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Education Matters

Education Matters is our monthly column published in the Napa Valley Register and American Canyon Eagle. The fourth Tuesday and Thursday of each month, we discuss a topic of interest to students, parents and the greater community. 

 


 

Napa Valley Register May 23, 2017

American Canyon Eagle May 25, 2017

 

In light of recent local and national events, we want to share what’s happening at NVUSD and in our schools, in terms of preventing, reporting and responding to bullying or hazing. Along with our entire community, we deeply value our children, and take their safety and well-being very seriously. For too many of our young people, bullying and/or hazing have been part of their lives, whether at school, at home or somewhere else.

 

These are our values around bullying and hazing

We want all of our students to be safe and respected, so our main focus is on prevention. But if bullying, harassment or hazing happens, we need to know. When we respond, we work to ensure the safety of all students involved and seek to repair and restore relationships. Finally, if necessary, we will take appropriate steps, including initiating disciplinary procedures or involving law enforcement.

 

We want to help prevent bullying

The first and best way to prevent bullying is to model and reinforce positive, respectful behavior and to intervene in an appropriate way when disrespectful behavior happens. All 31 of our schools use a system of positive behavior and intervention supports (PBIS) called BEST to instill the values of safety, respect and responsibility. Teams at each school, including teachers, administrators, parents and, at the high school level, students, review expectations, reinforce positive behaviors and provide restorative practices among or between students, when appropriate to the situation. Find out more about BEST.

 

In addition to BEST, we reinforce the messages with different student and staff groups in different ways. For example:

  • Elementary and middle school students are taught empathy, problem solving and emotion management through an evidence-based bullying prevention Social Emotional Learning (SEL) called “Second Step.” See more at www.nvusd.org/pbissel or at cfchildren.org.
  • Many administrators, teachers and staff have received training in Restorative Practices, which includes community building in the classroom, as well as ways to respond to harm and repair relationships without resorting to exclusionary discipline, such as suspension.
  • Since 2009, our elementary, middle and high schools have used site-specific plans to implement PBIS/BEST. Each school is evaluated on their implementation of these positive school culture building strategies twice per year by the district PBIS coach and their own PBIS Team. Please contact your principal if you have questions about the plan or implementation.
  • In 2016, the District updated the Athletic Handbook for players and coaches, explicitly outlining appropriate behavior and expectations, including supervision. Now, when we hire coaches, we not only make sure they have the handbook, but ask them to indicate in writing that they have read and understand it. We also require them to complete a certification course in bullying and hazing.
  • We are increasing the number of staff members who are trained in Systematic Supervision, an evidence-based system of supervising large numbers of students in relatively unstructured settings (playgrounds, hallways, locker rooms, etc.) which includes moving, scanning, positive contact and positive reinforcement.

We want to do more, and are continuing our planning for enhanced training and outreach to students, staff and parents re: bullying and hazing, and will share information on our efforts through our website and electronic parent newsletter.

 

We want students to feel safe in reporting bullying

An important part of responding to bullying is to know when it is happening. Teachers and administrators are trained in the 4 A Response, through PBIS, how to Affirm a student giving a report, Ask the right questions, Assess the report or threat, and Act on the information appropriately.

 

Students are provided multiple ways to report bullying, including telling a trusted adult, using a paper method in the front office, or by using the Tip411 text or email app. While all students are encouraged to talk candidly with counselors, teachers, administrators, coaches or other adults they trust, many opt for more anonymous methods like Tip411. The app is offered in partnership with Napa and American Canyon police departments and the Napa County Sheriff, and allows students to anonymously report bullying, suicide threats, crimes or other situations to school administrators and law enforcement, who can move quickly to investigate any unsafe incidents.

 

And, of course, we encourage parents to be vigilant for signs of bullying or bullying behavior, and to report concerns to a teacher and principal.

 

We want to respond quickly and appropriately

We have a strong policy against bullying or hazing, and once an incident or pattern has been reported, we respond quickly in order to determine the extent of the problem and take appropriate action.

 

Our first priority is the person who has been bullied or hazed, to ensure he or she is as safe as possible. Counselors and administrators offer verbal and emotional support, and we connect families to appropriate community resources when indicated.

 

In addition to notifying and involving parents, our next step is to try to ensure the bullying has stopped and then move forward in repairing the harm. This may include restorative practices or community service to give back to their school community. Restorative conversations generally include 1) What happened? 2) What were you thinking at the time? 3) Who has been affected 4) What has been the hardest thing for you? and 4) What needs to happen to make things right?

 

Supporting both the person who was bullied and the person who did the bullying, and intervening with these restorative practices, are the bedrock of our responses to bullying. However, if the situation is ongoing or very severe, the response changes.

 

There are exceptions

In some instances, the events are such that restorative practices are not immediately appropriate, such as when one party is not ready or willing to participate, there is a likelihood of retaliation, or a crime may have been committed. In such cases, we follow disciplinary protocols and procedures which may include suspension, expulsion and/or contacting law enforcement. These exceptions are rare and even in the most difficult circumstances, we look for opportunities to repair harm and restore relationships.

 

For example, in a recent case of bullying/hazing at one of our schools, several students were involved and the incident was serious. In that case, restorative practices were not an immediate option, law enforcement was involved, and we moved directly to our disciplinary procedures. Our community partners such as the Napa Police and Napa County Mental Health augmented our abilities to provide counseling with offers of free family sessions with mental health counselors from several professional, confidential sources.

 

We know these efforts are vital to the well-being of our students. We know we are part of a community-wide conversation about how we all treat one another. We know, through the California Healthy Kids survey results, that our efforts are working. Finally, we know that, together, we can always do more. We invite parent and community collaboration so we can give our students the support they need.