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Bullied preschoolers show signs of depression

Emotional bullying in the preschool years can lead to depression, especially for children who are both bullies and get bullied. Symptoms of depression begin to appear as early as age 3 in these children, according to the study published in Early Childhood Research Quarterly. “Bullying by young children is very obvious,” researcher Tracy Vaillancourt told The Hechinger Report. “They’re not very good at it but it’s still very effective.”

Examples of emotional bullying by preschoolers: refusing to let certain classmates sit by them, threatening to withhold their friendship from others, or blocking classmates out by turning their backs or closing their eyes and covering their ears. Nearly 70 percent of preschoolers studied also used physical aggression to bully. The researchers advise staying alert to signs of bullying and depression because “they can get missed in the hubbub of daily life with a 2- or 3-year-old.”

Pa. district sued over Bible distribution

A lawsuit filed by a group of Pennsylvania high school students against their school district claims the district’s policy of not allowing Bibles to be passed out on campus is unconstitutional. Members of the Christians in Action Club at Cumberland County High School allege that the Mechanicsburg Area School District denied the group’s request to hand out Bibles to their friends in the cafeteria during noninstructional time, thereby violating the students’ free speech and free exercise of religion protections. In a statement, Superintendent Mark Leidy called the lawsuit a publicity stunt and said it contains inaccurate claims, the Associated Press reported.

LGBT history a requirement in N.J.

Following a precedent set by California in 2012, New Jersey has become only the second state in the nation to require that its schools teach LGBT history. Under a bill signed into law in February, public schools in the state must include lessons about the political, economic, and social contributions of individuals who are gay and transgender, starting in the 2020-21 school year, the North Jersey Record reported. The bill also requires teaching about contributions of people who are disabled. Civil rights groups said the requirement will give all students a fuller history of the nation, promote understanding, and help gay and transgender children feel included in school.

Last fall, New Jersey issued guidance to schools “designed to promote transgender-friendly policies on the use of names and pronouns, participation in activities, use of facilities and student records,” according to the Record newspaper.

Ed Dept. to probe Native discrimination charges

A complaint filed against Montana’s Wolf Point School District charging discrimination against Native American students will be investigated by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Students from the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation filed the complaint with the federal government in June 2017. It said the district “deprives them of basic rights to which they are entitled in school,” the Washington Post reported. The complaint cites numerous instances of bullying, racial slurs, disproportionate discipline of students who are not white, failure to properly evaluate Native American students for special education services, and failure to respond to charges of racial harassment, according to the Post.

An Education Department letter confirming its investigation came on the heels of an article by the New York Times and ProPublica highlighting the allegations and their impact on Native American students in the district.

Burgers from local cattle on menu in South Dakota

Locally sourced beef isn’t just for five-star restaurants. In a pilot program with local ranchers, South Dakota’s Wall School District is using locally raised beef in the burgers, tacos, and Sloppy Joes on its school lunch menus. A local cattle rancher donated the first 90 pounds of beef and processed it, according to the website FoodserviceDirector.com.

“The transition from USDA burger patties to local beef wasn’t without its challenges,” said Lynn Dunker, the school district’s food service director. The district had to meet USDA compliance (such as the correct weight of a burger patty to ensure nutritional guidelines), train kitchen staff to cook raw burgers (instead of precooked burgers), and add an educational component to teach students about farming and ranching, she said.

Dunker told the website that she studied successful beef-to-school programs in Montana and Nebraska for guidance.

Lunch-debt tab builds in D.C. area

Less than five months into the 2018-19 school year, Washington, D.C.-area students owed nearly half a million dollars to their school cafeterias, an analysis by the Washington Post found. “Tens of thousands of students in the six public school districts in and around the nation’s capital” were in “lunch debt” because they did not have enough money to pay for meals they ate in their school cafeteria. As in many districts across the country, students in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools (a neighboring D.C. district) who could not pay for lunch were offered a cold cheese sandwich to eat, according to the Post. It cited a survey by the School Nutrition Association, which found that 75 percent of U.S. school districts have unpaid student meal debt.

School-based nutrition reduces student obesity

In-school nutrition policies and programs that promote healthy eating habits can have meaningful impact on children’s health, finds a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. It followed nearly 600 middle school students in New Haven, Connecticut, and found that, in schools with these programs and policies, students had healthier BMI, or body mass index (an estimate of body fat based on height and weight), over time. The programs and policies included “nutrition newsletters for students and families; making sure school-based meals met federal nutrition guidelines; limiting sugary drinks and encouraging water consumption; and limiting use of food or drink as rewards for good grades and behavior,” Health Day reported.

By the end of the five-year study, the average BMI increase was 1 percent among kids in schools with nutritional programs and policies, compared with 3 percent to 4 percent of those in schools without.

Lockdowns numerous and widespread

Regardless of demographics or affluence, location or security, no school district in the U.S. is exempt from the fallout of lockdowns, concludes an analysis conducted by the Washington Post. The procedure, “taken to prepare students for potential danger,” happens in school buildings of every size, affecting from a handful of students to as many as 5,000. Threats referencing bombs accounted for about 15 percent of all lockdowns the analysis accounted for, as did police manhunts near campuses. The vast majority, more than 6o percent, were related to guns.

Based on a review of 20,000 news stories and data from school districts in 31 of the country’s largest cities, the Post says that “more than 4.1 million students endured at least one lockdown in the 2017-18 school year alone.” And the total number “is likely much higher because many school districts — including in Detroit and Chicago — do not track them, and hundreds never make the news, particularly when they happen at urban schools attended primarily by children of color.”

California’s Dixie school board rejects name change-—for now

Officials with California’s Dixie School District have voted to keep the school system’s 150-year-old name for the time being. Some in the Marin County community complained the name pays tribute to the pro-slavery Confederate states. Supporters of keeping the name questioned the name’s Confederate roots and argued that the name is “associated only with a school system with an excellent reputation,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Some also said the district was named for Mary Dixie, a Miwok Indian, the Mercury News reported. Although most board members said they supported a name change, they advocated putting off selection of a new name until they had more time to consider options and to get greater community input. Among the name changes the board rejected at a recent meeting: Miwok, Live Oak, Skywalker, and John Muir.

Va. aims to limit criminal charges for misbehavior in school

Virginia lawmakers have filed bills that would prohibit students from being found guilty by the state of disorderly conduct for actions in school. Nearly two in five disorderly conduct complaints against children originate in schools, according to state data. “Nobody is saying disruption in the classroom is acceptable, but it could be handled with a suspension or a letter to a parent,” Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, a former prosecutor, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It doesn’t have to lead to incarceration.”

Bills filed in both the House of Delegates and the Senate would exempt students from a disorderly conduct charge if they misbehave at school or on a school bus. Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, there were more than 7,000 disorderly conduct complaints made against Virginia children, according to the state Department of Juvenile Justice. Statistics also show that nearly two in three complaints from school officials or SROs were filed against black students —far greater than the percentage of black students in Virginia schools.

Rhode Island partnership to rethink high schools

Rhode Island education officials are partnering with the nonprofit education organization XQ to identify five high schools in the state with visions for redesigning teaching and learning. Any high school can apply for one of the $500,000 grants. Redesign proposals can run the gamut, from changing the class schedule to expanding career and technical education to everything in between, the Providence Journal reported.

XQ was founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and Russlynn Ali, the former assistant secretary for civil rights at the U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan. The company is currently supporting individual schools across the country in redesign efforts. The Rhode Island arrangement, however, would be the first statewide partnership, state Education Department spokeswoman Meg Geoghegan told the Journal. Regional sessions at which schools can learn more about the grant process, are scheduled for the spring.

Expanding arts education linked to academic benefits

A new study adds to research showing that arts education benefits students’ academic and social development. Chalkbeat reported that a study involving 10,548 elementary and middle students in 42 schools in the Houston Independent School District showed that increasing students’ exposure to arts learning opportunities was associated with improved scores on writing tests, enhanced compassion for classmates, lowered rates for discipline infractions, and increased school engagement and college aspirations.

The study was conducted through the Houston Education Research Consortium — a partnership between Rice University and several Houston-area school districts. Half of the schools in the study received additional exposure to and participation in dance, theater, music, and visual arts through eight school-community arts partnerships. The other half worked with three arts partnerships. Statistically, the positive effects were small to moderate, Chalkbeat reported, but researchers found the results “particularly encouraging” because “the cost to schools was fairly small — about $15 per student.”

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