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Did you know April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)? Observed by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, school communities, survivors, allies, and many others, this national campaign is an opportunity to address the issue of sexual assault, while educating, raising awareness, and empowering others to take a stand against sexual violence.

This SAAM, we encourage you to know the facts. Click here to access our Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention fact sheet where you’ll find quick facts, tips, and reporting resources to bookmark.

Remember that your voice has power. Use it to support survivors and bring awareness to your school community.

From contact tracing to diagnosing signs of anxiety in students, school nurses have taken on much more during the pandemic. Now, lawmakers in states like Texas and North Carolina are proposing legislation that requires more districts to employ full-time nurses in schools. This article details school nurses’ integral role in fighting COVID-19 and keeping our school communities safe.

Last September, as Covid-19 vaccine candidates were rapidly advancing, Katherine Park and six of her fellow school nurses in St. Louis County, Mo., envisioned school-based vaccination sites as an extension of the district’s pandemic response plan, which they had been working on for months. They reached out to the local health department, letting it know the district had buildings for use and more than 30 school nurses who could jump in on administering shots.

“Honestly, our health department here was kind of surprised that we even reached out to them,” said Park, who is also the interim director of health services at Parkway Schools, a public school district in western St. Louis County. “It’s almost like they had never really considered they could utilize us.”

Park said that many people don’t realize how much school nurses do to manage student health care on a daily basis, from administering insulin injections to giving seasonal flu vaccinations.

Read this full article in STAT: ‘A wild year’: School nurses greatly expand role with Covid-19 vaccinations, contact tracing

Parents are scared not just of the bullying in school but also of the harassment other adults could direct at their families on the way to school.

A New York City principal said the families of many of her Asian American students have been fearful as heightened levels of anti-Asian sentiment continue alongside the coronavirus pandemic and with violence toward Asian Americans gaining more national attention.

Racist incidents and attacks on members of the Asian community in public have, in part, persuaded some families not to send their children back to in-person schooling, administrators say.

The New York administrator, whose school has a Title I distinction — meaning it has a significant percentage of low-income students — said students’ “fear is real even if they are two blocks away from school.

Read this full article in NBC News: Amid attacks, school principals concerned over Asian Americans’ return to class

For community resources, information, and to report anti-Asian incidents in English and 11 Asian languages, visit Stop AAPI Hate.

Here are some links to resources for families and educators to discuss this issue with students from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP):

The inauguration of Joe Biden takes place this week. The President-elect recently proposed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package which includes new aid for K-12 and higher education. Here are the details on his approach, which has been called a “rescue plan” aimed at reopening schools.

(Updated 1/14) A new, $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed by President-elect Joe Biden would dedicate an additional $170 billion for K-12 schools and higher education, as well as spending billions more to prop up the state and local governments that are critical to funding education.

Biden’s announcement comes less that a month since Congress approved a $900 billion Covid relief package that included about $82 billion for education. The December 2020 package provides:

  • $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, largely delivered through Title I funding. That’s about four times what schools received in the CARES Act approved in March.
  • $22.7 billion for higher education with $1.7 billion set aside for minority-serving institutions and close to $1 billion for for-profit colleges
  • $4 billion for governors to spend at their discretion, with $2.7 billion of that for private schools.Biden’s proposal would put another $130 billion toward K-12 schools and $35 billion to support higher education institutions. Another $5 billion would go to governors to use at their discretion for the “hardest hit” K-12, higher education or early education programs. The K-12 dollars would be focused on helping schools reopen, though the allowable uses would be quite broad, A portion would be used challenge grants focused on educational equity.

Read this full article in FutureEd: What Congressional Covid Funding Means for K-12 Schools

As schools grapple with reopening plans across the country, education leaders, teachers unions, and parents clash over what they believe to be the safest path forward. A recent study offers new insights about how school impacts public health.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, experts and educators have feared that open schools would spread the coronavirus further, which is why so many classrooms remain closed. But a new, nationwide study suggests reopening schools may be safer than previously thought, at least in communities where the virus is not already spreading out of control.

The study comes from REACH, the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice, at Tulane University. Up to this point, researchers studying the public health effects of school reopening have focused largely on positivity rates. As in, did the rate of positive coronavirus tests among kids or communities increase after schools reopened?

Read this full article in NPR: Where Is It Safe To Reopen Schools? New Research Offers Answers

During the pandemic, most schools have been tasked with reaching students online.  However, finding way to engage, connect with, and reach students –especially those without reliable internet access or tech devices–has been an extraordinary challenge. Now, educators and local tv stations have teamed up for a creative solution to engage students at home.

Nearly every weekday morning, Valentin Vivar curls up in bed next to his older sister, Araceli, and switches on one of his favorite television shows.

The hourlong program, “Let’s Learn NYC!”, isn’t typical children’s fare. Valentin, 5, watches as educators from New York City public schools teach math and science, sing songs and take viewers on virtual field trips to botanical gardens and dance performances. Araceli, 17, is there to help out.

After the coronavirus pandemic shut down their schools in March, the siblings attended virtual classes from their apartment in Queens on Araceli’s iPhone. Their parents could not afford another device, and their class attendance was sporadic because sometimes both had school at the same time. Valentin, who needed speech therapy, was missing out on conversations with classmates, and he was struggling to pronounce words.

Then a teacher told them about the television program, and Valentin was hooked. He sounded out letters and words and formed strong bonds with the teachers he saw onscreen.

Now, Valentin “wants to read books by himself, and he’s writing new words,” Araceli said. “I really like to see him learn and grow.”

Around the country, educators and local television stations have teamed up to help teachers make their broadcast debuts and engage children who are stuck in the doldrums of distance learning. The idea — in some ways a throwback to the early days of public television — has supplemented online lessons for some families, and serves a more critical role: reaching students who, without reliable internet access or a laptop at home, have been left behind.

Read this full article:

New York Times: Teachers on TV? Schools Try Creative Strategy to Narrow Digital Divide

Over the weekend, the CDC director and FDA gave final approval for emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccine in the US.  As questions surrounding efficacy and distribution arise, some school and public health officials say vaccination requirements may be on the way.

Note: The recent authorization is for people 16 and older. 

…pediatricians and school and public health officials are bracing themselves for and bristling against the onslaught of questioners asking the one thing they don’t want to talk about. At least not yet, anyway.

Will children be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to school?

“You hear the questions about whether vaccines should be mandatory or not,” says Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s not the question to be asking right now.”

“The questions to be asking right now are, ‘Is it effective? Is it going to be free? Is it widely accessible?'” she says. “What we’re not doing right now – regardless of what I personally think – we’re not weighing in on whether a vaccine should be mandatory or not right now because that’s not an appropriate question right now.”

The caveats of “right now,” “yet” and “at this moment” do a lot of heavy lifting in conversations about immunization requirements, and that’s because the answer is complicated and not as straightforward as parents would probably like. Not only does it depend on where families live, as different states have different vaccination requirements for schools, but it also depends on drug companies enrolling more children in their trials in order to amass enough data to show – as most pediatricians and public health experts fully expect – that it’s efficacious and safe in children.

Read this full article in US News: No Vaccine, No School?

Additional Resources about the Pfizer vaccine:

New coronavirus measures emerge as states across the country experience a surge in cases.  In California, two of five designated regions dropped below hospital ICU capacity, resulting in new stay-at-home orders as of Sunday at 11:59pm PST.  All schools and day camps may remain open if they adhere to reopening protocols, but schools with three positive COVID-19 cases or more over 14 days must close for two weeks. 

A new stay-at-home order will be imposed on Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley Sunday night, as the coronavirus crisis spirals out of control with a speed that has exceeded health officials’ most dire projections.

Some 33 million Californians will be subject to the new order, representing 84% of the state’s population. The state mandated the restrictions in the Southland and Central Valley as capacity at hospitals’ intensive care units hit dangerously low levels. Five Bay Area counties will also begin lockdown restrictions in the coming days despite not yet reaching the threshold at which such action is mandated by the state.

The rules are less sweeping than California’s pioneering stay-at-home order in the spring, which is credited with slowing the first COVID-19 wave. But the new order will change daily life for many, especially in suburban Southern California counties like Orange and Ventura, which so far have enjoyed more open economies than hard-hit Los Angeles County.

Read this full article in the LA Times33 million Californians face COVID-19 stay-at-home order that will restrict movements and business

Thank you to the national leaders who joined our December School Safety Leadership Roundtable to share insights on the most pressing issues regarding school safety:

  • Jim Accomando, Past President of National Parent Teacher Association
  • Elizabeth Brown, Principal & Member of National Association of Secondary School Principals
  • Mo Canady, National Association of School Resource Officers
  • Sharon Newport, Executive Director of Door Security & Safety Foundation
  • Melissa Randol, Executive Director of Missouri School Boards Association & Member of National School Boards Association
  • Melissa Reeves, Past President of National Association of School Psychologists
  • Paul Timm, Physical Security Professional at Facility Engineering Associates

This month, we’ll be sharing some of the panel’s key insights on our social handles.

Make sure to follow Safe and Sound Schools: 

 

Ransomware is a kind of malicious software that encrypts a victim’s files.  Attackers will typically demand ransom in exchange for restored access to those files.  Therefore, understanding how ransomware technology evolves is key for school leaders to remain vigilant and protect against it.

The public schools in Baltimore County, Md., will remain closed Monday and Tuesday as officials respond to a cyberattack that forced the district to cancel remote classes for its 115,000 students just before the Thanksgiving holiday, officials said.

The attack, first detected late Tuesday night, affected the district’s websites and remote learning programs, as well as its grading and email systems, officials told WBAL-TV.

Schools were closed Wednesday, one day earlier than scheduled for Thanksgiving. On Saturday, the district announced on Twitter that classes would be closed for two additional days on Monday and Tuesday due “to the recent ransomware attack.”

Read this full article in the NY Times: Ransomware Attack Closes Baltimore County Public Schools