BlogWalker

Muddling through the blogosphere

April 30, 2018
by blogwalker
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Making Empathy and Support Visible for All Students – A Shoutout to Sac City USD

Attending Sacramento City USD’s No Time to Lose – A Professional Conference to Activate Change for LGBTQ Youth was a wonderful way to end the work week. This was my second time to participate in this annual event, so I already knew the conference experience would remain in my thoughts over the weekend – and for a long time to come.

Superintendent Jorge Aguilar set the tone for the conference with his opening comments. After referencing the district’s commitment to strive for “equity, access, and social justice,” he stated:

“When you treat data with utter respect – as representing a child or family – data can take us into a humane body of work.”

In a time when test scores remain a mandated focus for public schools, it was inspiring, instead, to hear a superintendent raising awareness over the staggering bullying statistics that LGBTQ youth deal with, as shown in this recent infographic from GLSEN:

Infographic fro GLSEN on bullying stats LBGTQ youth deal with.

The power of the No Time to Lose Conference starts from the moment you pull into Sac City USD’s parking lot, where you see not only the Serna Center (district office) but also a second building, the Connect Center:

“The SCUSD Connect Center is a centralized Student Support Center that serves as a “gateway” to critical support services for students and families in our school district.  It offers an innovative solution to addressing the health, wellness and educational needs of SCUSD’s children, youth and families. This central hub is designed to increase coordination of services by providing a single, easily identifiable point of access and assistance to address the social, emotional, and health needs of all students.”

A shoutout to SCUSD for making it so easy for students and parents to find a wide range of much-needed family services. In addition to the Connect Center, SCUSD also supports the work of the Gender Health Center, a short drive from the district office. The Gender Health Center “is a non-profit organization meeting the counseling needs of the WHOLE community in Sacramento and the surrounding areas by making our services accessible to the most under-served communities, including the LGBTQQI community and focusing on the “T” or transgender.”

Throughout the conference, speakers from within and outside of SCUSD drew attention to the needs of our LGBTQ students and invited input from the audience. For example, Sacramento psychiatrist Dr. Swati Rao referenced the GLSEN infographic (above), drawing our attention to the fact that the majority of LGBTQ students feel that “schools are unsafe and unwelcoming.” She also shared that, thankfully, verbal harassment of LGBTQ youth is on the decline, due in large part to GSA clubs, supportive teachers, anti-bullying programs, and the integration of LGBTQ stories into the curriculum (per California Senate Bill 48).

Every speaker deepened my awareness of the need for students, teachers, and community members to understand the importance of being an “ally.”

“An ally is an individual who speaks out and stands up for a person or group that is targeted and discriminated against. An ally works to end oppression by supporting and advocating for people who are stigmatized, discriminated against or treated unfairly.” GLSEN Safe Spaces Kit – Guide to Being an Ally to LGBTQ Students

Just like my first No Time to Lose conference, the student speakers and and student panel were the absolute highlight of this year’s event. If you were not in attendance, one of the resources shared, the short video below, will provide a window into the world of daily challenges faced by transgender youth:

I look forward to continuing the conversations started with district colleagues who shared the No Time to Lose day with me – and becoming more actively involved in a variety of support efforts and events sponsored by my district, such as the recent LGBTQ Staff Awareness Training, which sparked conversations across school sites and departments.

 

November 4, 2011
by blogwalker
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Digital Citizenship Summit – Thank you, Yahoo!

Yahoo Safely Digital Citizenship Summit

Besides the really cool Yahoo book bag and equally cool Yahoo lunch bag, what else was great about the 5th Annual Digital Citizenship Summit? Everything, including:

  • The panel of speakers: Experts from Project Cornerstone, Reachout.com, Common Sense Media, iKeepSafe, NetSmartz, Connect Safely, and attorney Charles Leitch. Throughout the day, this outstanding team guided whole group and small group discussions on how to successfully implement the elements of the “Five Building Blocks for Digital Citizenship:”
    1. Build a culture of ethics and safety
    2. Implement a network of support and leadership
    3. Align policies and procedures
    4. Provide professional development
    5. Integrate student curriculum for safety and ethics
  • The highly enthusiastic, participatory group of participants
  • Yahool headquarters

The speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions affirmed much of the digital citizenship work I’ve been doing over the past few years through my district’s Internet Safety Task Force. But one speaker caused me to rethink our approach to teaching about cyberbullying.  Larry Magid highly suggested, and backed it with the research, that we approach cyberbullying as a problem rather than an epidemic. Larry is co-director of ConnectSafely.org and founder of SafeKids.com.  He is also the technology analyst for CBS News and writes for CNET News, Huffington Post and the San Jose Mercury News. Along with Anne Collier, he is co-author of A Parents’ Guide to Facebook and MySpace Unraveled.

Much like the “stranger danger” predator panic of 2004-2006, the media is now hyping big time incidents of cyberbullying.  The reality is that far more kids are bullied offline than online.  Larry pointed out the dangers of exaggeration, which can destroy credibility, can cause “boomeranger effect,”  and can cause people to believe that behaviors are “normal.”  His recommendation is to stop the  “fear messaging” and to emphasize the positive.

People, especially youth, can benefit from positive images and role models. Creating a culture of respect actually can lead to respect. Respectful behavior truly is normal.  Most kids do not bully.

Use ‘positive norming,’ such as the Craig, Perkins 2008 – Strength in Numbers report – 80% of Crystal Lake 6-8th grade students say students should not tease in a mean way, call others hurtful names, or spread unkind stories about other students.”

I’m hoping to go live with Larry’s “positive norming” concept at several of our middle schools by having students participate in Nancy Willard’s Cyberbullying Survey. But that’s a topic for another post;-)

I’ll end this post with a huge thank you to the Yahoo Safely team for hosting the Digital Citizenship Summit and to Diana Paradise for being the guiding light of the event – and with a closing question: What if districts approached the topic of cyberbullying as a problem, not and epidemic?

 

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