Reducing the Violence that Permeates Through Our Schools

School safety

Reducing the Violence that Permeates Through Our Schools
by Deborah Koolbeck

The Problem

As educators, protecting and nurturing the health and well-being of our nation’s most precious investment—our youth—is always top of mind. Safeguarding their welfare and creating supportive learning ecosystems should be national priorities. Unfortunately, no one piece of legislation, no one initiative, no one activist, or caring teacher can bring that umbrella of safety to every student, everywhere, all the time. What we need to be talking about openly and often across the nation is prevention: training, learning, and preparing. This begins at the federal level with funding to equip our state and local leaders with the tools necessary to create and foster a safe and balanced learning environment for all students.

There are classrooms and schools in this country where teachers are armed with weapons. It is a dark reality, and one that AACTE does not support. Federal funds should not be used to arm teachers. Funds should instead be used to incentivize building  learning communities through supportive training in social and emotional learning, and to prepare profession-ready teachers. Federal money would be better applied toward the training of school nurses, counselors, and other integral personnel on how to foster the health, wellness, and growth of our students as part of creating a safe space for them to thrive. It would also ensure the professional development needed for all teachers in the area of  trauma -informed instruction. We muststart looking at the school, holistically. Training like Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) should be alive and well within every school district. Initiatives like these could easily be federally mandated. This is part of creating a proactive approach to protecting our students and promoting a positive school culture.

Creating a safe school environment is much different in the 21st century. Although bullying has been around for decades, social media today makes it exponentially worse and, in some cases, tragically pervasive. And while the 21st century classroom affords resources and opportunities not known in other eras, it also brings devastating realities where our children, teachers, and school personnel are the victims of school shootings. As such, it is more important than ever before to prepare teachers and educators to go into our schools with the proper training and education about these problems that exist within our school communities.

What AACTE is Doing

AACTE advocates at the national level for many initiatives aimed at creating safe school environments. Some include

Many things can be done to make schools safer in states and local communities. Each plan or initiative differs depending upon the environment, number of students in the district, and other factors. Here is a good start:

  • - Being trained to catch the signals
  • - Seeing students from the point of care
  • - Focusing on the whole child
  • - Promoting a holistic approach to safety

School safety requires input from all members of the school community, which includes parents and families, teachers, administration, and personnel. The Education Commission of the States recently published some of its own ideas on how to cultivate a safe learning environment. Some of the key initiatives include

  • - Security Infrastructure that impedes or prevents school violence by making the school physically more secure.
  • - Safety Audits that are proactive assessments of the overall safety of a school district or environment.

Click here to read the entire guide that outlines other practical ways in which to foster and promote safety.

The Bottom Line

We will not have well-rounded, well-adjusted, and well-educated students who will grow into the leaders of this great country if we do not take an active and preemptive approach to protecting them, particularly in their formative years. Through advocacy and a relentless disruption of both the status quo and current legislation, we can transmute the fear and promote a holistic and safe environment in which our students and teachers can thrive.

Immigration and Its Impact on American Schools

immigrate2Immigration and Its Impact on American Schools

By Lynn M. Gangone

America is a country of immigrants. Through each wave of immigration, our public schools incorporate immigrant children into the fabric of our country. Our public schools serve as a cultural incubator to aid and nurture acceptance of diversity. Our local classrooms should be a microcosm of a global demographic. We, as educators, need to harness that belief for our teachers and the students they teach and guide.

How do America’s immigration challenges impact schools?

The challenge is that there are undocumented students entering U.S. schools, colleges, and universities who were not given the option to decide for themselves whether they wanted to come to this country. They have been incorporated into society, but are affected by current practices that impact their safety and security. It is projected that by the year 2040, one in every three children in the United States will grow up in an immigrant household (Suárez-Orozco, Suárez-Orozco, & Todorova, 2008). It begs the question: How do we work with those students? 

Educators, school support staff, and service providers are often the first individuals in whom a student and/or family confides and reveals that they are undocumented. Recent efforts to identify undocumented parents and children in the United States challenge public schools in their efforts to meet the needs of all children residing within their school districts. Public schools are often embroiled in politically and legally sensitive situations, in which they must balance their responsibilities to serve immigrant and undocumented children, while meeting the expectations of local authorities to identify undocumented individuals.

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Additional Resources

Classroom Lessons

Classroom Resources


2019 PDK Poll Results and Their Meaning to Mindful and Meaningful Education

pdk poll2019 PDK Poll Results and Their Meaning to Mindful and Meaningful Education
By Lynn M. Gangone

While serving on this year’s (Phi Delta Kappan) PDK Poll Advisory Board, I listened and collaborated with scores of thought leaders in the education ecosystem—The National Education Association, The Learning Policy Institute, The Learning First Alliance, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, among others. We determined what approaches to take to quantify, understand, and disseminate the vast amount of information and data garnered from this extremely worthwhile and useful poll. We discussed the results and how they could be utilized to advance 21st century classrooms, its students, and those who lead them.

What is the importance of the PDK Poll?

This year’s PDK Poll was entitled, “Frustration in The Schools: Teachers Speak Out on Pay, Funding, and Feeling Valued.” The new release is one of several polls PDK has conducted to examine opinions on public education for more than 50 years. The poll, according to PDK, is “a steady reflection of U.S. opinion about public education.” Its results are meaningful because they offer an annual review of one of the most important parts of our society—public schools, and focuses on of some our nation’s most crucial people—teachers. The poll measures opinions on the value of a public-school education and its teachers while giving us a sense of how our schools are supported, or more importantly, how they are not supported. It gives us a hypothetical picture of what the future of the educational world might hold and enlightens us about current issues from the perspective of the public. It informs and helps us contemplate how students are changing and what we, as educators, need to do to support and foster that evolution.

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Reports and Presentations

Educators and Social Responsibility: What This Means to Informed Citizenry


Educators and Social Responsibility: What This Means to Informed Citizenry
By Lynn M. Gangone

Educators and students are facing unprecedented times. The challenges both students and their teachers confront today vastly affects the efficacy of even the best educator’s efforts to create and foster students’ zeal for learning and to contribute to the society they will one day shape. Yet, educators must stay committed to fulfilling their social responsibility now more than ever before.


What Should Social Responsibility Look Like in the Teaching Profession?

This varies from educator to educator, so the answer to this question is complicated and multi-faceted.

Education is about opening minds, creating new knowledge. It is an expansive endeavor. In theory, education should provide us with the understanding and capacity of what it means to be a citizen of this nation and the world. Our nation’s founders understood the importance of an educated citizenry. Today, I believe that we need educators to support both a students’ academic development and citizen development.

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