The President received the Final Report of the Federal Commission on School Safety this week to a little bit of fanfare, though not nearly enough. The report contains 180 pages of notes, recommendations, stories, and timelines that only reinforce what most people in education know: We need to do more to prevent school violence issues.
In reviewing the report, I notice many recommendations of things I know that our teachers and staff are already doing, including conducting climate surveys, instituting anonymous reporting mechanisms, and implementing character education programs. The report does address the necessity for improved mental health supports whose need comes as no surprise to those in education.
One newer facet of preventing school violence concerns cyberbullying — a thing that wasn’t a thing when most of our teaching staff attended teacher training. According to the report, 34% of students surveyed reported being cyberbullied in their lifetime. Our children are more connected than ever, but those platforms also bring an opportunity for anonymous and relentless attacks from other children.
Our state ranks 15th in the nation for bullying, according to Crisistrends.org. Thinking of the verbal taunts I received as a child is hurtful, but they didn’t follow me home or find me online while I did my homework. Daily life seems to be harder for our children, and that really makes me sad.
What to do about all this? How can we create that safe environment we know our children deserve? The report points to federal programs that offer resources and training for school personnel, and I am sure some of it is helpful. For states, they cited examples of programs that could be replicated and one in particular caught my eye. Seattle Public Schools is partnering with a nonprofit which will serve as an intermediary between the district and social media companies to identify and hopefully remove the offending content.
I know Seattle is much closer to the social media companies than Oklahoma, but in our connected world, we should be able to serve that function as well without too much trouble. If our mission is to enhance and enrich the educational opportunities of children in Putnam City Schools, then surely serving to eliminate cyberbullying fits.
How can the Putnam City Schools Foundation be a part of the solution? We welcome any thoughts on how to make our district the pinnacle for prevention of this dangerous problem.