Saturday, September 14, 2019

Inequities in the Distribution of School Funds to Individual Students Revisited: Required Transparency, ESEA/IDEA Funding Flexibility, and Multi-Tiered Efficacy

Reminding Schools of their Responsibilities and Possibilities


 [CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message]

 Dear Colleagues,


Introduction

   Earlier this Spring, near the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, I wrote two Blog messages addressing the national issue and reality of how students and schools are inequitably funded relative to their students’ psychoeducational and multi-tiered academic and behavioral needs. 

   One of the “bottom lines” discussed was that:

While segregated educational facilities were deemed by the Supreme Court to be inherently unequal, the quality of instruction and the availability of resources and money in today’s schools—for many students from poverty and students of color—is unequal.

[CLICK HERE for Part I of this Series:

Solving Student Crises in the Context of School Inequity: The Case for “Core-Plus District Funding” (Part I). When Schools Struggle with Struggling Students: “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”]
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[CLICK HERE for Part II of this Series:

The Journey toward Real School Equity: Students’ Needs Should Drive Student Services … and Funding (Part II). The Beginning of the Next School Year Starts Now: The “Get-Go Process”

   In this new Blog message, we will summarize the two previous Blog messages above.  Then, we will review two critical parts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):  (a) the requirement that districts and schools annually report how they are using their federal funds relative to administration, personnel, and—most importantly—to directly address students’ multi-tiered needs; and (b) the flexibility within ESEA specific to equitable per pupil funding. 

   In this latter section, we will include the flexibility within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) that allows districts to spend up to 15% of their federal special education funds on preventative services and supports to students not identified with disabilities.
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Summarizing the Recent Inequitable School Funding Series

   In Part I of this Series, we provided data from a number of sources showing that high-poverty non-white schools in this country receive significantly less money per pupil each year than high-poverty white schools and middle or upper class dominated schools, respectfully.  While this involves approximately 12.8 million students—many of them attending schools in urban settings—this is a nationwide problem.

   Because of the financial inequity, these high-poverty schools have fewer resources than middle or upper class-dominant schools, and they are typically staffed by less experienced teachers who have more skill gaps, and who resign from their schools more often and after fewer years in-rank.  In addition, the students in these schools typically have less access to high level science, math, and advanced placement courses, and less access to needed multi-tiered academic and social, emotional, and behavioral services, supports, programs, and interventions.  

   Correlated with the poverty, many of these students exhibit health, mental health, academic, and social, emotional, and behavioral challenges, that also triangulate with stress and trauma—including the impact of hunger and poor nutrition, parental incarceration and loss, abuse and neglect, and the exposure to violence and drugs.

   From a school perspective, all of this translates into lower numbers of academically-proficient students, and schools that are either in their state’s ESEA-driven school improvement programs or that are rated at the low end of their state’s school report card scale.

   From a student perspective, all of this translates into negative effects on students’ school attendance and expectations, classroom engagement and motivation, academic readiness and proficiency, emotional self-control and prosocial interactions and, ultimately, their high school graduation and readiness for the workforce. 

   Part I ended with a plea for systemic changes relative to federal, state, and district funding policies, principles, and practices.  We recommended a  “Core-Plus Funding” process whereby all schools in a district receive the core funding needed for student success, but where the schools with additional or significant student needs receive, annually, the additional funds and resources needed for their success.
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   In Part II of this Series, we discussed a new report showing the impact of poverty and the importance of inequitable school funding.

   Because this Blog message was published at the end of the 2018-2019 school year, we also described the “Get-Go” process as an effective way for districts to identify the “Plus” part of their funding by functionally reviewing the status and needs of all the students in their respective schools. 

   In addition to its contribution to strategic and differential budgeting, we have also used the Get-Go process across the country to help districts and schools identify and prepare for their diverse, multi-tiered student needs for the first day of the new school year. 

   Finally, we described how the Get-Go process helps districts know how to best deploy and align existing staff, services, and support—or determine what new staff to hire and assign—to meet as many student needs as possible.

[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message with More Complete Descriptions and Citations of these two Earlier Blogs]
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Revisiting the Importance of Equitable School Funding

  On May 15, 2019, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published a study, Born to Win, Schooled to Lose: Why Equally Talented Students Don’t Get Equal Chances to Be All They Can Be.

   This study used data from a number of national longitudinal databases to investigate the impact of the socio-economic status of 21,260 kindergarten and over 15,000 10th grade students on their college and career outcomes. 

   This study is important to our discussion of inequity because it (a) demonstrates that socio-economic inequity for students in kindergarten has dire, long-term effects; and (b) that schools with large numbers of poor students (many of whom are students of color) need more (not fewer—as shown in Part I of this Blog series) resources and funding to address these students’ needs.

[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message that describes the Key Findings from this Study]
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ESEA Requirement: Reporting School Funding on Each State and District Annual Report Cards

   According to a 2018 report by the Aspen Institute, Ensuring Equitable Funding, ESEA requires:
  • States and school districts to produce report cards that include information about per-pupil expenditures, including actual personnel and non-personnel expenditures disaggregated by source of funds at the district and school levels.
  • Districts are required to conduct resource reviews for schools that are identified for comprehensive support and improvement and additional targeted support and improvement.

   Given these requirements, this document suggests that Districts have an opportunity “to drive bigger conversations around equitable funding, expanding the equity conversation beyond funding to include other dimensions affected by funding like teaching, school design, instructional support, and central services.”

   This Report goes on to encourage District leaders to meet the requirements above by reporting the financial information in the most meaningful and parent/community-friendly ways by:
  • Using comparative data to understand relative differences—not just absolute values.
  • Sharing school resource data in context of school need and school performance.
  • Including explanatory data that show what drives differences in spending levels across schools.
  •  Integrating other dimensions of resource equity to show the ways in which financial resources are (or are not) invested in strategies and structures that drive student achievement.
_ _ _ _ _

   Comment.  For some districts and schools across the country, the reporting of the now-ESEA-required financial data will be the first time that the public will truly know (if reported—as above—in functional, user-friendly ways) how public funds are being used to “run” the school district and to educate its students.  Consistent with the Aspen recommendations above, this will hopefully fuel a discussion—for both district personnel and the different constituencies within the community—as to how to best use the available funds as most-directed toward all students’ academic and social, emotional, and behavioral progress and proficiency.

   Hopefully, from a “Core-Plus Funding” perspective, districts and schools will provide information on how much “Core” money each school needs to run an effective educational program, and how much money is needed to support each school relative to district administration.  “District administration,” however, should include not just district personnel—but also, for example, the physical plant and infrastructure costs of maintaining the school buildings themselves, professional development and technology, and transportation, safety, and security.

   On the “Plus” side, hopefully districts will provide detailed (but confidential) information on the different “multi-tiered intensities of student needs” in each of its schools.  This information should look beyond (but include) information on poverty to also include other student variable organized by gender and race.

[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message with these Specific Variables]

   The Plus information will help both district and community folk to discuss “equity and excellence” issues from a data-based perspective—describing and personalizing the needs of different students—rather than just from a philosophical or conceptual perspective.

   All of this helps to add depth and breadth to the financial information that must be reported.  All of this helps to move beyond reporting the information for compliance purposes, to using the information for strategic planning and student-centered decision-making.
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ESEA and IDEA Flexibility: How Funds Can Be Used to Enhance Equity

   ESEA allows districts to use their federal funds in flexible ways to enhance equity.  The Aspen Institute report cites some possible examples.

[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message for this Overview]

   Beyond the Aspen recommendations, there are at least two additional ways available to districts such that they can use their federal funds in more flexible ways to enhance the equitable needs of their students.

   The first way involves ESEA’s Part E—Flexibility for Equitable Per Pupil Funding (Section 1501).  According to ESEA, “The purpose of the program under this section is to provide local educational agencies (i.e., school districts) with flexibility to consolidate eligible Federal funds and State and local education funding in order to create a single school funding system based on weighted per-pupil allocations for low-income and otherwise disadvantaged students.

   While this is a demonstration program that will involve no more than 50 districts nationwide, this option is available to districts who want to address the needs of low-income and “otherwise disadvantaged students.”
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   The second way has been available to all districts nationwide since the passage of IDEA in 2004.  In Section  613(f)(2)(A), IDEA—according to the U.S. Department of Education—allows the following:

LEAs may use up to 15% of their IDEA Part B funds for coordinated early intervening services (CEIS) to assist students in grades K through 12 (with an emphasis on K through 3) who are not currently identified as needing special education and related services but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment.

CEIS funds can be used to provide professional development to educators who are responsible for helping children who need additional academic and behavioral support succeed in a general education environment or to provide direct interventions to children who need academic and behavioral support.

CEIS funds may be used in coordination with ESEA funds but must supplement, and not supplant, ESEA funds for those activities. Title I schoolwide school may use, to carry out the schoolwide project, an amount of IDEA funds that is the same proportion of the total cost of the project as the number of children with disabilities benefiting from the program is to the total school population participating in the program.

In a Title I schoolwide school that consolidates Federal funds (e.g., ESEA, IDEA, etc.), a school may use those funds for any activity in its schoolwide plan without accounting separately for the funds. The schoolwide school needs to ensure that children with disabilities continue to receive FAPE, but would not need to show that IDEA funds were spent only on allowable special education and related services expenditures.

   While I understand that the Federal government has under-funded special education services since the beginning of IDEA (Public Law 94-142 passed in 1975), this provision means that, for example, special education teachers who are funded exclusively with IDEA funds and who are co-teaching in a general education classroom or even teaching in their own self-contained classroom can still provide instructional or intervention services to general education (especially at-risk) students.

   This similarly means that related service professionals like school psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, and occupational or physical therapists—who, once again, are fully funded by IDEA money—also can provide some services to non-disabled students.

   These professionals, for example, might be most useful as instructional or intervention consultants to general education teachers—helping them (a) to better understand academically struggling or behaviorally challenging students, and/or (b) to design and implement classroom-based interventions that will address these students’ needs.

   The bottom line here is that there is flexibility within both ESEA and IDEA to allow personnel and funds to more flexibly and equitably address students who need more multi-tiered strategic or intensive services, supports, strategies, or programs.  Even if districts and schools do not adopt Core-Plus Funding approaches, they still can tap into these (and other) flexibilities.
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Summary

   In this Blog message, we briefly summarized two previous Blog messages—written this past Spring addressing the importance of using educational funds, resources, and personnel in more equitable and student-centered ways.  We then reviewed two critical parts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA):  (a) the requirement that districts and schools annually report how they are using their federal funds relative to administration, personnel, and—most importantly—to directly address students’ multi-tiered needs; and (b) the flexibility within ESEA specific to equitable per pupil funding. 

   In this latter section, we highlighted the flexibility within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004) that allows districts to spend up to 15% of their federal special education funds on preventative services and supports to students not identified with disabilities.

   Throughout the entire discussion, the bottom line has been:

While there are still challenges at the federal and state levels, districts and schools may have more permission and flexibility to distribute their funds to differentially address different student needs than they actually take.

   A corollary message has been that:

When parents and community leaders realize how funds in their district and schools are being used (if they are being used inequitably, wastefully, or in ways that do not largely or directly impact students), districts and schools may have to change their funding processes anyways—due to the public pressure.
_ _ _ _ _

   High-poverty non-white schools in this country receive significantly less money per pupil each year than high-poverty white schools and middle or upper class dominated schools, respectfully.  This involves approximately 12.8 million students.

   Because of the financial inequity, these high-poverty schools have fewer resources than middle or upper class-dominant schools, and they are typically staffed by less experienced teachers who have more skill gaps, and who resign from their schools more often and after fewer years in-rank.  In addition, the students in these schools typically have less access to high level science, math, and advanced placement courses, and less access to needed multi-tiered academic and social, emotional, and behavioral services, supports, programs, and interventions.  

   This Blog has argued that there are ways to address these circumstances.  Not to take our federal and state governments off the hook, but this ultimately will be a local decision enacted by individual districts and their schools.  In the end, districts need to consider the implementation and funding of multi-tiered services, supports, and interventions that are based on student need and that follow the students regardless of the schools that they attend. 

_ _ _ _ _

   I understand the challenges.  But I consult weekly with schools across the country that are taking on these challenges.

   As always, I appreciate those of you reading these thoughts.  If you have comments or questions, please contact me as desired.  And please feel free to take advantage of my standing offer for a free, one-hour conference call consultation with you and your team at any time.

Best,

Howie

Saturday, August 31, 2019

As Cyberbullying Increases, Positive School Climate Decreases

Student Involvement Must Be Part of the Solution. . . How to Do It


Dear Colleagues,

[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message]
 
Introduction
 
  I receive about fifteen or twenty e-mails a day from different national organizations, education news feeds, and professional list-servs. While not exhaustive, they do a great job of keeping me up-to-speed on new national research and reports, and major issues and innovations in education and psychology.
 
  Many times (and you know this if you are a regular reader), I get frustrated with stories that overtly or covertly advocate programs that:
 
  • Lack scientific validation and comprehensive field-testing;
 
  • Are “known or implemented” simply because they are promoted by publishers, foundations, or even the U.S. Department of Education (or its incestuously-funded network of Technical Assistance Centers); and
 
  • Are actually “public interest” stories that some educators read as “professional truths.”
 
  At other times, I see interesting stories, and I copy them into a single envelope on my computer where they germinate with other stories that don’t initially appear to relate to each other. . . but eventually do.
 
  When preparing my “next” Blog message, I often visit this envelope when I don’t have a “hot” issue, theme, or concern that needs immediate attention. And, more often than not, like a wine blended with different grapes that age together in unexpected ways, two or three very different stories blend together. . . resulting in a message that hopefully adds a different perspective to an important educational issue or activity.
 
  In essence, this is how today’s Blog message evolved.
 
  This Blog addresses the critical issue of cyberbullying. But it emphasizes the need to listen to and involve our students because—ultimately—they will be the ones to “solve” the problem. 
 
  It then sprinkles in some wisdom from a Forbes article, “You Can’t Just Transform Your Business, You Need to Transform Yourself as Well,” and a “Negotiations Preparation Checklist” from the Program on Negotiation at the Harvard University Law School. While not directly related to cyberbullying, these two resources add critical value to the discussion and my school-centered recommendations.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
 
Cyberbullying: A Definition, Bullying for Today’s Students, and the Extent of the Cyberbullying Problem
 
A Definition
 
  Cyberbullying has been defined as the willful and repeated harm that is inflicted on a student through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. Cyberbullying includes e-mails, texts, blogs, social networking posts, videos and pictures, and other electronic messages that are intended to embarrass, ostracize, humiliate, bully, threaten, or harass one or more students. 
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Bullying for Today’s Students
 
  A June 3, 2019 Education Week article by Kelson Goldfine from YouthTruth discussed their recently released report, Learning from Student Voice: Bullying Today. YouthTruth is a San Francisco-based national non-profit that directly surveys student to give educators feedback on the impact and meaningfulness of their school initiatives. The Bullying Today report analyzed student responses from the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years regarding their experiences with and perceptions of school climate, safety, and bullying. 
 
  During the 2017-18 school year, for example, YouthTruth analyzed the anonymous feedback from over 160,000 students across 37 states in grades five through twelve. They discovered that most bullying happens in person, and that victims believed they were bullied (in rank order) because of their appearance, their race or skin color, and because other students thought they were gay.
 
  The primary accumulated results in the Report were:
 
  • Just over half of students feel safe at school. 59% of students feel safe at school generally. More specifically, 54% feel safe in hallways, restrooms, and locker rooms. Similarly, 55% say they feel safe on school property outside the school building.
 
  • Bullying and peer-on-peer harassment remain common and are increasing. Only 66% of students report that adults at their school try to stop bullying and harassment, and a recent report shows bullying is on the rise.
 
  • Middle School students experience higher rates of bullying than high school students.
 
  • One in 3 students report that they must be ready to fight to defend themselves at school. The data show that middle school students experience higher rates of bullying than high school students, and they are more likely than high school students to observe physical fighting and feel that they must be ready to fight to defend themselves.
 
  • Majority White schools have higher rates of bullying. In majority White schools, students of color experienced a steeper increase in bullying than white students last year.
 
  • African-American students are more likely than white students to feel that they must be ready to fight to defend themselves. 41% of black or African-American students indicated they feel they must be ready to protect themselves at school, compared with only 21% of white students.
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Additional National Perspectives on the Extent of the Cyberbullying Problem
 
  A July 25, 2019 Education Week article summarized the latest school safety statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) in its July, 2019 publication, Crime, Violence, Discipline, and Safety in U.S. Public Schools: First Look Findings from the School Survey on Crime and Safety—2017-2018.
 
[CLICK HERE for Original Report]
 
  This Report is based on the School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) which was developed by the NCES and has been administered seven times over the years. The most-current SSOCS data were collected between February 20, 2018 and July 18, 2018 from on-line surveys e-mailed to a nationally representative, stratified, random sample of 4,803 public school principals. In the end, 2,762 (62%) primary, middle, high, and combined schools completed the survey.
 
  The Education Week article compared the 2017-2018 SSOCS school year data with the 2015-2016 SSOCS school year data—the last previous time when the survey was given.
 
  All of this cyberbullying information is supplemented below with results from the March, 2018 NCES Report, Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017.
 
[CLICK HERE for Original Report]
 
  This Report, the 20th such report in this series, integrates data collected between 2013 and 2016 from a variety of sources—including:
 
(N)ational surveys of students, teachers, principals, and postsecondary institutions. Sources include results from the School-Associated Violent Death Surveillance System, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the National Crime Victimization Survey and School Crime Supplement to that survey, sponsored by BJS and NCES, respectively; the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, sponsored by the CDC; the Schools and Staffing Survey, National Teacher and Principal Survey, School Survey on Crime and Safety, Fast Response Survey System, and EDFacts, all sponsored by NCES; the Supplementary Homicide Reports, sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Campus Safety and Security Survey, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education; and the Program for International Student Assessment, sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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  Briefly, the Education Week article summarized the following cyberbullying data from the July, 2019 NCES Report:
 
  • About a third of middle and high schools said they deal with cyberbullying at least once a week to daily. This represents an increase when compared to the 2015-16 school year survey data. 
 
  • 33.1% of the middle schools and 30.2% of the high schools surveyed reported disciplinary problems stemming from cyberbullying at least once a week, or as often as every day. In contrast, only 4.5% of the primary schools surveyed reported similar cyberbully-generated discipline problems.
 
The middle and high school percentages above represented a slight increase from the last time these data were collected. . . in the 2015-16 school year. At that time, 25.9% of high schools, 25.6% of middle schools, and 4.2% of elementary schools reported disciplinary problems originating from cyberbullying at least once a week. 
_ _ _ _ _
 
  The March, 2018 NCES Report discussed cyberbullying data drawn largely from the 2015-2016 SSOCS. Rather than reiterate this Report’s information on past incident levels of cyberbullying (as the 2017-2018 SSOCS data cited above are more current), we will review some of its additional contextual information on cyberbullying:
  • In 2015–16, about 12% of public schools reported that cyberbullying had occurred among students at least once a week at school or away from school. 7% of public schools also reported that the school environment was affected by cyberbullying, and 6% of schools reported that staff resources were used to deal with cyberbullying.
  • During the 2015–16 school year, about 93% of public schools reported that they provided training on safety procedures (e.g., how to handle emergencies) for classroom teachers or aides, and 84% of schools reported providing training on classroom management. Schools also reported providing training to classroom teachers and aides on schoolwide discipline policies and practices related to cyberbullying (67%), bullying other than cyberbullying (79%), violence (69%), and alcohol and/or drug use (42%).
  • During the 2015–16 school year, a greater percentage of public middle schools than of high schools and primary schools reported providing training on discipline policies and practices for cyberbullying and bullying other than cyberbullying. Similarly, a greater percentage of middle schools than of high schools and primary schools reported providing training on recognizing physical, social, and verbal bullying behaviors.
  • Similarly, a higher percentage of larger schools and urban and suburban schools reported providing training on safety procedures and discipline policies and practices for cyberbullying than schools with less than 300 students and rural schools, respectively.
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Cyberbullying: What Schools Can Do
 
  Even though it occurs largely off campus, the vast majority of states have cyberbullying laws or policies that focus on school-aged students, and that require a written school policy and school sanctions. This has occurred in response to a number of cyberbullying suicides, and research linking cyberbullying to low self‐esteem, suicidal thoughts, academic problems, school violence, delinquent behavior, and family problems.
 
  While involving elements of teasing, taunting, bullying, and harassment, cyberbullying is somewhat unique and potentially more traumatic or harmful (than face-to-face bullying) because of the following factors.
 
[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message describing these Factors]
 
  From an educational perspective, districts and schools need to consider the importance of:
 
  • Having an explicit Cyberbullying section of their Student Handbook or Code of Conduct that extends existing discussions of Teasing, Bullying, and Harassment;
 
  • Discussing district and school Cyberbullying policies and procedures with students and parents, from at least the Grade 3 level on, at the beginning of every school year;
 
  • Providing at least quarterly sessions (or updates) on Cyberbullying education— integrating them into broader discussions on computer use and safety, virtual responsibility and etiquette, internet copyright and plagiarism, and social media limits and expectations; and
 
  • Extending the discussions above to parents and guardians (in joint sessions with their children whenever possible) so that they can understand their potential responsibilities for cyber-safety and prosocial interactions, and support the school’s policies, procedures, and preventative approaches across the student body.
 
  The student training and/or discussions should occur in small classroom groups, and they should focus on helping students (a) to share their social media experiences and concerns; (b) to analyze and understand the effects of cyberbullying; (c) to teach students ways to respond to direct and indirect acts of cyberbullying; and (d) to facilitate students’ commitment to each other relative to maintaining consistently positive and responsible virtual interactions.
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Adding Organization and Value to Cyberbullying Prevention and Intervention
 
  Based on the surveys and information above, if a district wanted to prioritize its strategic cyberbullying planning, prevention, and implementation, it would focus on its middle/junior high schools, and then on its high schools.
 
  In addition, because cyberbullying is largely a peer-to-peer social interaction— albeit a negative one—that occurs mostly off school grounds and before/after school hours, districts and schools need to integrate a “peer control” element to the plan.
 
  In fact, there are at least eight interdependent elements to a comprehensive cyberbullying prevention to intervention plan.
 
[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message with these eight Elements]
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Pulling in Student Voices, Discussion, Leadership, and Self-Advocacy
 
  Part of the plan outlined above—as briefly discussed in an earlier section of this Blog message—involves student (student-led) discussions that result in students taking the consistent and ongoing lead and responsibility for cyberbullying prevention and early response.
 
  As I have said in the past: There are more “of them” (meaning the students) than there are “of us” (meaning the adults). And if students and different peer groups become advocates and activists for the positive peer interactions that prevent bullying and cyberbullying, then that “leverage” will go a long way toward solving the problem.
 
  This means that schools need to give students time to talk with each other—to create, implement, evaluate, and sustain viable and powerful approaches that are integrated into the comprehensive plan above. This is an essential component because, once again, the students are the ones “doing” the cyberbullying, and most of it occurs outside of the school day and away from the “schoolhouse door.”
 
  And yet, some schools avoid this important step because of time, scheduling, and logistics, and some because they are uncomfortable or afraid of what might occur or be discussed during the student sessions.
 
  To overcome some of these “barriers of concern,” let’s briefly call on Brian Gorman, a Forbes Magazine executive business coach. In a July 19, 2019 article, You Can’t Just Transform Your Business, You Need to Transform Yourself As Well, Gorman stated:
 
Transformation is a change that cannot be reversed. It is not a “water, ice, water, steam, water” kind of change, but rather a “caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly” change. It requires shifting how people think about things, how they do them and even what they are doing. Transformation is difficult to undertake, and even more difficult to sustain to a successful conclusion.
 
Most business owners and corporate executives intellectually understand these realities. What they tend to overlook is one additional truth: You can’t transform your organization without transforming yourself.
 
Organizations are ultimately reflections of their leadership. Employees not only hear the words of their leaders; they observe their actions. And, as is often said, “actions speak louder than words.” The words and actions of leaders at all levels, from the top of the organization down to frontline supervisors, have shaped the organization that you have today.
 
Reshaping it requires transforming the words and actions of its leaders.
_ _ _ _ _
 
  Gorman then asks transformational leaders to ask themselves five questions. I would like to reframe these questions as it relates to the importance of giving students time to plan and systemically address their own cyberbullying issues.
 
  To the administrative leaders of every middle and high school across the country, I respectfully ask you to ask yourselves the following questions (as they are relevant):
 
  • “What can I let go of?”
 
Are there attitudes, expectations, beliefs, barriers, or past events that are holding you back from organizing (or delegating the responsibility for) a series of student leadership forums that can begin the process of generating a schedule of small group student discussion that will result in an approved student-directed plan to address cyberbullying?
 
How can you “let go” of these self-limiting self-statements to begin this process?
_ _ _ _ _
 
  • “What is it that only I can do?”
 
As leaders, what are the actions—related to addressing cyberbullying—that only you can do or that only you should do? What district, parent, or community actions are ones that only you—in your leadership or administrative role—can take? What are the symbolic actions that you need to take to communicate that this issue and effort are essential?
 
When will you take these actions?
_ _ _ _ _
 
  • “What are my anchors, and how do you have to adjust them?”
 
Gorman stated, “We all have anchors that hold us in place and provide a sense of stability. In order to successfully change, we have to change our relationship to some of those anchors, holding them more tightly, letting them out, or even letting them go completely.”
 
Do you have any “anchors” that need to be transformed? Relative to your student body? your staff? your parent or community constituencies? your administrative colleagues or district leaders?
_ _ _ _ _
 
  • “What is undermining my success?”
 
This may be a generic question that may transcend the cyberbullying issue, or it may be centered on cyberbullying and your beliefs about it and how you prioritize it relative to other professional issues.
 
If you and your school or district are already successfully addressing cyberbullying, how are you sustaining these efforts over time? If you are not addressing this issue, at least collect the objective (student generated) data needed to determine if you should.
_ _ _ _ _
 
  • “How do I strengthen my self-care?”
 
Here, I am going to suggest to my administrative colleagues that you look to your mental health staff (your counselors, social workers, and school psychologists) for your “self-care.” Cyberbullying is a psychoeducational phenomenon, and your mental health colleagues may have the knowledge, training, and perspectives that you need for your ultimate success.
_ _ _ _ _
 
Getting Your Students to Talk with Each Other
 
  Clearly, just because you provide your students with a forum within which to discuss cyberbullying, there is no assurance that they will talk to each other. This requires trust and protection, honesty and candor, commitment and communication, and foresight and self-insight.
 
  It also may require organization and preparation.
 
  For example, you may want to involve a “planning group” of students who represent different constituencies from across your student body, and who are well-respected by (not just popular among) their peers.
 
  You may want to conduct an anonymous survey of the student body so that you have not just information on different facets of cyberbullying in your school, but also information to discuss in your student groups.
 
  Finally, you may want to prepare a series of questions (embedded into some semi-structured group activities) that can guide the student (student-led) discussions.
 
  To this final end, below are some questions from a “Negotiations Preparation Checklist” from the Program on Negotiation at the Harvard University Law School. In many instances, all I did was to swap the word “negotiation” with the words “cyberbullying initiative and group discussion.” Feel free to adapt even these questions, or add your own.
 
  These questions are for the students.
 
[CLICK HERE for the Full Blog Message with these 20 Questions]
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Summary
 
  Cyberbullying is a significant problem in today’s schools and among today’s youth. But solutions must be systemic, strategically planned and executed, and integrated into the safety and social, emotional, and behavioral processes of each school.
 
  It is critical that students be actively involved in the planning, and that schools give them as much responsibility for directly addressing the problem themselves as is realistic and possible.
 
  In the end, however, students must understand the potential effects of cyberbullying, that cyberbullies will be held accountable for their acts and involvement, that cyber-victims should report significant or persistent cyberbullying incidents to appropriate adults, and that schools have the right (and, in some states, are statutorily are required) to act—even when the cyberbullying occurs off-site.
 
  Said a different way, students need to know—relative to their schools’ behavioral expectations and accountability— that, as it relates to social media and cyberbullying in particular, they now live “in a 24/7 world.” If their use of social media (including cyberbullying) has the potential to negatively impact the climate and interactions within their school or district, administrators have the responsibility and right to act accordingly.
 
 While the ultimate goal is to prevent cyberbullying, schools still need to prepare and use a continuum of responses to deal with it strategically and definitively if the preventative activities are not successful.
 
  At the same time, when using any Code of Conduct consequence, administrative action, or social remediation, the ultimate goal is to motivate students to eliminate future cyberbullying incidents, while increasing their prosocial and social problem-solving interactions.
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  As we begin the new school year, we know that schools need to establish positive, safe, proactive, and prosocial climates and interactions, and practices that focus on prevention and early response. When successful, these schools will likely have the highest levels of student engagement, and academic and behavioral success.
 
  This is not always easy, but it is always necessary.
 
  I look forward to your thoughts and comments regarding this Blog message. 
 
  Know that I am always available to provide a free hour of telephone consultation to those who want to discuss their students, school, or district needs. Feel free to contact me at any time if there is anything that I can do to support your work. . . now, and as we proceed into this new school year.

Best,
 
Howie