Sunday, December 8, 2019
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Principals call on DeVos not to abandon students

The executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals claimed at a conference in Chicago Thursday that US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the US Education Department can do better in defending the rights of the nation’s most vulnerable students, Education Week reports.

JoAnn Bartoletti told principals from across the country at the National Principals’ Conference that the US should “recommit” itself to student equity instead of signaling through its actions that it has no intention of standing up for students’ rights.

She added that the department’s “misguided push to privatize education and ‘commoditize’ our children” has caused it to “reject its commitment to educational equity”:

From rescinding transgender rights guidance, to summarily dismissing numerous civil right cases without review, to endorsing local leaders who call ICE on students in flagrant violation of federal law, to Title [IX] decisions that restrict the rights of rape victims and LGBT students, to the most recent threat to rescind discipline guidance NASSP helped create to protect minority students, this administration sends a clear message to our most vulnerable kids. The message being sent is: “We have no intention of defending your rights.”

(NASSP via Twitter)

The US Education Department rescinded guidance last year that required schools to allow transgender students access to restrooms, locker rooms, and sex-segregated classes that align with their gender identity, as opposed to their biological sex. Ms Bartoletti said that “canned” responses from Ms DeVos were sending the wrong message to vulnerable students.

There’s little doubt the #MeToo Movement has emboldened people to come forward to accuse former teachers of sexual impropriety and even assault.

The Trump administration’s moves described above are considered anti-Title IX and, some say, encourage a growing body of defamation lawsuits that provide both a measurable backlash against the #MeToo Movement and an instrument of intimidation against potential victims and whistle-blowers who might otherwise come forward to report sexual predators to authorities, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

In addition, the recent protests against gun violence may have caused Ms DeVos to try to silence the voices of students, inadvertently or not. A recent report from the US Secret Service shows that there’s no single profile for a violent school shooter but offers positive steps schools and school leaders can take to confront the problem, including listening to students.

There have been male and female attackers, high-achieving students with good grades as well as poor performers. These acts of violence were committed by students who were loners and socially isolated, and those who were well-liked and popular. Rather than focusing solely on a student’s personality traits or school performance, we can learn much more about a student’s risk for violence by working through the threat assessment process, which is designed to gather the most relevant information about the student’s communications and behaviors, the negative or stressful events the student has experienced, and the resources the student possesses to overcome those setbacks and challenges.

Principals from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and from Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico, where school shootings occurred earlier this year, were on hand at the conference. But Ms Bartoletti credited the student voice with raising awareness of the issue of gun-related school violence.

“Their voices are loud and strong because of their public schools,” she said, according to prepared remarks. “Their public schools taught them crucial knowledge and skills, then empowered them to use their knowledge and skills in the realest of real-world settings. We need to repeat that loud enough for everyone to hear it back in Washington. But just as important, those students should remind us of our shared call to cultivate student voice.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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