An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


Oct. 8, 2013 Issue 8

Dear Friends:

Welcome to our latest issue of EdHealth!


In our work, we take a broad look at various aspects of student wellness  -- from more traditional health issues, such as school nutrition and sports concussions, to those that contribute to a student's emotional well being, including more effective school discipline policies and improving the overall "climate" of a school.  


In this issue, student wellness reporter Jane Adams continues to follow the story of the challenge of counting students in the federally subsidized National School Lunch Program. Some school districts are giving away Raiders tickets, ice cream parties and more to encourage all eligible families to sign up for free- and reduced-price meals.  


Please let us know about any student wellness issues and upcoming events you think deserve greater coverage. And if you have not yet subscribed to EdHealth, please click here


Best regards,





Louis Freedberg

Executive Director


The Importance of School Lunch Signups
Free-lunch signups crucial for accurate count of low-income students
Let the counting begin.


With millions of dollars available under the new finance formula for schools with large numbers of low-income students, districts are pulling out all the stops to make sure they get an accurate count of their high-needs students. Because the new system defines "low income" as students who are eligible for the federal free- and reduced-price meals program, some districts are offering free Raiders tickets, ice cream parties, tickets to the county fair and other perks to encourage families to sign up for the National School Lunch Program. EdSource reports. 


School Safety

A new law that encourages school districts to consider alternative approaches to school safety beyond just posting police on their campuses was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, just days after the U.S. Department of Justice awarded $44 million to beef up the number of police officers in schools nationwide, including California.


The two approaches to school safety - one encouraging alternative approaches to law enforcement such as using conflict resolution practices and mental health professionals and the other focusing on increasing police presence - encapsulate the heated debate about how to keep students safe from harm. EdSource reports. 
Student Health Law: Healthy Lunch, Concussion Awareness, Safe Buildings 
Healthy standards for lunch adopted by 80% of schools

Concussion law expands to private, charter schools in California

Progress made in ensuring safe facilities under Williams ruling
More than 80 percent of schools nationwide are meeting the new healthier school lunch criteria required by the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Charitable Trusts
and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 
While some schools have said students don't like the vegetables and whole grains, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says only 524 schools - out of 100,000 - have dropped out of the lunch program under the new standards
Private and charter school student-athletes are now included in the state requirement that youth suspected of having a concussion must be immediately removed from play, according to new legislation, Assembly Bill 588, recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Also, youth sports organizations, including U.S. Youth Soccer, announced on Oct. 7 the formation of the National Sports Concussion Coalition in partnership with medical experts. The goal is to improve safety for young athletes.
County offices of education report that fewer California school sites present emergency health and safety threats to students or staff than was the case nine years ago, according to a new report from American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. The report examines how schools are fulfilling the nine-year-old requirements, established through the historic Williams v. California lawsuit, to provide basic educational necessities, including non-toxic, safe facilities.

School Climate
New focus on school climate in statewide student survey
Transforming 'problem students': New film touts positive interventions
The California Healthy Kids Survey - a large-scale survey of student behavior and a key resource for schools - has unveiled extensive revisions including a greater proportion of questions about students' feelings of safety and support at school. The change reflects a growing interest among educators in "school climate," a broad term that includes whether students and teachers feel accepted and engaged, both socially and academically. EdSource has the story.

"Not a nice person." That's how student Kelsey Carroll described herself as a high school freshman. For teachers and staff, the litany of Kelsey's health issues is  familiar: Self-mutilation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and a history of being abused. The new film "Who Cares About Kelsey?" shows how a school and a student improved through the Positive Behaviorial Interventions and Supports system, which introduces evidenced-based interventions. Edsource reports.
School climate in action: Building connections with Halloween zombies
What does a Halloween "flash mob" have to do with building connections between school staff and students? Everything. At Mount Miguel High School in the Grossmont Union High School District, 20 staff members dressed as Zombies launched a surprise group dance event, aka a flash mob, to the Michael Jackson song "Thriller" during lunch period before Halloween last year. Through the Grossmont District, Mount Miguel High School is the recipient of a federal Safe and Supportive Schools grant to measure and improve staff and student relationships. The flash mob was a big hit. Thanks to West Ed's School Climate Connection Newsletter for the tip. Credit: Mount Miguel High School 

Sandy Hook teacher to speak on positive school climate
Analysis: Racial school climate gap is real, schools could do more to improve
First grade teacher Kaitlin Roig is credited with saving the lives of her 15 students during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT on Dec. 14, 2012. Roig will speak on Saturday, Nov. 9, in San Jose at the Association of California School Administrators' Leadership Summit on her mission since  Newtown: encouraging the use of social and emotional curriculum to teach children empathy. Roig promotes positive school environments through her website Classes4Classes. "Teachers need to create an environment where students learn to care for others," she says. 
A new analysis by researchers at WestEd, the San Francisco-based research nonprofit organization, found that just as there are differences between schools in terms of "climate" (a loosely defined term that reflects how connected students and staff feel to school), there are racial and ethnic differences in how students feel within the same schools. "The Racial School Climate Gap" finds that African American and Hispanic students report lower levels of perceived safety and connectedness than other students. The report suggests that administrators use support services to try to narrow this gap.
Trauma and Health Issues: Addressing Root Causes of Truancy, Dropping Out

Like Tyneisha Crooks, more than a quarter of the students at Civicorps Academy, a charter school for young adults who have aged out of traditional high school, are single parents, three-quarters are African American and just about all of them have survived physical and emotional ordeals far more challenging than anything high school can throw at them. "Our students are bombarded with trauma and they bring that in and we absorb it," says Rachel Friedman, a former middle school English teacher who, as instructional lead, develops curriculum and mentors the five classroom and special education teachers. EdSource has the story. 


Health problems, transportation issues, discipline practices and family dysfunction are often at the core of chronic absenteeism, and the number of affected students is high: an estimated 1 million students were declared truant last year, according to a new report from state Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris - who made fighting truancy a key initiative when she was San Francisco District Attorney - said the California Department of Education should develop a statewide system to collect attendance data on individual students; the state currently has no such method to track attendance. EdSource reports.

October is Bullying Prevention Month 
Student voices, Unity Day, federal guidance and advice to school leaders

"Fatty." "You're gay." "Your skin is too brown." "Your religion is fake." "Estúpido."

These are the actual words young students use to describe bullying slurs at school in the new, emotionally powerful professional development film, "What Can We Do? Bias, Bullying and Bystanders." Bullying threatens students' physical safety but also has an impact on their mental health. The 12-minute film comes with a user's guide, lesson plans and training materials. It was produced by Welcoming Schools, a project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, a non-profit that advocates for school environments that embrace family diversity, avoid gender stereotyping and end bullying. 


Other Anti-Bullying Resources   


Students around the country, including at Walter Hays Elementary School in Palo Alto, are wearing orange for Unity Day on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 to show support for students who are being bullied everywhere. Unity Day is a project of the nonprofit, Minnesota-based group, Pacer, which provides training for parents of children with disabilities. Check out the Unity Day Facebook page.      


The U.S. Department of Education, in the form of a Dear Colleague letter linked to a blog post about bullying prevention month, reminds school districts of the laws regarding bullying of students with disabilities. Such bullying that results in the student not receiving a "meaningful educational benefit" constitutes a denial of a "free and appropriate public education" as required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and must be remedied, the letter states. More information at  


In the blog post entitled "Bullying prevention from the ground up," Jim Dillon, author of the book "No Place for Bullying: Leadership for Schools that Care for Every Student," says anti-bullying policies won't do much unless school leadership models the practice. "A school principal who is authoritarian and routinely uses his/her power as a way of getting things done, will have zero creditability with staff and students for any bullying-prevention initiative," Dillon writes. 

Previous Editions of the EdHealth Newsletter:

EdHealth Newsletter Issue 7: Lunch tally triggers dispute with districts
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 6: Tracking impact of anti-bullying programs
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 5: Run, hide, fight
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 4: Let them drink water
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 3: Mental health training in teacher preparation
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 2: Promoting a positive school climate
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 1: Providing a dental health safety net

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