On January 21, the School Climate Consortium held its first congressional briefing. Convened by the Institute for Advancing Unity, consortium partners Community Matters, Challenge Day, and the Petaluma City School District presented “Bullying Prevention Strategies that Work: How Programs and Policies Transform our Communities.” The forum highlighted proven methods of community and government collaboration to reduce violence and harassment in schools. More than 50 participants from legislative offices, national education organizations, and federal agencies attended the briefing.
“This is a moment of unprecedented national attention to issues of school climate,” said Stephanie Francis, the Institute’s Director of Advancement. “If students don’t feel safe in school, they can’t succeed. Right now we have a powerful opportunity to build safer, healthier places for our young people to learn and grow.”
The School Climate Consortium is an innovative and unprecedented collaborative of agencies, organizations and school districts that promotes positive school climate as a guiding principle in school thinking, planning and funding. Francis joined three other SCC presenters at the briefing: Rick Phillips, MS Ed., executive director of Community Matters, Jaime Polson, executive director of Challenge Day, and David Rose, Director of Student Services for Petaluma City Schools and liason to the SCC's fifth partner, the Healthy Community Consortium.
“In safer school climates … students’ behaviors, attendance and grades improve. At the same time, incidents of violence and mistreatment as well as administrative time spent on student discipline decreases,” said Phillips.
That means more time for instruction, but safe schools pay other dividends. Higher attendance rates and improved test scores result in increased funding for schools, while reduced violence means less liability to bullying lawsuits, like the one that recently cost a Tampa, Florida school $4 million when a bully broke a student's arm.