Education

Briefly Stated: June 7, 2023

June 07, 2023 9 min read
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Teachers in Accord on Safety Issues, Except for Guns

When it comes to bullying, teachers are on the same page. Guns? Not so much.

Bullying, they say, is the biggest safety concern at their schools, and safety measures like security guards and cameras don’t hurt school climate. But teachers disagree on whether they should be allowed to carry guns on campus and whether doing so would make schools safer.

More than half (54 percent) of teachers who responded to a survey of nearly 1,000 randomly selected educators conducted by the RAND Corp. said educators carrying firearms would put schools more at risk, while 20 percent said it would make them safer. The remaining 26 percent said it wouldn’t matter.

“It definitely caught our eye about just how unified teachers are about school safety issues generally, except when it comes to guns,” said Heather Schwartz, a senior researcher at RAND.

The idea of arming teachers, or loosening state restrictions to allow concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns into schools, is not new. The debates are often reignited after high-profile mass shootings at schools, the most recent at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn.

Advocates argue that having armed staff on campus allows them to respond to threats more quickly or dissuade would-be shooters from acting altogether.

As of 2021, 28 states allowed schools to arm certain teachers or staff beyond trained school safety guards, according to RAND.

Teachers have consistently opposed the idea in past surveys, and all the major teacher, principal, school employee, and school security organizations oppose guns in schools, except when carried by a police or security officer.

RAND’s survey found 44 percent of respondents said they were strongly against the concept, compared with 6 percent strongly in favor.

White teachers and men who teach in rural schools were most likely to indicate support for arming teachers, if allowed. They were no more likely than others, though, to say they were interested in personally carrying a firearm.

The survey was administered in October and November. During that period, 17 shootings occurred in public schools in 14 states, resulting in eight injuries and two deaths, according to the report.

Biden Administration Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Reject Case on Legal Status of Charter Schools

Can schools take taxpayer money and then ignore the obligations that come with the funding?

No, says the Biden administration, which is urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject reviewing a closely watched case out of North Carolina about the legal status of charter schools, one that holds implications for the growing movement to bring about religious charters at public expense.

At the request of the justices, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar filed a brief last month arguing that Charter Day is violating Title IX by enforcing a student-behavior code that requires girls to wear skirts instead of slacks.

A full U.S. appeals court ruled last June that Charter Day was a “state actor” because North Carolina treats charters as public schools.

The school appealed that decision to the Supreme Court.

In the brief, Prelogar argues that the state constitution obligates the state to provide a free public education to its residents, and the state fulfills its duty in part by authorizing private entities to operate charter schools at public expense.

Thus, the school’s implementation of its dress code “relies on power [it] possesses by virtue of state law,” Prelogar said.

Should the school be found not to be a state actor, she added, “North Carolina could outsource its educational obligation to charter school operators, and later ignore blatant, unconstitutional discrimination committed by those schools.”

North Carolina’s designation of charter schools as “public schools”—a facet shared by every other state that authorizes charter schools—is “far more than a label,” Prelogar said.

She further argued that the Charter Day School case would be a poor vehicle to decide the state-actor question because it appears the school is subject in any event to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Resolution of the state-actor question “will not alter [the school’s] legal obligations and may have no practical effect on the disposition of this case,” Prelogar said.

A coalition of 10 states as well as other groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs urging the justices to take up the case.

Teenage Workers Are in Such High Demand This Summer, Their Options Have Widened

It’s not often teenagers get the upper hand. Now, thanks to one of the tightest labor markets in decades, they have more sway, with an array of jobs to choose from at ever higher wages.

To ease the labor crunch, some states are moving to roll back restrictions to let teens work more hours and, in some cases, more hazardous jobs—much to the chagrin of labor-rights groups, who see it as a troubling trend.

In April, nearly 34 percent of Americans aged 16 to 19 had jobs, according to government data. That compares with 30 percent four years ago, the last pre-pandemic summer.

Maxen Lucas, a graduating senior at Lincoln Academy in Maine, had his first job at 15 as a summer camp dishwasher, followed by a stint as a grocery bagger before getting into landscaping. He said young workers can be choosier now.

“After COVID settled down, everyone was being paid more,” said the 18-year-old who’ll head off to college this fall.

Indeed, hourly pay jumped about 5 percent in April from a year ago at restaurants, retailers, and amusement parks, the industries likely to employ teens. Before the pandemic, pay in those industries typically rose no more than 3 percent annually.

For many teens, the point of a summer job doesn’t have to be about finding the highest pay available.

Jack Gervais, 18, of Cumberland, Maine, lined up an internship shooting photography at an arts venue and will earn roughly the minimum wage of $13.80 an hour while gaining skills that relate to his career goals. But he said many kids he knows are seeking—and commanding—higher-paying jobs.

“Nobody I know would work for minimum wage, unless there were major tips involved,” he said.

New Jersey passed a law in 2022 allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work up to 50 hours per week, up from 40, during the summer, when the state’s shore economy swells with tourists.

Other states are considering a variety of proposals to expand teens’ role in the workplace.

In Wisconsin, lawmakers are backing a proposal to allow 14-year-olds to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. And Iowa has enacted a law that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants and to expand the hours minors can work.

States Mull Adding Lessons on Fentanyl to Curriculum

With rising concerns about teen overdoses, Oregon is taking steps to teach students about the dangers of fentanyl and other opioids.

New legislation requires schools to provide education on the dangers of fentanyl. The bill, which was signed into law May 30, thrusts Oregon into the position of being one of the first states to expand drug-prevention education in this way, in response to student deaths from the powerful synthetic opioid.

The bipartisan measure requires several state agencies—the health authority, state school board, and drug-policy commission—to develop curriculum supplements that school districts would have to use.

Materials would cover the potential risks involved in fentanyl use and the use of other synthetic opioids and highlight state laws that provide legal immunity for people who seek treatment.

At least three other states—California, Illinois, and Texas—are considering similar legislation.

Teen drug use has been on the decline for the past few years, according to federal data. But teen deaths from overdoses rose in 2020 and 2021. And overall population deaths from fentanyl, specifically, have risen since 2016, with a sharp increase during the pandemic.

Over the past few years, some districts have started to stock naloxone, a drug that can temporarily stop symptoms of an overdose.

Fentanyl is more potent than other opioids like heroin and oxycodone, meaning smaller amounts can cause a lethal overdose. Some drug dealers also mix substances, making it possible that a teenager who thought they were taking a different drug could be exposed to fentanyl unknowingly.

The Oregon law aims to confront that problem, requiring curriculum to include information about counterfeit drugs.

While most states address drug prevention in schools, fewer mandate that opioids, specifically, are covered.

The District Leadership Skills of Women of Color

Women of color make up about 3 percent of the country’s K-12 superintendents. But there are a lot of unknowns about their path to the superintendency, the skills they bring to the job, and the reasons they’re hired for the role.

Some new research is beginning to point to specific talents that they bring to the job, including deep instructional expertise and strong communications skills.

That’s the conclusion from a recent analysis based on data from AASA, the School Superintendents Association by Angel Miles Nash, a program officer at the Wallace Foundation, and Margaret Grogan, professor emeritus at Chapman University in Orange, Calif.

Their findings give a rare glimpse into that world, at a time when there’s a brighter spotlight on women in leadership inside and outside of K-12 education. Women of color lead or have led some of the country’s largest school systems, from Monifa B. McKnight in Montgomery County, Md., to Kyla Johnson-Trammell, the superintendent in Oakland, Calif., to Janice K. Jackson, the former CEO of the Chicago district, and Sharon Contreras, the former superintendent of the Guilford County district in Greensboro, N.C.

Nash said her goal in focusing on women of color in district leadership is “to uplift the wonderful things that are happening, the nuanced aspects of their leadership,” that don’t get enough attention. The challenges have been chronicled at length, she said.

In answers to the researchers’ more than 70 survey questions to 1,265 district leaders, female superintendents of color said they were hired for their instructional leadership abilities, followed by their capacity to be change agents, their savvy at communicating with stakeholders, and for personal character traits such as honesty, integrity, and tact.

The superintendents were asked to select from a pool of answers, and they were able to choose more than one.

Among all the options, they were less likely to say they got the job because of their ability to be a political leader on education issues and to manage financial resources, according to Nash’s research.

Nash said the survey responses could provide helpful insights and lessons for teachers and principals of color who want to step into district leadership.

“Their leadership is valuable—so valuable that I think others should learn from it,” she said.

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Caitlynn Peetz, Staff Writer; Sarah Schwartz, Staff Writer; Denisa R. Superville, Assistant Editor; and Mark Walsh, Contributing Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the June 07, 2023 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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