Rules to stop pupil and teacher from getting too social online

Faced with scandals and complaints involving teachers who misuse social media, school districts across the country are imposing strict new guidelines that ban private conversations between teachers and their students on cellphones and online platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Read more in the New York Times.

Boulder school among two recognized for Safe Routes to School top honor

Each year, the National Center for Safe Routes to School has the privilege of recognizing one Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in the country for outstanding achievement in promoting safe walking and bicycling to school. This year – a first in the history of the James L. Oberstar Safe Routes to School Award – two schools will receive this national honor: Heatherwood Elementary School in Boulder, Colo., and Omro Middle School in Omro, Wis.

bicycles“Both schools developed comprehensive Safe Routes to School programs to change the commuting culture of students in very different ways,” said Lauren Marchetti, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School. “Both of this year’s Award recipients are being recognized for developing and implementing successful programs unique to their individual school’s needs. This creativity led to increased walking and bicycling to school at Heatherwood, and a new mindset among Omro students and the community that incorporates active transportation as a way of life.”

At Heatherwood Elementary School, a 2008 parent survey revealed that few students were walking or cycling to school because a rural highway bisects the school’s attendance area. Heatherwood received $235,000 for infrastructure improvements to a crosswalk that spans the highway and $9,000 for education and encouragement activities by Colorado Department of Transportation. This funding, paired with tremendous support for the program from parents and faculty, brought about great change at the school. In just three years, Heatherwood Elementary School’s SRTS efforts and activities resulted in an increase from 12 percent to more than 43 percent of the school’s students regularly walking and bicycling to school.

What stood out most for SRTS Coordinator Amy Thompson was the inclusion of the school’s autistic children in the district-wide Bike to School Day, an effort funded by $1,000 mini-grant from the National Center.

“We took a huge risk trying something that had never been done before, and it turned out beautifully,” said Thompson. “We had lots of parents with tears in their eyes and children who had never been on a bike before not wanting to get off of the tandems.”

The National Center for Safe Routes to School opens a call for applications each year, usually in the fall, and evaluates applications with assistance of an expert panel representing organizations that promote safe walking and bicycling. For more information, visit www.saferoutesinfo.org/data-central/success-stories/safe-routes-to-school-award.

Bullied girl’s suicide has ongoing impact

Parents pursuing justice for the suicide death of their 15-year-old daughter in Massachusetts settled with the school district for $225,000, newly released court documents say. The documents were unsealed after a Slate reporter pursued the matter in court.

The report marks an end to legal proceedings in the case of Phoebe Prince, who hanged herself after months of persistent bullying by other students. Prince’s case captured headlines not only in the United States but dominated front pages in Ireland, which was her home until Fall 2009. Like other high profile bullying cases across the country, Phoebe’s death has an ongoing impact on school policies and anti-bully laws. Read more in this MSNBC report.

School problems linked to Neenan Co. will likely boost state’s scrutiny

Companies that want to do business through a state grant program dedicated to making school buildings safer likely will face greater scrutiny because of construction problems linked to one contractor.

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton told The Denver Post he will press for more thorough reviews of companies taking part in the Building Excellent Schools Today program — which provides money to mostly rural districts to replace and fix dilapidated schools — as questions continue to mount about the Neenan Co. Read more in the Denver Post.

Youth concussion rules among new Colorado laws in 2012

DENVER — Young athletes in Colorado schools are getting protections from concussions with new guidelines for coaches and an agricultural tax break is going away as a handful of new laws take effect Jan. 1.

The rules addressing youth concussions require coaches to bench players as young as 11 when it’s believed they’ve suffered a head injury, and players will need medical clearance before returning to the field. The new guidelines also require coaches in public and private schools to take free annual online training to recognize concussion symptoms. Read more in the Daily Camera.