Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dear Colleague Letter from Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali

Dear Colleague Letter

Page 1

October 26, 2010

Dear Colleague:

In recent years, many state departments of education and local school districts have taken steps to reduce bullying in schools. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) fully supports these efforts. Bullying fosters a climate of fear and disrespect that can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of its victims and create conditions that negatively affect learning, thereby undermining the ability of students to achieve their full potential. The movement to adopt anti-bullying policies reflects schools’ appreciation of their important responsibility to maintain a safe learning environment for all students. I am writing to remind you, however, that some student misconduct that falls under a school’s anti-bullying policy also may trigger responsibilities under one or more of the federal antidiscrimination laws enforced by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). As discussed in more detail below, by limiting its response to a specific application of its anti-bullying disciplinary policy, a school may fail to properly consider whether the student misconduct also results in discriminatory harassment.

Link to full letter HERE.

Help Stop Bullying, U.S. Tells Educators

The New York Times
Published: October 25, 2010

In a 10-page letter to be sent on Tuesday to thousands of school districts and colleges, the Department of Education urges the nation’s educators to ensure that they are complying with their responsibilities to prevent harassment, as laid out in federal laws.

The letter is the product of a yearlong review of the federal statutes and case law covering sexual, racial and other forms of harassment, officials said. Issuing the letter took on new urgency in recent weeks because of a string of high-profile cases in which students have committed suicide after enduring bullying by classmates, the officials said.

In one case, Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman, jumped from the George Washington Bridge in an apparent suicide last month, days after his roommate, according to prosecutors, streamed over the Internet his intimate encounter with another man.

The department issued the letter to clarify the legal responsibilities of the authorities in public schools and in colleges and universities under federal laws, the officials said. Certain forms of student bullying might violate federal anti-discrimination law.

Read more HERE.

Study: School buses safe enough without seat belts

The Associated Press
Monday, October 25, 2010; 8:06 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- School buses are safe enough without seat belts and students in many cases ignore a requirement to wear them, according to a study in Alabama released Monday that found the straps would save the life of about one child every eight years.

The study was ordered by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley after four students were killed in 2006 when a school bus without seat belts nose-dived from an overpass in Huntsville.

Following that accident, federal transportation officials required new, smaller school buses to be equipped with lap-and-shoulder belts by 2011. Larger buses are to have higher seat backs.

Read more HERE.

Study: Half of teens admit bullying in last year

October 27, 2010 - 5:34am
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Half of high school students say they've bullied someone in the past year, and nearly half say they've been the victim of bullying, according to a national study released Tuesday.

The survey by the Los Angeles-based Josephson Institute of Ethics asked more than 43,000 high school students whether they'd been physically abused, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset them. Forty-three percent said yes, and 50 percent admitted to being the bully.

The institute's president, Michael Josephson, said the study shows more bullying goes on at later ages than previously thought, and remains extremely prevalent through high school.

"Previous to this, the evidence was bullying really peaks in middle school," Josephson told The Associated Press.

He said the Internet has intensified the effect of taunting and intimidation because of its reach and its permanence.

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Notes from the Board of Education Meeting, 10/12/10

The Board Meeting on Tuesday, October 12th will be re-broadcast on Comcast Channel 96, Verizon FIOS Channel 12 and is available via webstream at . To view the full agenda and the various reports, please visit BoardDocs.

The below notes are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the Board of Education meetings and are provided as a request from my supporters and the general public in a personal effort to be more transparent. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes.

Call to order  10:30 a.m.

Presentation on Space Foundation partnership
(I was unable to attend this portion)

Executive session  12 p.m.

Correspondence/board member updates

  • Pedersen - spoke about MABE conference in Ocean City.  Would like to discuss policy on social media.
  • Cook - would like to discuss Data 3.0 during a work session.
  • Wade - discussed a seminar he attended regarding minorities and another one on African American Minority Achievement
Education Association of Charles County update  - Read report

Student board member update  - still awaiting for an advisor to be appointed

Use of tasers update by Sheriff Rex Coffey -safe to use; see video

Recruitment and retention update  - see report - lots of nice statistics

FY 2010 Independent financial audit  - see report.  no deficiencies reported

Legislative audit  - see report.  17 recommendations noted

Unfinished business - none

New business
Motion by Pedersen to award contract for Middleton renovation
Second by Cook
Vote Unanimous

Future agenda items - None

Recognition  4:30 p.m.  - See agenda
  • Resolutions: American Education Week, American Freedom Week
Public Forum  6 p.m.
  • Al Jackson - NAACP - MD Attorney General report on the use of electronic weapons.  Didn't realize tasers, guns, etc were already used in the schools.  Why do we have violent weapons in the school?  What is the educational value?  The demonstration was not the normal level of tasers.  Australia has banned for their officers.  Wants board to reconsider their use.
  • Janice Wilson - NAACP - concerned about the use of electronic weapons in the schools.  Task force findings in the MD report.  Risk of serious injury or death.  Believes police trainings and guidelines severely underestimate the level of injury or death.  Believe tasers are used more on African American persons than on caucasians.
Action Items
  • Minutes - Pedersen has one correction on item 16.
Motion by Cook; second by Carrington
Vote Unanimous
  • Personnel
Motion by Carrington;  second by Wade
Vote Unanimous 
  • FY2011 Comprehensive Maintenance Plan
Motion by Cook; second by Carrington
Vote Unanimous
  • Board chairman election bylaw
Motion by Carrington; second by Wade
Vote Unanimous

Friday, October 08, 2010

Taser Demonstration

Below is the YouTube video of a taser demonstration that I volunteered for in August. Sheriff Rex Coffey will be presenting safety in our schools at the October board meeting.

Concussions and Kids: Learning to Spot the Injury

Andrew Mollenbeck
October 7, 2010

WASHINGTON - As concern for understanding concussions has increased, youth leagues are participating in training seminars and using computer analysis programs to better diagnose the injury.

"The lack of awareness, the lack of knowledge, the lack of skill as to what to do when a youngster is injured is putting kids at risk, and we need to change that," says Gerard Gioia, director of the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery & Education (SCORE) program at Children's National Medical Center.

By Gioia's estimate, dozens of youth leagues in the Washington area have worked with SCORE. League officials, coaches and parents meet on nights or weekends to learn from video and ask questions.

"The whole idea here really is to specifically educate coaches and parents and kids about what is this injury, what are the signs and symptoms they need to understand," he says.

Programs with more limited resources can at minimum access tools made available by the Centers for Disease Control. Its initiative, "Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports" offers similar information for players and coaches.

Read more HERE.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

School system sponsors scholarship workshop

Charles County Public Schools is sponsoring "The Scholarship Workshop," hosted by author Marianne Ragins, on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at North Point High School.

The workshop is designed to help students successfully complete the college scholarship search and application process. Ragins is a one-time recipient of more than $400,000 in scholarship offers and author of "Winning Scholarships for College" and "College Survival & Success Skills 101." The workshop will cover the following:
  • Resources to use to find scholarship opportunities;
  • Easy guidelines for writing scholarship-winning essays with examples;
  • Helpful tips on using the Internet to research scholarships;
  • An inside look at obtaining positive recommendations;
  • Helpful tips on how to stand out against other scholarship applicants;
  • Ways to highlight your personality and achievements during interviews; and
  • Last-minute strategies helpful in obtaining funds for college.
The seminar is free-of-charge and is open to county high school students, parents and guardians. Space is limited to the first 450 participants in attendance and reservations are required. Visit to register. Students who attend are eligible for the Ragins/Braswell National Scholarship. For more information on the scholarship and workshop, visit

As a high school senior, Ragins applied for and received more than $400,000 in scholarship funds for college. She launched "The Scholarship Workshop" to present her experiences and help others in the college scholarship search process. Ragins has been featured in publications such as USA Today, People, Ebony and Newsweek and also made appearances on shows such as "Good Morning America" to speak about her experiences and the workshop.

Ragins received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Florida A & M University and a master of business administration degree from George Washington University. Both of Ragins' degrees were obtained with scholarship funds. She is the founder and president of The Scholarship Workshop and sponsor of the Ragins/Braswell National Scholarship. For more information on registration, call 301-934-7309.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,780 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 caring community schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

REMINDER: Board of Education Meeting, 10/12/10

The Board of Education's next monthly meeting is Tuesday, October 12, at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building on Radio Station Road in La Plata. The public portion of the October meeting begins at 10:30 a.m. The meeting is televised live on Comcast Channel 96 and Verizon FiOS Channel 12, and is rebroadcast throughout the week. Board meetings are also streamed live on the school system Web site at

Call to order  10:30 a.m.
Presentation on Space Foundation partnership
Executive session  12 p.m.
Resume open session  1 p.m.
Pledge of Allegiance, Westlake High School's JROTC unit
Superintendent's update to the Board 
Correspondence/board member updates
Education Association of Charles County update
Student board member update
Use of tasers update by Sheriff Rex Coffey
Recruitment and retention update
FY 2010 independent financial audit
Legislative audit
Unfinished business
New business
Future agenda items
Recognition  4:30 p.m.

  • Resolutions: American Education Week, American Freedom Week
Public Forum  6 p.m.
Action Items

  • Minutes
  • Personnel
  • FY2011 Comprehensive Maintenance Plan
  • Board chairman election bylaw