U.S. Department of Education Acts on School Safety Report Recommendation to Improve Understanding of Student Privacy Law

The U.S. Department of Education today released a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on schools’ and districts’ responsibilities under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in the context of school safety.

The Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) released an in-depth report last December, which observed that “substantial misunderstanding remains at the local level among officials and educators concerning (FERPA), and in particular its application to school-based threats.”

This FAQ document, titled, School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), consolidates previously issued guidance and technical assistance into a single resource to help raise schools’ and districts’ awareness of these provisions.

Full story at ed.gov

Educators Endorse Safety Measures – Not Arming Teachers

THE TWO NATIONAL teachers union and a leading gun safety group called on federal and state lawmakers to pass a variety of gun laws to prevent future school shootings as part of a school safety report released Monday.

The report, published by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, comes just days before Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, marks one year since a mass shooting in which a former student killed 17 children and adults.

“It’s been now almost a year since Parkland,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “I know students served as live witness to that tragedy, and their voices helped make 2018 the year of gun safety.

“There’s still a significant amount of work to be done,” he said. “It’s up to us to solve this problem.”

Full story at US News

One Virginia School District Sues State to Arm School Employees

LEE COUNTY, A POOR, rural community tucked into the southwestern most part of Virginia, is suing the state in an effort to allow its school employees to carry guns to combat a potential future active shooter scenario.

“I was kind of afraid of this,” Lee County schools Superintendent Brian Austin says. “We were not intending to pick a battle in Richmond. We were just trying to do what we thought was best for Lee County.”

But pick a battle it did, filing a lawsuit earlier this month in Lee County Circuit Court challenging Virginia’s refusal to give a special designation to Austin that would allow him to participate in a program approved by the Lee County School Board to allow educators and other school personnel to carry firearms on school property.

Full story at US News

Half of Endowment Spending Supports Financial Aid

AMID A NATIONAL OUTCRY for higher education institutions to do more to increase access for poor students – especially elite schools with billion-dollar endowments – new data show that nearly half of all endowment spending by colleges and universities supports financial aid.

“This was the largest single area of endowment spending,” Susan Whealler Johnston, president and CEO of the National Association of College and University Business Officers, said this week in a call with reporters. “This clearly demonstrates the deep commitment colleges and universities make to support financial aid and student success.”

The endowment spending data was included for the first time in the annual endowment report, published Thursday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the investment firm TIAA. Colleges and universities reported that 49 percent of their endowment spending went to support student scholarships and other financial aid programs, and 16 percent for academic tutoring and other similar student support programs.

Full story at US News

Secretary DeVos: “Supplement, not Supplant” Proposal Helps Promote Effective Spending, Flexibility

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released proposed non-regulatory guidance to support school districts’ compliance with the requirement that federal funds supplement, and do not supplant, state and local funds, under section 1118 of Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The guidance explains how ESSA changed the longstanding requirement in order to reduce administrative burden, simplify the compliance demonstration and promote effective spending.

While important and well-intentioned, the supplement not supplant requirement had become restrictive and burdensome—to the point that some school districts made ineffective spending choices in an effort to avoid noncompliance. Under ESSA, the supplement not supplant requirement changed to provide more flexibility to school districts while still ensuring that federal dollars are supplemental to state and local funds and cannot be used to replace them.

Full story at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Announces Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion to Protect Children with Disabilities, Ensure Compliance with Federal Laws

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced today that the U.S. Department of Education will launch an initiative to address the possible inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in our nation’s schools. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in partnership with the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), will oversee this proactive approach which will protect students with disabilities by providing technical assistance and support to schools, districts, and state education agencies, and strengthen enforcement activities.

“This initiative will not only allow us to support children with disabilities, but will also provide technical assistance to help meet the professional learning needs of those within the system serving students,” Secretary DeVos said.  “The only way to ensure the success of all children with disabilities is to meet the needs of each child with a disability. This initiative furthers that important mission.”

The Department’s Initiative to Address the Inappropriate Use of Restraint and Seclusion will not only include components that help schools and districts understand how federal law applies to the use of restraint and seclusion, but the Department will also support schools seeking resources and information on the appropriate use of interventions and supports to address the behavioral needs of students with disabilities.

Full story at ed.gov

Los Angeles Teacher Strike Could Be Days Away

Teachers in Los Angeles, the nation’s second largest school district, are preparing to go on strike. The district last saw a teacher strike nearly 30 years ago.

If no deal is reached, more than 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles wouldn’t go to work, affecting roughly 480,000 public school students.

The union has been holding out, primarily, for the district to reduce class sizes and hire more nurses, librarians and counselors, all of whom the union also represents. District leaders have resisted, saying they don’t have the money to pay for the level of changes the union wants.

Full story at npr.org

Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read, And What Better Teaching Can Do About It

Jack Silva didn’t know anything about how children learn to read. What he did know is that a lot of students in his district were struggling.

Silva is the chief academic officer for Bethlehem, Pa., public schools. In 2015, only 56 percent of third-graders were scoring proficient on the state reading test. That year, he set out to do something about that.

“It was really looking yourself in the mirror and saying, ‘Which 4 in 10 students don’t deserve to learn to read?’ ” he recalls.

Bethlehem is not an outlier. Across the country, millions of kids are struggling. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 32 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of eighth-graders aren’t reading at a basic level. Fewer than 40 percent are proficient or advanced.

Full story at npr.org

Federal Commission on School Safety Releases Comprehensive Resource Guide for Keeping Students, Teachers Safe at School

WASHINGTON—After months of research, visiting successful programs around the nation, and receiving testimony from experts and concerned citizens, today the Federal Commission on School Safety (Commission) released a 177-page report detailing 93 best practices and policy recommendations for improving safety at schools across the country.

Utilizing the information gathered, the Commission report offers a holistic approach to improving school safety, ranging from supporting the social and emotional well-being of students to enhancing physical building security. Acknowledging there can be no one-size-fits-all solution to this complex problem, the final report serves as a resource guide for families, educators, law enforcement officers, health professionals, and elected leaders to use as they consider the best ways to prevent, mitigate, and recover from acts of violence in schools. The recommendations are based on efforts that are already working in states and local communities.

“Each of us has an important role to play in keeping our students safe while at school,” said Chair of the Federal Commission on School Safety and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “Through the Commission’s work, it has become even clearer there is no single policy that will make our schools safer. What will work for schools in Montana will be different than what will work for schools in Manhattan. With that in mind, this report provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices and resources that all state, community, and school leaders should consider while developing school safety plans and procedures that will work for their students and teachers.”

Full story at ed.gov

Suspensions Are Down In U.S. Schools But Large Racial Gaps Remain

Students in U.S. schools were less likely to be suspended in 2016 than they were in 2012. But the progress is incremental, and large gaps — by race and by special education status — remain.

This data comes from an analysis of federal data for NPR in partnership with the nonprofit organization Child Trends. And it comes as the Trump administration is preparing the final report from a school safety commission that is expected to back away from or rescind Obama-era guidance intended to reduce racial disparities in school discipline.

The commission, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, is expected to release its final report in the coming days.

Full story at npr.org