gun violence research efforts, and ban assault weapons. Our association believes any effort to improve the safety of our nation’s youth must be comprehensive and include gun safety and violence prevention measures.

National PTA supports positive school discipline policies that include a strong family engagement component and keep children in school and learning over exclusionary discipline. We are disappointed to see the report recommends the rescission of the 2014 school discipline guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Without this guidance, we are concerned that students of color and students with special needs will face even more disparate levels of discipline compared to their white peers.

Our association also believes that to promote positive school climates that encourage nurturing relationships, connectedness and mutual trust and respect among students, staff and families, there must be people and practices within the school building to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment. While the report focuses on the need for increased use of evidence-based frameworks to support and implement behavioral, health and mental health services, the report does not include a recommendation to increase the staffing ratios of school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and school nurses who can provide those supports.

“While the Commission’s report does not explicitly recommend arming educators, National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators. Teachers and administrators should be able to focus on their primary responsibility, which is to educate our children,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Our association opposes any attempt to use federal funds to arm or provide firearm training for educators. National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for every community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

“All of us share the responsibility to create and ensure safe, supportive and welcoming learning environments. We look forward to working with the Commission, the administration, Congress, and state and local policy makers to shape policies based on evidenced-based best practices in school safety and climate, discipline, student mental health, instructional leadership, teaching and learning” said Nathan Monell, executive director of National PTA.

National PTA Response to Federal School Safety Commission Report

After eight months of public input, commission meetings and field visits across the county, the Federal School Safety Commission released its reporton ways to keep students safe at school. The report includes several recommendations aligned with National PTA positions and A Framework for Safe and Successful Schools–joint recommendations written and endorsed by our nation’s leading education stakeholders and practitioners – on improved access to school-based mental and behavioral health services, threat assessments protocols, comprehensive school safety plans, and role of school resource officers (SROs).

However, we would have liked to see the Commission include common sense proposals to limit youth access to firearms, strengthen background checks, fund gun violence research efforts, and ban assault weapons. Our association believes any effort to improve the safety of our nation’s youth must be comprehensive and include gun safety and violence prevention measures.

National PTA supports positive school discipline policies that include a strong family engagement component and keep children in school and learning over exclusionary discipline. We are disappointed to see the report recommends the rescission of the 2014 school discipline guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. Without this guidance, we are concerned that students of color and students with special needs will face even more disparate levels of discipline compared to their white peers.

Our association also believes that to promote positive school climates that encourage nurturing relationships, connectedness and mutual trust and respect among students, staff and families, there must be people and practices within the school building to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment. While the report focuses on the need for increased use of evidence-based frameworks to support and implement behavioral, health and mental health services, the report does not include a recommendation to increase the staffing ratios of school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, and school nurses who can provide those supports.

“While the Commission’s report does not explicitly recommend arming educators, National PTA believes the most effective day-to-day school climate is a gun-free campus—which includes not arming teachers and administrators. Teachers and administrators should be able to focus on their primary responsibility, which is to educate our children,” said Jim Accomando, president of National PTA. “Our association opposes any attempt to use federal funds to arm or provide firearm training for educators. National PTA recognizes that school safety is a multi-faceted issue with no one clear solution for every community. We believe any effort to address school safety must involve all stakeholders who should consider a variety of factors, including the physical and psychological safety of students.”

“All of us share the responsibility to create and ensure safe, supportive and welcoming learning environments. We look forward to working with the Commission, the administration, Congress, and state and local policy makers to shape policies based on evidenced-based best practices in school safety and climate, discipline, student mental health, instructional leadership, teaching and learning” said Nathan Monell, executive director of National PTA.

Helping Your Child Cope with Stress

Life can be stressful at times, even for kids. Concerns about grades, peer pressure, friend issues, bullying, traumatic events, and more can lead to stress. Some stress can be productive—cortisol, the “stress hormone,” increases blood sugar, metabolism, and memory function, and provides a temporary boost to physical and mental ability. Those brief periods of stress can be productive and help a child be motivated to accomplish tasks that might be a little intimidating.

However, when stressful feelings continue over time, cortisol impairs brain functioning and suppresses the immune system. During childhood when the brain is still connecting the neural circuits for dealing with stress, chronic stress can rewire the brain to become overly reactive or slow to shut down when faced with threats. Chronic stress in childhood can evenincrease the risk of diseases in adulthood.

How to Cope with Stress

Much of how to cope with stress applies to anyone, adults or children.

  • Take care of SELF (Sleep, Exercise, Leisure, and Food)—get plenty of sleep, get some exercise, do something fun and relaxing to take a break, and eat healthy.
  • Talk to others, sharing your problems and how you are feeling and coping.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol—while they may seem to ease stress in the short term, over the long term they create problems that increase stress.
  • Take a break from what’s causing your stress.
  • Recognize when you need more help.

Helping Your Child Cope with Stress

Stress often comes in part from feeling unable to manage what life is giving you, and for children, there are many things that can leave them feeling helpless, as they have less experience in dealing with difficulties. Keep in mind the coping strategies above, and talk with your child to help them to process what is causing their stress. Additional ways you can help your child cope are:

  • Maintain a normal routine—familiarity helps to provide a sense of stability.
  • Talk, listen, and encourage expression. Give your child opportunities to talk, but don’t force them. Listen to what their thoughts, feelings, and worries are, and share some of yours. Keep the lines of communication open, and check in with them to see how they feel after a week, a month, or more.
  • Watch and listen. Be alert for any changes in behavior, including sleeping, eating, and connecting with friends. Even small changes may indicate your child is having trouble dealing with stress.
  • Reassure your child about their safety and well-being, particularly if the stress is caused by a traumatic event.
  • Connect with others—your child’s teachers and other parents may have additional suggestions on how to help your child cope.
  • Promote a growth mindset. If your child is stressed about their grades or school work, developing a growth mindset can help. Research indicatesthat while many students’ stress levels increase after receiving a bad grade, students who believe that intelligence can be developed are more likely to see academic setbacks as temporary, they stress less over a bad grade, and they return to normal stress levels more quickly afterwards.

What Schools Can Do

Teachers and other school personnel see students almost as much as their families during the week, so they may also notice children exhibiting signs of stress. In addition, some student stress may stem from poor academic performance, bullying, or other stressful situations related to school (e.g., worries about safety after news coverage of a school shooting). Here’s how schools can help students cope with stress:

  • Reach out and talk. Create opportunities for students to talk, but don’t force them. Try asking questions like, what do you think about these events, or how do you think these things happen? You can be a model by sharing some of your own thoughts as well as correct misinformation. When children talk about their feelings, it can help them cope and to know that different feelings are normal.
  • Watch and listen. Be alert for any change in behavior. Are students talking more or less? Withdrawing from friends? Acting out? Are they behaving in any way out of the ordinary? These changes may be early warning signs that a student is struggling and needs extra support from the school and family.
  • Maintain normal routines. A regular classroom schedule can provide reassurance and promote a sense of stability and safety.
  • Take care of yourself. You can better support students if you are healthy, coping, and taking care of yourself first.

Resources

If you need to reach out for extra support or immediate help, contact one of the following crisis hotlines:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-888-628-9454 for Spanish-speaking callers)
  • Youth Mental Health Line: 1-888-568-1112
  • Child-Help USA: 1-800-422-4453 (coping with stress)
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990

8 Actions Parents Can Take to End Bullying

It can be difficult as a parent to help your child through being bullied, and even harder when it turns out your child is the bully. Add in cyberbullying, which wasn’t even possible when most of today’s parents were kids, and it can be easy to feel at a loss about what to do.

With recent studies showing that at least half of all children are directly involved in bullying either as the victim, perpetrator, or both, there’s a high likelihood that your child will come in personal contact with bullying. Think Kindnesshas a list of eight actions parents can take to end bullying:

  1. Talk with your kids—every day.
  2. Spend time and volunteer at your school.
  3. Be a good example of kindness.
  4. Learn the signs and symptoms.
  5. Create healthy anti-bully habits early.
  6. Establish household rules about bullying.
  7. Teach your children to be a good witness.
  8. Teach your child about cyberbullying.

The article has additional information on each of these pointsto help you take a pro-active approach to bullying with your child. In addition, your PTA may want to implement PTA’s Connect for Respectprogram at your school. The program provides your PTA with the tools to have a meaningful and productive conversation on bullying with both students and families.