One of the most powerful pieces of advice I received as a new principal was from a veteran high school administrator. He told me that the most important job of any principal is to get students to come to school each and every day. It doesn’t matter how amazing a teacher is if students are never in class. Students miss school for a variety of reasons: illness, appointments, lack of transportation, vacation, etc. However, according to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Study (YRBSS), there are other reasons that are far more troubling.
Cyberbullying In Schools
The YRBSS data states that 14% of students have been a victim of electronic bullying during the past school year. Almost 7% of students have missed at least one day of school in the last 30 days due to safety concerns from bullying. With a school year spanning roughly 10 months and requiring 180 days (avg.) of attendance, a student that misses more than two days per month will be absent about 20 days or more than 10% of the school year. As a result, that student will be considered truant. The research on school attendance and student achievement is quite clear that students who have excessive absences from school are less likely to graduate high school, go to college, and have stable employment.
Students should never feel scared, unsafe, or targeted. Schools must ensure that students feel safe, supported, and secure at school at all times. Schools should be proactive in resolving conflicts quickly and amicably. For circumstances that require more attention, schools must utilize a board approved disciplinary matrix that is fair, consistent, and credible to all stakeholders, including staff, students, parents, and community members.
School Climate Improvement
Schools need to create and promote a safe school climate built on a culture of safety, respect, trust, and emotional support for students. Additionally, educators need to encourage communication, intervene in conflicts and bullying, and empower students to share their concerns. Students who are victims of bullying need to feel that their concerns are being heard. The students who are bullying others need to understand that this behavior will not be tolerated and that there are consequences for their actions.
Components of a Positive School Culture
To promote a safer climate, schools must begin utilizing diversity and inclusion programs at all levels to ensure that students and staff always feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. This can be achieved by increasing the visibility of groups or clubs that represent the different demographics within the student body. Recognition of cultural holidays, celebrations, and observances can increase awareness of our world’s diversity. Posters, murals, library books, and films should also reflect the diversity on campus. Students will always feel more included if they are reading, watching, and learning about individuals and events that they feel a connection to. With a deeper understanding of the differences around them, students can develop a better connection with one another.
About the Author
Dr. David Franklin, Ed.D. is a nationally and internationally recognized speaker and an experienced school administrator, consultant, curriculum designer, and professor of education. Dr. Franklin has presented at education conferences around the world delivering keynotes and breakout sessions and is currently serving as National Education Consultant for Securly.