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Wednesday Churn: State bullying efforts

What’s churning:

The U.S. Department of Education has released a new report that looks at state efforts to combat bullying. The Analysis of State Bullying Laws and Policies report summarizes approaches in those 46 states with anti-bullying laws and in 41 states that have created anti-bullying policies as models for schools.

From 1999 to 2010, more than 120 bills were enacted by state legislatures from across the country to either introduce or amend statutes that address bullying and related behaviors in schools. Twenty-one new bills were enacted in 2010, and eight additional bills were signed into law through last April 30, according to a department news release.

Out of the 46 states with anti-bullying laws in place, 36 have provisions that prohibit cyber bullying, and 13 have statutes that grant schools the authority to address off-campus behavior that creates a hostile school environment.

“Every state should have effective bullying prevention efforts in place to protect children inside and outside of school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “This report reveals that while most states have enacted legislation around this important issue, a great deal of work remains to ensure adults are doing everything possible to keep our kids safe.”

The report, nearly 200 pages with appendices and detailed charts, found that Colorado state bullying laws covered 8 of 16 key components and district policy sub-components. (No state had all 18 but 30 states had 10 or more.) Another analysis looked at “extent of expansiveness for state bullying legislation” and again Colorado’s laws lagged the pack. In this rating, Colorado was given an 11 out of a possible 32 possible points. (No state had all 32 but 16 states had 20 or more points; Washington and Maryland had 30 points.)

The 2011 legislative session produced H.B. 1254, which expanded the legal definition of bullying, created a donation-funded grant program for “evidence-based” district anti-bullying efforts and encouraged all districts to conduct biennial surveys on bullying and create anti-bullying teams.

The first Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit, hosted in August 2010 by the department and other federal agencies, brought together government officials, researchers, policymakers, and education practitioners to explore strategies to combat bullying in schools. Following the summit, the department’s Policy and Program Studies Service contracted researchers to compile the analysis on state laws and policies. Researchers reviewed and coded legislation and policy documents in every state across the country along with an additional sample of 20 local school districts. A follow-up study will aim to identify how state laws translate into practice at the school level. Report

About 12 percent of all charter schools in the country have collective bargaining agreements. None of those schools are in Colorado, however, so this may come as a surprise. Why do charter schools unionize? Are the resulting agreements innovative or models for union reforms?

A new study from the University of Washington’s Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) found that charter school collective bargaining agreements tend to be more streamlined and provide for greater flexibility than the typical district contract.

The report, Are Charter School Unions Worth the Bargain? concludes: “When charter schools do unionize, whether by design or as a result of teacher organizing, union contracts can be crafted in ways that respect the unique missions and priorities of charter schools, provide teachers with basic protections, and maintain organizational flexibility.”

Compared with typical district contracts, the report found that charter school pacts are more likely to align with their schools’ innovative instructional programs, including:

  • Faster grievance processes. Two unionized charter schools in Chicago require fewer than 50 days, compared to 155 days in the Chicago school district.
  • Explicit avenues for teacher input on organizational decisions, including ways of resolving disagreements other than just contract expansion.
  • More discretion for principals to determine layoff criteria. Seven of the nine charter school contracts allow for the use of teacher performance as a factor in layoff decisions, compared to only 25 percent of the traditional contracts.
  • Longer and more flexible workdays and school years. For instance, typical district contracts include 188 days for instruction and teacher professional development, while the charter school contracts include 194 days.

Follow this link to read the full report.

Good reads from elsewhere:

“We sorely need a smarter, more coherent vision of the federal role in K-12 education,” write the authors of “How to Rescue Education Reform” in The New York Times. The authors are well-known names in education reform circles — Frederick M. Hess is director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute and Linda-Darling Hammond is a professor of education at Stanford. “Under our system, dictates from Congress turn into gobbledygook as they travel from the Education Department to state education agencies and then to local school districts. Educators end up caught in a morass of prescriptions and prohibitions, bled of the initiative and energy that characterize effective schools,” the pair writes. Column

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