Q&A: Navigating the COVID-19 Crisis: SEL and Distance Learning – Tips for Parents and Youth to Stay Safe and Adjust

Melissa Straub is the founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions, LLC, a consulting company that provides educational training and guidance on issues directly affecting youth, schools, and communities. We spoke with Melissa about how parents can deal with the challenges they’re facing in balancing working from home, virtual schooling, and the constantly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: The pandemic is a once in a century event that American parents, or even their parents, have never experienced. How can we address our children’s fear of the unknown at such a volatile moment?

Talking to your kids and assuring them they are safe is essential. Talk about what COVID-19 is and what it’s not, and debunk the rumors and false information. Reassure them that we all will get through this with a unified effort, but that we all need to take responsibility in order to stop the virus’ spread. Model the behavior you’re instilling and be aware of your own actions and words. Use age-appropriate language and simple terminology.

Let the children participate in setting the new norms for school scheduling and their other day-to-day activities and expectations. Children like to be heard and involved, and they crave structure. It’s OK for them to be fearful and it’s normal to have some sense of hopelessness. Reassure them, validate their concerns and encourage continuous conversations. 

Q: You touched on the importance of involving kids in setting the rules of the road during this time of home confinement. How can we do that constructively?

First things first, sit down and discuss what the new normal should be. Have the kids participate and provide input — they love to have a voice. Parents need to accept that the typical school day may be shortened and the work may not be as demanding as if the kids were attending school normally – you just have to go with the flow. Instill regular routines around bathing, sleep times, mealtimes and free time with some flexibility. Explain that teamwork and patience will be needed from everyone, since schedules and activities may have to change at times due to family members’ needs. Mom and dad are also working and have deadlines that need to be considered.

Q: Being cooped up in the house with your family for weeks or maybe months is bound to lead to some friction. How can we mitigate these conflicts?

There is no doubt that emotions are heightened within the family unit due to all of the unknowns and the stress of adjusting to distance learning. There will be some psychological fallout, feelings of isolation, anxiety and disconnectedness. We all need to pay attention to those ever-evolving emotions and do our best to address them. Having periodic check-ins or family meetings is key. Take that opportunity to initiate conversations and provide validation. If there is a notable change, please contact your family physician or look for online solutions and resources. Don’t ignore the issues, as they may get worse. Explain that it is normal to feel this way, that “we” can get through it, and this time in our lives is unprecedented but will pass in due time.

While we are all now familiar with the term “social distancing” and are practicing it the best we can, we still need to be social. We are social creatures by nature and kids more than ever will crave to fill the void in their lives. Encourage your kids to reach out to friends, family and others using the gift of technologies like FaceTime and Skype. We should also recognize the misinformation and bias that have become rampant during this crisis. Parents should be talking about diversity, inclusion and empathy throughout this time.

Mindfulness is a tool that can help ease both the mind and the body for all family members. Support moments of self-reflection, quiet and breathing, if only for a few moments a day. Taking a few minutes for the mind-body connection is essential during times of crisis and can help you adjust to the stressors.

Q: For many families, internet and TV time quotas have gone out the window, as parents can’t entertain their kids while they’re working. At the same time, the kids could be exposed to some frightening stories and messages related to COVID-19. How would you advise parents to deal with that?

Discussing the news and media coverage that your kids are seeing and hearing online is very important for demystifying the elephant in the room. Try to impose limits on the potential exposure, turn the TV off when children are in the room, and provide for open-ended conversation at the dinner table each night. While they are in the distance learning zone, outside of the educational material they have to engage with, have them explore other sites to keep them occupied. Several sites are offering virtual museum tours, educational resources and fun activities to keep children engrossed.  Emphasize the need for them to be socially responsible with the content they encounter by stressing the simple message, “If you see something, say something.”

Finally, have the courage to stand up and make a difference to help one another. This crisis is one that involves all of us and humanity will be measured when it’s finished.

Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

When Kids Are Not #SafeAtHome: Cyberbullying Is An Increased Threat During COVID19

Last week, COVID-19’s impacts spread from the nightly news to the daily lives of millions of parents. With people in states across the country facing stay-at-home orders, employees transitioning to new work-from-home lifestyles and school buildings shuttered, Americans are trying to adjust to a new way of life that doesn’t appear likely to change any time soon.

Teachers and staff are doing their best to keep up productivity with the help of technology. At the same time, their job descriptions have expanded to include the duties of de facto school IT people, classroom aides, lunchroom monitors, principals and custodians, all while praying their kids don’t burst into their Zoom meetings.

And at the same time, in many households schedules are still in flux and in many cases, rules about screen time have been relaxed as a matter of survival in the struggle to balance parenting and work-from-home responsibilities. And at a time when kids are being forced apart from their friends, apps like FaceTime and group texts are not only being tolerated but encouraged. Social and emotional learning must continue, after all.

At the expense of adding one more worry to parents’ and teachers’ minds, the spike in online socializing carries the potential for a commensurate increase in cyberbullying. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University, spoke of the looming challenge in a blog post.  

“Some of it will be mild, and some of it will be severe,” Hunduja said. “Some of it will be what they’re used to and won’t bother them, and some of it will be brand new—and a jarring, wounding experience. This may be especially true for those not used to learning and interacting in this way (and we are seeing how socio-economic inequities are being magnified because of the coronavirus).”

The FBI issued an alert on March 23, advising educators and caregivers to be vigilant for signs of online sexual exploitation and predatory behavior at a time when kids are particularly vulnerable. This view was echoed by Purdue University Polytechnic Institute Associate Professor Kathryn Seigfried-Spellar, an expert in cyberdeviance, who cautioned it may not be easy to detect the problems.

“Kids are usually not forthcoming with issues of cyberbullying because they’re afraid of losing their technology,” she said. “Some teens would rather be cyberbullied than have their Facebook page or Instagram account shut down.”

The threat of cyberbullying appears especially acute for students of Asian backgrounds: Authorities have reported numerous incidents of harassment and even violence directed toward Asian Americans, tied to the virus’ likely origin in China. Online, Asians are being scapegoated as the cause of the pandemic, mocked as belonging to cultures that eat bats and vermin, and even taunted by those who refer to COVID-19 in terms such as “the Chinese virus.” Some prominent Asian Americans have responded by sharing their stories on social media using the hashtag #WashtheHate.

A consortium of Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy organizations last week launched Stop AAPI Hate, an online tool where victims or those who have witnessed anti-Asian violence, bullying or harassment can anonymously report incidents. The organizations plan to use the data to develop education and media campaigns, provide resources for impacted individuals, and advocate for policies and programs dedicated to curtailing racial profiling.

“We are currently providing support to a child who had to go to the emergency room after he was assaulted and accused by bullies of having the coronavirus, and so that tells us we may need to work with schools to address shunning and school bullying but we need to know how widespread it is,” said Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, one of the groups that developed the reporting tool.

Anonymous reporting is a proven solution for dealing with cyberbullying, abuse and harassment issues in real time. STOPit’s easy-to-use app can serve as a critical avenue of information between students and school administrators at a time when young people are uniquely vulnerable. Tips submitted through STOPit will enable teachers to monitor, investigate, and take action against bad behavior in their virtual classrooms. 

Administrators can also use the app’s broadcast feature to share important resources with students that educate them on the threats and how to deal with them. STOPit’s own professionals can monitor the account during off hours to ensure that urgent reports are dealt with quickly.

Contact STOPit today to learn more about how anonymous reporting can help protect your student’s well-being throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

The Cost of NOT Having a Comprehensive Safety Plan for Your School

As we come together as a nation and respond to the current COVID-19 pandemic, STOPit is working closely with our K-12 and higher education partners to help them leverage their STOPit tools to best serve students and staff. 

And even though classrooms are empty as students are learning from home during the national effort to flatten the curve, school administrators are as busy as ever, continuing with all the preparation for the 2020-2021 school year. This includes reviewing options to update their school’s comprehensive safety plan, because when it comes to budgeting for school safety, we know the “ABCs” are not as easy as 123.

The School Superintendents Association advises school districts to address three key areas to ensure their students and staff are properly protected – what it terms the ABCs of School Safety. It’s a simple and general list, but one that covers a broad swath of ground that would be daunting for anyone making financial decisions for their district. The ABCs are:

  • Awareness: Making sure everyone, including school staff and community members, are on the same page when it comes to safety. This requires the development and frequent refresh of safety plans, and engaging all stakeholders to make certain they are well acquainted with them in case of an emergency.
  • Balance: Avoiding a reliance on any one strategy or a narrow set of strategies. For example, schools should take care not to direct so much of their investment toward security infrastructure that they have no funding left for human connection initiatives like mental health services.
  • Control: Limiting access to the classroom only to those who belong there. Schools can control entry to school grounds with equipment purchases, security guard hires, tight visitor policies and other measures.

As school boards across the country gear up to craft spending plans for the 2020-21 fiscal year, they face a series of decisions and trade-offs as they try to cover those ABCs. They must stretch a limited pool of funding to cover every reasonable safety scenario that can be imagined, along with those that carry astronomically low odds. In the age of rising mental health and school safety problems, the cost of not having a plan and the resources in place to cover it all is too high not to pay.

What’s In Your Plan?

District leaders need to evaluate their schools’ unique hardware and building security needs, which carry different dimensions in rural, suburban and inner-city settings. At a time when climate change is causing more intense storms, chronic flooding and temperature extremes, schools need to have the proper equipment, training and plans in place to handle natural emergencies.

Schools need to ensure that adequate mental health programs are in place to help children in times of need, potentially staving off tragedies before they happen. And last, but not least, they need to have resources in place to deal quickly and decisively with threats and toxic behaviors.

A Washington Post investigative team surveyed administrators from 34 schools that suffered shooting incidents, including Sandy Hook Elementary, to find out what they learned from the experiences. According to the article, “When asked what, if anything, could have prevented the shootings at their schools, nearly half replied that there was nothing they could have done. Several, however, emphasized the critical importance of their staffs developing deep, trusting relationships with students, who often hear about threats before teachers do.”

Many schools have had success opening the lines of communication between students and faculty with the aid of anonymous reporting systems. Affordable, full service mobile platforms like STOPit Solutions, encourage students who might fear reprisal or feel anxiety about getting involved to share information that ultimately makes their classmates safe. STOPit saw the highest volume of reports filed in its history in the days following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, as students came forward with information they felt just might thwart a tragedy in their own schools.

STOPit can be customized to meet every school district’s needs, with options available for 24/7 emergency monitoring to ensure that problems are routed immediately to those who can help, no matter when they occur. Contact STOPit today to learn more about the role anonymous reporting can play in your school’s safety plan while remaining within your budget.



Curious why over 5,000 organizations worldwide are using STOPit’s anonymous reporting software and 24/7/365 monitoring services?

Conversations With STOPit Solutions: Interview with Maurine Molak of David’s Legacy Foundation

“You’re a tattle tail.”

The term brings back memories from childhood. Arguments with friends. Maybe siblings. But do you remember all of the times you were called a tattle tail when you weren’t actually being one? Sometimes, speaking up about inappropriate things going on is the unpopular vote amongst your peers; however, that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t still be said. In fact, quite the opposite. 

Empowering others to speak up is something that today’s guest devotes much of her time and energy to. In our most recent podcast, we are joined by Maurine Molak, the founder of David’s Legacy Foundation. David’s Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending cyber-assisted bullying, as well as other forms of bullying.

During our interview, Maurine speaks about how David’s Legacy Foundation is affecting education, legislation, and legal action as well as what it means to be a “Upstander.”

Listen above and be sure to email us if you or someone you know would like to be featured on our podcast.

For more information on David’s Legacy Foundation, please visit: www.davidslegacy.org
www.facebook.com/davidslegacyfoundation/
twitter.com/Davids_Legacy

Summer Camps And Using Tech To Enable The Best Experience

It’s Summer Camp Season.

It’s the time of year when kids get fired up for corkscrew water slides, flag football games, and field trips to the aquarium. All the excitement will undoubtedly bring a smile to their faces, but the elaborate bells and whistles are not only what determines whether kids have fun at summer camp or not.

It’s all about the friendships. When children establish a group of friends who make them happy, all of the activities are a blast. They can’t wait to step on the bus in the morning and hate to leave when camp is over.

No zipline in the world is going to excite a child if they are facing a problem with the other campers, though.

Parents hope that their kids will have fun, while also learning integral life skills—how to be more resilient, more kind, and more fulfilled young adults. The best camp experiences offer infinite opportunities for children to build character whether that be through working collaboratively in a team sport or resolving differences with respect and understanding.

The camps that succeed in providing these rich experiences are beloved by kids and parents alike.

Summer Is Even Better When Tech Helps Protect A Camp’s Core Identity

While we all hope for the perfect summer for every child, we know that issues of bullying, depression, and harassment can and do threaten to mar an otherwise great experience. Every camp should have a plan to address these problems and train their staff members to handle them quickly and thoroughly.

Technology can help accomplish those goals by protecting the camp’s identity and strengthening the dialogue between patrons and staff members. Since kids (and let’s face it, adults, too) are inseparable from their mobile devices, apps are a great way to send messages and share information about issues that arise during camp.

If a kid is picking on or using inappropriate language toward another camper, respond by halting the behavior immediately and provide everyone with information about the realities of bullying. Show campers how they can be an upstander in situations like these. STOPit Solutions offers partners a robust social emotional learning library (SEL) with carefully curated, evidence-based content on a spectrum of issues that affect the health and wellbeing of children and young adults from healthy body-image, to bullying, anxiety, cyber-stalking, and depression.

Two-way messaging is also a great way for camp counselors, kids, and administrators to stay in touch during the incident. There are several good apps that facilitate this kind of successful communication. STOPit Solutions is among the growing crop of easy, intuitive, and effective apps for fostering conversations between young people and grown-ups. Its broadcast feature makes it possible to send messages to every camper who has downloaded the app, which can be useful in times when an administrator would like to address an emerging problem or incident.

And what about those anonymous reporting apps we read about? Do camps need one?

Yes. Medium recently reported, as much as 60 percent of bullying in camps goes unreported. The need is real.

An anonymous reporting option is an effective way to deter problems before they take root. It gives kids a chance to help when they spot a friend in trouble, without the fear of retaliation or being labeled a “tattletale.” Anonymous reporting also gives camp administrators the ability to report incidents that counselors might miss.

When kids reach out through STOPit, administrators can respond with follow-up questions and let the dialogue flow, just like young people do with their friends in a thread of texts.

Leave with more than just fond memories

Besides fond memories of bonfires and canoe rides, thirty years from now camp directors want their kids-turned-parents, aunts, and uncles to be able to remember more than the perfectly toasted marshmallows as why they loved their summer camp experiences. With any luck, the real-life lessons learned at camp in the midst of making those memories will be the reason parents send their own kids.

Call STOPit Solutions today to find out how anonymous reporting can help build those kinds of family traditions and make every child’s memory of camp a happy one.

For more information about bullying prevention in summer camps, visit this resource page from the American Camp Association.

Is Your Phone Summer Ready? It’s Time to Start Summer Hours for Your Mobile Device!

For millions of American workers, Memorial Day weekend not only ushered in the unofficial start of summer, but the official start of summer hours. According to the Washington Post, around 40 percent of American companies now offer some version of the summer Friday perk to keep power charges low and recharge workers’ mental batteries.

So how about setting summer hours for our mobile device use? If you’re like most Americans, you can use it.

A mounting body of research shows cell phone addiction is a pervasive problem that’s deteriorating our health in numerous ways – anxiety, depression, loss of sleep, even wrist and hand pains. We know we’re on them too much, yet we do it anyway.

Dr. Jenna Meyerberg, PhD, LPC, an authority on youth social and emotional development, has written extensively about how living in an age of instant communication and nearly unlimited access to information is having a significant, negative impact on people. STOPit Solutions recently had an opportunity to sit with Dr. Meyerberg and talk about electronics addiction on the STOPit Solutions Podcast. In addition to providing helpful suggestions for encouraging everyone to unplug and being more present in real life (aka “IRL”), she shares  evidence-based research proving that people who are more disciplined in their online habits have higher self-esteem and confidence than their tech-obsessed peers.

These statistics and trends may feel oppressive, but the fact is that we DO have control over our own behavior and there’s no better time for a break than now. The beaches are open, the sun is out until 8:30 at night, and the warm breeze smells like flowers, the neighbor’s barbecue and freshly cut grass. Go out and enjoy it! Read on for a few simple ways we can institute summer hours for our phones and tablets.

 

Make a Plan and Apply It

A good way to start is to diagnose the ailment and set your cure. Both Apple and Google now have apps (Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing, respectively) that can tell you how much time you’re spending on your devices, with breakdowns by specific apps and categories.

Those who haven’t checked their stats before may be in for a shock. Studies have suggested that Americans check their phones once every 12 minutes – or roughly 80 times per day – and spend about four hours on them daily. Thankfully, Screen Time and Digital Wellbeing can be programmed to enforce time limits for your apps and lock them if you’ve crossed the line.

Take a look at your averages, come up with realistic goals for curbing your time and use these apps to hold you to them. Can you cut your app use by an hour per day? Two? Take the challenge!

No-Go Times

The dinner table used to be a family’s impenetrable bubble from the world. Kids told mom and dad what they learned in school and there were no interruptions allowed from the TV or ringing phones. Now everyone at the table is glued to Twitter and video games while they chew.

We can all make a meaningful dent in our gadget use by declaring them off-limits at times when good manners dictate they should be off anyway. Set a rule that they’re not allowed in the same room as the dinner table. Apply the same standards to times that are meant to be about family and friends – summer vacation trips, graduation parties, the annual golf outing. You can never get those moments back.

And if you’re out for a meal with friends, encourage everyone to pile them in the center of the table with the sound off. First person to give in picks up the check!

Be a Cellular Role Model

If you want to make summer hours stick with your kids, do as you say and say as you do. Like just about anything with parenting, it’s easy to dictate a bunch of rules and quite another thing to enforce them. If you lecture your kids about a bad behavior and then model it in front of them, they won’t take the lesson seriously or follow it.

If you lay down a “no Kindle before summer camp” rule, don’t let them see you glued to Facebook over your morning coffee. Show them it can be done.

Think about ways you can make summer hours a family affair. If everyone in your house is a part of the challenge, you can hold each other accountable and set up fun prizes for those who reach their goals.

And who knows — once summer hours are over and schools are back in session, maybe some of these healthy, new habits will stick. To paraphrase an old saying, “An app less per day keeps the doctor away.”

Into Action

Download our tip sheet and hang it on the refrigerator and home and work — or pass it along to a friend who you can recruit to take the challenge with you.

For extra satisfaction, write down what you did during the hour (or two) you reclaimed each day. Did you get an extra hour of sleep? Take the time to cook your favorite meal? Walk the dog on a new trail or have that family movie night you keep talking about? Let’s work together to live healthier, happier lives — right now! 

A Look At The Year Ahead: 2019 Bullying Statistics & Trends

By Neil Hooper, COO of STOPit Solutions

The most recent year once again experienced not only some horrible acts of school shooting, but some emerging jarring and tragic statistics on concerning youth behavior.  Bullying and the effects of bullying continues to grow, and we need to remember not to sideline this arguably even more brutal topic while we also address student and school safety.

Finding ways to address bullying is part of our company’s DNA. STOPit Solutions was founded in 2013 on a seemingly normal day after a story on the radio aired and turned out to change our lives forever.  The radio story reminded us of the tragic story of Amanda Todd, a victim of aggressive cyberbullying.  She suffered aggressive online predation and the cruel and relentless taunting by her peers led to her taking her own life at just 15 years old. Amanda had shared her story via flashcards in a YouTube video that caught the world’s attention. We believed the key to helping youth like Amanda and others is to empower them with technology to ask for help.

While school safety remains in the forefront of our minds and tools like STOPit encourages reporting of known issues, the ongoing social and emotional impact of bullying of people like Amanda and its effects are an every day challenge that we are driven to help our school partners address.

In fact, according to numerous studies, including one recently from author Gary Ladd, a psychology researcher at Arizona State University in Tempe, not only does bullying at school affect students’ emotional and social lives, it also directly affects their schoolwork and engagement in the classroom.  

“Nationally, there have been high-profile suicides and school districts trying to implement bully prevention programs,” Ladd commented. “Teachers, parents, school administrators and anyone who knows a school-age kid should understand these effects.”

Ladd’s team found that children who are most chronically bullied are the most likely to have low school engagement, academic self-perception and academic achievement, particularly in math.

According to a study from UCLA, every day more than 280,000 students are physically attacked in schools and one out of ten students who drop out of school, mentions repeated bullying as a factor. Jaana Juvonen, a professor of psychology at UCLA and lead author of the study, states that bullying and low academic achievement are frequently linked. Juvonen is quoted saying, “Students who are repeatedly bullied receive poorer grades and participate less in class discussions. […] Students may get mislabeled as low achievers because they do not want to speak up in class for fear of getting bullied.” Juvenon also remarked that, “Once students get labeled as ‘dumb,’ they get picked on and perform even worse.”

Additionally, in a study from researchers at the University at Buffalo, teens that are victims of cyberbullying are likely to suffer from poor sleep which contributes depression.

The stats around the effects of bullying are staggering and continuous, which is why if we want to keep our kids in school and give them the best possible chance of succeeding, as well as have our students achieve higher academic ratings, reducing and eliminating bullying is a leading contributing factor. 

Beyond affecting grades, the social and emotional learning (SEL) and self-harm statistics generally linked to bullying are hard to ignore.  The most recent data from the CDC confirms a 70% – 77% increase in teen suicide rates over the past 10 years, and the increase is seen in virtually every state in the nation.

Additional data from the CDC confirm that for ages 10-14 and ages 15-24, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the nation (ahead of homicide or health related issues).

The issues span gender, race and socioeconomics, and virtually every statistic related to this topic have been rising year over year over the past 10 years.

Bullyingstatistics.org tells us that:

  • For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.
  • Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it

Youth suicide is an incredibly difficult event for families, schools, and entire communities. The fact remains in study after study: Being the victim of bullying can deeply affect a young person and the entire community around them and it’s time to put local programs in place to help our schools with their specific issues. From locally implemented anonymous reporting to help youth speak up, through integrated SEL content to assist issues as they arise, we look forward to a day when our schools have the tools they need to help our children with these new threats to their wellbeing.

The STOPit Solutions premise is simple: Bullying isn’t done in private. Bullies want attention and their action are witnessed. It is seen and heard, and we need to empower bystanders to become upstanders. We all know the concerns surrounding the stigma of speaking up, so in order to get the conversation started we empower anonymous reporting—and it works. In STOPit schools that consistently use the platform to get ahead of issues before they spiral out of control, the school culture becomes a more inclusive and protective community.  Stopping bullying can begin with the help of fellow students, and using STOPit is an integral component of that strategy.

Want to find out more about how STOPit Solutions can help your organization?

Educators Play An Important Role In Reinforcing Critical Social & Emotional Learning

It was National Teacher Appreciation Week this month, and we have more to say “thank you” for these days than ever. The seven hours per day, five days per week that students spend with their teachers is an opportunity for school-aged children to learn more than reading, writing and arithmetic lessons.

More and more, superior teaching programs and ongoing professional development requirements continue to elevate the profession, and kids in the classroom benefit from more a more complex, connected curriculum that includes best practices in technology and Social Emotional Learning:

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, establish and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. SEL is critical to developing competencies besides academic content knowledge that are necessary to succeed in college and in careers. Effective SEL programming begins in preschool and continues through high school. SEL programming is based on the understanding that the best learning emerges in the context of supportive relationships that make learning challenging, engaging, and meaningful. — The National Education Association, Backgrounder: The Importance of Social Emotional Learning For All Students Across All Grades

Parents are the alpha and omega when setting the example and teaching their kids important lessons about empathy, compassion, critical thinking, conflict resolution and decision-making. This week, we encourage parents to seize the opportunity to forge even stronger partnership with teachers who are increasingly equipped through education and special training to reinforce these critical Social Emotional Learning lessons.

Parent-Teacher Compact, 3.0

Technology has both complicated and bolstered our work, and our K-12 classrooms are no exception to this fact. Like all tools, technology has the power to enable wonderful progress, or inflict damage when used carelessly or without skill. In our schools and in our homes, it has created digital minefields where children can inflict emotional damage on one another on and off school grounds, around the clock.

It has also provided new avenues for parents and teachers to make each other more successful.

Not long ago, parents’ only option for contacting teachers off hours was to call them at home, a step that felt intrusive for a non-emergency. Now parents can use social media, email and texts for something as simple as a homework assignment question, to far more serious discussions about a child getting bullied online.

Parents should keep those lines of communication open so they’re better aware of what’s going on in the classroom and the SEL lessons being emphasized, according to Melissa Straub, founder of High Impact Youth Training Solutions.

“Educators have a really hard battle and their hearts are in the right place,” Straub said. “Most of them have the tools and the educational foundation to provide these wonderful gifts of SEL – teaching kids all about good things like empathy, conflict resolution and emotion management. It’s just a matter of getting the message out there and getting the parents to back them up.”

One of the most important ways parents can do that is by modeling behavior that reinforces what’s being taught in school. Straub noted that if you lecture a child about taking a break from their cell phones or not reacting emotionally to a social media post, the lessons won’t hold if they see you’re not following your own rules.

SEL Lessons Protect Our Kids and Reveal Their Strengths, IF They’re Equipped & Practiced

Straub is also the founder and lead investigator for Without A Trace Investigations, which specializes in social media-related investigations, including cybercrime, cyberbullying, sexting and other social networking issues. She stressed that one of the most important things parents can do to promote good digital citizenship and support SEL efforts is to talk long and hard with their children about the internet before giving them access to it.

Teens have to navigate a literal obstacle course of road cones, study written materials and drive under adult supervision for months before receiving a driver’s license, she noted. They need nothing of the sort to enter the digital world.

“Before handing over this wonderful gift of technology, a lot of parents don’t stop to think, ‘Are these children ready for this? Have I talked to them about safety concerns?’” Straub said. “Don’t fall to peer pressure. Make your own decision on when they’re ready.”

STOPit Solutions is the only anonymous reporting application to offer SEL resources for educators and student users. The STOPit SEL Center contains an easy-to-search database of articles, studies, video, audio and other content covering topics from cyberbullying to depression. Administrators can share links to SEL content with individual students, or use the platform’s broadcast feature to send information to a full student body at once.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) also offers a comprehensive collection of SEL tools and resources to inform and support parents, educators and other stakeholders. Much of this information is free and available to the public online.

Curious  how our  anonymous reporting system and SEL Center can help teachers and parents collaborate successfully in your school? 

And, be sure to #thankateacher!

Summer Break Soon For Schools, But Legislators Across the Country Continue To Advance Anti-Bullying Laws Nationwide

We’re just over a quarter of the way through the year, but 2019 has already seen significant developments in the nation’s state houses regarding bullying and harassment.

The following is a snapshot of recent activity by state:

ARIZONA: With bipartisan support in the State Legislature, Gov. Doug Ducey repealed a 1991 law this month that barred public school teachers from portraying “homosexuality as a positive alternative lifestyle” in the classroom. The move was spurred by a lawsuit filed on behalf of two teens who contended the law had destructive impacts on LGBTQ students – namely, that it held teachers back from building tolerance among student bodies and contributed to bullying. “I am so proud of this 12-year-old and this 15-year-old for standing up and suing our state to do the right thing, because today’s vote is long overdue,” Rep. Andrés Cano said on the Arizona House floor. ” Our schools should be safe; they should be inclusive; they should be free from harassment, bullying and stigmatization.”

INDIANA: The Indiana House of Representatives rejected a measure that would have required private schools that accept state funding to follow the same anti-bullying rules as their public school counterparts. According to a report by WRTV of Indianapolis, the bill called for non-public schools to implement a protocol for investigating incidents, timetables for sharing information about incidents with police and parents, and to offer anonymous reporting option for students, among other steps. More encouraging for Indiana, is House Bill 1607, legislation that would allow students to get a protective order to stop bullying including cyberbullying.

MARYLAND: “Grace’s Law 2.0” will carry stronger fines and jail terms for cyberbullying and make offenses easier to prosecute. The law was named after Grace McComas, a 15-year-old who committed suicide in 2012 after being victimized online. McComas’s parents were on hand as Gov. Larry Hogan signed the bill into law this month. One of the most prominent changes to the law makes it an offense to post harassing content online for the consumption of a broad audience, even if the target of the bullying doesn’t see it.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Charlie Baker re-filed a bill in February that aims to modernize the law regarding revenge porn, sexting and cyberbullying. The legislation would provide prosecutors with new flexibility to enroll minors who are caught sharing sexually explicit images with their peers into educational diversion programs, rather than charging them for the distribution or possession of child pornography. It would also require schools to educate their students on the harm they can cause by sharing sexual images with others as a means of bullying. In addition, the law would close a prosecution loophole for those over 18 who share images that were taken consensually for the purposes of revenge or embarrassment. The bill was first proposed in 2017, but failed to clear the Legislature at the time.

NEW JERSEY: The state became the second in the nation to require public school districts to develop an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum. Signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in February, the legislation will ensure that instructional materials reflect the political, economic and social contributions of LGBTQ Americans and people with disabilities. The advocacy group, Garden State Equality, celebrated the announcement, noting in a statement that reflecting more diversity in class lessons “will cultivate respect towards minority groups, allow students to appreciate differences, and acquire the skills and knowledge needed to function effectively with people of various backgrounds.”

NEW MEXICO: The Safe Schools for All Students Act will require school boards to enact comprehensive bullying prevention policies and procedures by New Year’s Day. Signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April, the act demands schools provide avenues for reporting bullying (both orally in their preferred language and anonymously), a process for investigating complaints of bullying, due  process for students accused of bullying, and a range of disciplinary measures for students found to have bullied other students. The law specifically cites the need for better protecting LGBTQ students and demands that schools’ new bullying policies be communicated in various languages in student handbooks. Schools will also have to report annually on their progress implementing the act.

NORTH DAKOTA: State officials amended North Dakota’s 2011 anti-bullying law to require that schools develop plans for addressing online abuse taking place off school grounds. Although some officials expressed reservations about schools becoming liable for off-campus incidents, the bill overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Legislative Assembly and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in April. The law calls for schools to get involved in situations where electronic communications initiated off grounds  place the student in “actual and reasonable fear” of harm and “interferes with the student’s educational opportunities or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the public school.” It also requires school district personnel to notify police if they have a reasonable suspicion that a crime might have occurred on or off school property.

 Click here to learn more about anti-bullying laws, policies and regulations on the books throughout the U.S.

Want more info on anti-bullying legislation in your state?

Not Hopeless: Integrating Trauma-Informed Care To Positively Impact Youth Considering Self-Harm

Note: This post may trigger an adverse reaction. If it is beginning to upset you, please stop reading and talk to your support team.

Young people who take their own lives: know the warning signs of mental illness

We are saddened by the continuing statistics surfacing around youth suicide, including the 2 most recent in Parkland, Florida. While school safety is the largest visible topic that we address across the country with our STOPit platform, the hidden issue we address far more commonly relates to youth depression, mental illness and suicidal thoughts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for every child lost in a school violence/shooting in the United States, there are 25 lost to suicide. In fact, upwards of 6% of the reports we receive on our platform each week in K12 schools are tied to suicide.

School shootings need to end, and at STOPit we are dedicated to continuing to help avoid planned attacks and violence with our approach that encourages bystanders to become upstanders. However, for every school threat avoided, we help avoid significantly more self harm incidents thanks again to upstanders using STOPit. It is clear that youth suicide is an epidemic that should emerge as an equally high priority in the wake of recent tragedies.

As such, we teamed up with Strive, a trauma-informed outpatient recovery program, to discuss how they have implemented evidence-based techniques to help individuals, schools, and communities heal from the results of trauma. As experts in this field, they have a valuable perspective on how to help avoid these events before they occur and how to implement effective programs if they ever did.

Q: Let’s start with the environment before there is a tragedy. Students often know when their friends are struggling. They recognize telltale signs and behaviors that are indicators of broader issues. How do you communicate with schools and their students about the importance of saying something, knowing this?

Strive: We point out to schools that students, who spend all their time with their peers, notice much more than the more openly troubling behaviors of their friends.

There are the obviously dangerous behaviors: John is getting into fights where he never did before. Mary is smoking (marijuana). Someone is cutting themselves (self-harm).

But there are also more subtle warning signs. It takes training and education to notice these:

– “My friend doesn’t want to do the things he used to love to do; he won’t play Lacrosse anymore, say.” Hearing this, a counselor might ask, “Why not? Is your friend under pressure not to fail? Is he being mocked? Threatened?”

– “I notice that Jennifer is only eating salads lately. And she’s dressing differently.”

– “My buddy Tom is suddenly eating alone in the cafeteria and doesn’t talk much.”

These are all behaviors which might point to depression, anxiety, or social tensions.  Students, and frankly many adults, won’t pick up on them because they seem inconsequential. But to counselors, they might turn out to be important indicators, warning signs.

We don’t want to over diagnosis; but we must be aware.

The key point is, to notice these things takes education and training, for all of us, and especially for young people. Then they need an accessible way to report them, a way they will accept and use within their own value system.

Q: We all went to school, and we know the feeling at that age that it’s socially risky to “get other kids into trouble.

Strive: Yes, kids have their culture, and it seems risky to ‘tattle’, to tip off the school or parents to these issues, especially regarding the bigger problems. But we believe we can change this attitude for many young people. We try hard to reach young people about caring, and real responsibility for their friends.  Couple this approach with a way of reporting behaviors anonymously, and schools and parents can begin receiving — literally — life-saving information.

Q: Can you talk a little about the importance of 24/7 monitoring; so not only in school but also after school?

Strive: Yes, a few points on this are important to understand.

In the evenings, young people can become disconnected from their social milieu even though they may think that social media substitutes. Weekends, especially Sundays, the “reentry day,” can become problematic for young people with anxiety or depression. So 24/7 family support and awareness, and if necessary, communicating back to school counselors is critical.

Young people express anxiety and depression differently than adults.  While adults may become saddened or suppressed, young people are likely to become irritable, or transfer emotional pain to their bodies, as chronic pain, or headaches, or even stomach aches. Adolescents can become resistant and antagonistic as any parent knows.

We believe it’s important to have a set dinner time, preferably with the phones turned off. Behavioral issues are a disease of disconnection, so we urge families to connect and listen.

We don’t want to become helicopter parents, but we do want to keep a line in.

Q: As a service provider addressing trauma, you deal first-hand with children’s safety and that must, at times, feel daunting. How do you stay positive and what is your advice to those  that are feeling overwhelmed by the statistics around self harm and suicide in our youth?

Strive: You said it! We are exposed to trauma every day, sometimes all day and it isn’t easy.   But trauma is not the only phenomenon in this life. We urge people to express gratitude, with intention and with honest feeling for the wonderful people and beautiful things that do happen around us. One clinician at Strive creates a “gratitude list.” There are clinicians and clients who balance the bad by making a point of helping— a friend, a social agency. And hey, you can turn off the cable TV every so often.

We thank Strive for helping us with the discussion around this difficult topic and we appreciate the Strive Cares perspective.

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Are you, or is someone you know, struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm?

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers, and provides free and confidential emotional support to people who are in crisis, or experiencing emotional distress, 24/7. For immediate assistance, call 1-800-273-8255.

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