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EduClips: School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts, Including Rethinking Punishment for Bullying & Sexual Harassment

By Andrew Brownstein | October 12, 2018

EduClips is a roundup of the week’s top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the week’s school and policy highlights delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

BROWARD COUNTY — POST-PARKLAND, REPORT URGES FORT LAUDERDALE SCHOOLS TO SPEND $200 MILLION ON MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS: Broward County officials said they were unsure if they could afford the $202 million recommended by a report to provide for mental health professionals for students and families. Mental health has been a major focus of the district since February’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. “I don’t think we’ll get $200 million unless we hit the Powerball,” board chairwoman Nora Rupert said. “But we’ll make a dent in it.” (Read at the Sun-Sentinel)

FAIRFAX COUNTY — STUDENT ACCUSED OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT SUES DISTRICT FOR DISCRIMINATION: A high school student and his father are suing the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools in federal court, alleging the school system punished the boy unfairly for sexual misconduct because of his gender. According to the suit, three girls “colluded” to accuse the 16-year-old at Lake Braddock Secondary School of inappropriately touching them and making sexually explicit comments and gestures. In court papers, the boy and his father said the district “treats male students accused of sexual misconduct by female students more aggressively than it otherwise would” in order to “be perceived as aggressively addressing the perceptions that sexual assault against female students is rampant on campuses.” A spokesman for the district declined to comment on the case. (Read at The Washington Post)

PUERTO RICO — LONG AFTER HURRICANE, ISLAND’S STUDENTS GRAPPLE WITH TRAUMA: Puerto Rico’s students are still wrestling with psychological trauma from Hurricane Maria and its aftermath. Joy Lynn Suárez-Kindy, a clinical psychologist who’s consulting with the island’s education department on mental health issues, examined responses from 64,000 students. Among the findings: Seven percent of students indicated they had “clinically significant symptoms” of post-traumatic stress disorder; eight percent said they had “clinically significant symptoms” of depression; and nine percent indicated they were at “high risk” of developing mental health disorders. (Read at Politics K-12)

MIAMI-DADE — ‘THE OPIOID CRISIS IS REAL’ AND NEAR MIAMI’S SCHOOLS: Miami parents are up in arms due to sex and drug use at homeless encampments near five area schools. Officials are conducting a public health investigation into the spread of HIV and hepatitis at one site, where parents reported seeing several discarded drug needles. “I don’t recall in this area ever dealing with a situation like this,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “It’s not surprising. All of the sudden the opioid crisis is real and it is not a crisis that’s touching just rural or urban America. It’s pretty universal and ubiquitous. And I think it’s encroaching upon areas where kids services are provided, like schools.” (Read at the Miami Herald)

PHILADELPHIA — AS STATE CONTRIBUTIONS FOR SPECIAL ED COSTS FAIL TO KEEP PACE, SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE PICKING UP THE TAB: Special education costs are far outpacing the state’s contribution to those expenses, according to a report by the Education Law Center and PA Schools Work. The result is that school districts are picking up bigger shares of the tabs. State aid for special education increased by $72 million between 2008 and 2016, but district special education costs grew by $1.54 billion, the report said. The report comes amid an ongoing lawsuit, partly brought by the center, that alleges the state’s funding formula is inadequate and discriminates against children in poorer communities. (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

HAWAII — STATE PROPOSES HARSHER PENALTIES FOR SEXUAL HARASSMENT, BULLYING: The Hawaii Department of Education is hoping to create a new offense of sexual harassment and to increase the offense classification for bullying as part of a series of changes to its misconduct and discipline policy. Under the proposed changes, bullying, cyberbullying, and harassment would be upgraded to the most serious offense classification for intermediate and high school students. For the first time, the rule changes also would acknowledge sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression in protections against bullying and harassment. The state Board of Education voted unanimously to send the proposed revisions to public hearings. (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

NEW YORK CITY — CHANCELLOR CARRANZA, MAYOR DE BLASIO DIFFER ON CHANGES TO CITY’S ELITE SCHOOLS: New York City schools chancellor Richard Carranza said that the education department could “probably” change the admissions requirements at five of the city’s eight specialized high schools immediately, putting him at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio, who holds that such a move could put the district in legal jeopardy. Carranza told the audience at a Hispanic Education Summit that the city could likely change the admissions requirements at those five schools, which weren’t named in the 1971 state law creating the enrollment process at the elite schools. But he suggested he would not push for those changes after the schools’ principals advised him against it. (Read at Chalkbeat)

CHICAGO — SEX ABUSE SCANDAL AT CITY’S SCHOOLS COSTS DISTRICT $4 MILLION FEDERAL GRANT: The fallout from Chicago Public Schools’ sexual abuse scandal continues. Now, the U.S. Department of Education has denied the district a $4 million federal grant because it failed to demonstrate that it is sufficiently addressing complaints of sexual violence. The department informed district officials last month that it had suspended this year’s installment of the Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant. Earlier this year, the department’s office for civil rights said the district had committed “serious and pervasive” violations of Title IX, the federal law designed to protect students from abuse, harassment, and gender-based discrimination. (Read at Education Week)

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

TEACHER DIVERSITY – Brown: Want to Close the Opportunity Gap? Start by Fixing the Diversity Gap Between Students of Color and Their Majority-White Teachers (Read at The74Million.org)

TEENAGERS – The Teen Brain: How Schools Can Help Students Manage Emotions and Make Better Decisions (Read at Education Week)

#METOO – Even in #MeToo era, educators still aren’t sharing their stories (Read at Education Dive)

COMPETENCY-BASED EDUCATION – Is Competency-Based Education Just a Recycled Failed Policy? (Read at Forbes)

Quotes of the Week

“I don’t think we’ll get $200 million unless we hit the Powerball.” —Broward County school board chairwoman Nora Rupert, on the funding a report recommended for mental health professionals to treat students and families after the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (Read at the Sun-Sentinel)

“At a divisive time in the history of the country, we have to make sure we’re giving kids a chance to think for themselves.” —Chris Gubbrud, who teaches sixth-grade social studies in South Dakota’s Mitchell School District, on using class time to discuss the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Read at The74Million.org)

“These findings are just awful for anyone who wants a future. It’s worse than a criminal conviction, or just as bad.” —Jesse Binnall, attorney for a student and his father suing the Fairfax County, Virginia, school district, saying the boy was unfairly punished for sexual misconduct because of his gender. The boy and his father say media reports that “suggest the pervasive nature of sexual assault committed by male students” influenced the district. (Read at The Washington Post)

“Particularly after 2016, it’s clear that our country is much more vulnerable to a demagogue who vilifies minorities when schools are racially segregated. When white students know few Mexican-American classmates or Muslim classmates, it’s much easier for someone to suggest that those groups are causing all your problems.” —Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, on the importance of integrating schools. (Read at The74Million.org)

“I was shocked. I didn’t realize this was going to be a race about money.” —Emily Gasoi, a candidate for the Ward 1 State Board of Education seat in Washington, D.C., whose opponent raised nearly $60,000 as of August. More than $150,000 and counting has poured this year into races for the board seats, relatively obscure positions that wield little power in the District. (Read at The Washington Post)

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