Public School Policies

From unions to vouchers, school budgets to discipline policies, we cover some of the most controversial issues affecting public schools today. Learn more about education reform and how it impacts your family. Keep current on the latest controversies regarding religion, sex-education, civil rights and more.
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Students of Color Disproportionately Disciplined in Schools
Research shows that students of color face a disproportionate number of disciplinary actions in U.S. public schools. Learn about these disparities, as well as the policies that fuel them. Also learn about suggested measures to address this problem.
According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Office, widespread racial disparities exist in terms of how schoolchildren are punished. The longitudinal study looked at data from the past 15 years and found that minority students face a disproportional number of disciplinary actions in schools across the country, from those in affluent suburban neighborhoods to those in the poorest urban areas.

Graph from HechingerEd

These disparities have been known for some time in middle schools and high schools, however, this report reveals that unfair discipline procedures begin as early as preschool. The data, which was collected from 97,000 public schools from across the country, paints a troubling picture:

  • Black and Latino students are consistently punished more severely than white students for the same infractions.
  • Nearly 50 percent of preschool children who are suspended multiple times are black, yet black children represent less than one-fifth of the preschool population.
  • Black students are far more likely to be referred to law enforcement or arrested for a school-based offense than white students or other students of color.
  • Black girls are suspended at a much higher rate than girls of any other race.
  • Students with disabilities, who represent only 12 percent of the public school population, account for almost 60 percent of students who are placed in seclusion.

Zero-Tolerance Policies
 
Many students who are suspended or placed in involuntary seclusion are put there because of zero-tolerance policies that schools have put in place over the last two decades. Zero-tolerance policies...
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California School District to Monitor Social Media
Glendale Public Schools has hired a company to monitor student posts on social media. The district claims the practice will help school officials step in when a student threatens to hurt himself or someone else.
As more parents voice concerns about the dangers of cyber-bullying, one California school district has taken matters into its own hands. The Glendale Unified School District has hired an outside company to track students on social media and send reports of the results to school officials daily. The purpose of the new program is to protect students from potential trouble, including cyber-bullying, suicidal thoughts and even truancy. However, some are questioning whether the school district is blatantly infringing on students’ privacy rights in their quest to keep students a little safer.
 
Company to Analyze Social Media Posts
 
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Glendale district has hired Geo Listening, a social media monitoring service that specializes in tracking social media for school campuses. Glendale piloted the program on a smaller scale last year, hiring the company to monitor social websites of students at Hoover, Glendale and Crescenta Valley high schools. This year, the district will pay Geo Listening more than $40,000 to expand their services to eight high schools and middle schools in the district.
 
According to the Geo Listening website, their monitoring service provides daily reports to school officials about social website activity. Those daily reports break down social media messages into the following categories:
 
       ·      Cyber-bullying and bullying
       ·      Hate, harm and despair
       ·      Crimes and vandalism
       ·      Truancy
       ·      Substance abuse
 
The report also shares the frequency and severity of student posts...
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Are Cell Phones and Public Schools Becoming a More Amicable Union?
Cell phone policies are changing at schools across the country, and some are even embracing the technology to enhance the learning experience or improve student safety.
Cell phones have traditionally been seen by school districts as distractions that interfere with the learning process. Most instituted bans against the use of cell phones during the school day. However, the advent of smart phones has led some districts to re-explore that decision, and some are now backing away from their bans. Are cell phones and public schools becoming a more amicable union, or are districts merely bowing to student pressure?
 
History of Cell Phone Bans in Schools
 
For more than a decade, cell phones and other technology devices have been banned in most public schools across the country. The bans were originally instituted to prevent classroom disruptions and distractions, according to the website for the School Safety and Security Services. As the technology has evolved, concerns have been raised over using the devices to cheat on exams. They have also been seen as a security concern, since phones can now discreetly take photographs of tests or students changing in the school locker room.
 
Over the years, the use of cell phones in schools has become a matter of debate for students, parents and teachers. Advanced technology has now made phones legitimate instructional tools, as students can now use their phones to access an unlimited amount of information from the Internet. Some have also argued that as cell phones become a more prevalent part of today’s culture, keeping phones out of the classroom prevents schools from moving with the times.
 
Arguments for Continuing the Ban
 
And so the...
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The Look of Public Schools Post-Newtown: More Armed Guards Greet Students
Students have headed back to school across the country, but are greeted by new security technology and armed security guards. We take a look at Post-Newtown public education.
As students head back to school this fall, things may look a little different in some locations. In the aftermath of the Newtown Elementary tragedy, many districts across the country are looking for ways to beef up security procedures to keep students and staff a little safer. In light of those efforts, students may be greeted by new security devices, safety measures and even armed guards at some schools.
 
Debates Over Best Security Options
 
The Courant reports that as schools weighed their options in new security procedures, debate over the best way to protect students and faculty ensued. Armed police guards are often the center of that debate, with some school officials in favor of the action and others opposed. Other issues that have been argued in recent months include arming school administrators and security personnel and allowing teachers to bring guns to school.
 
Carl Sferrazza, police chief for Enfield, Connecticut, is one who agrees armed guards are the best way to keep students safe. Sferrazza told the Courant, “These people are homicidal and suicidal individuals. Their intent and their planning is all geared toward killing as many people as they possibly can.”
 
However, others liken placing armed guards at the entrances of schools to creating a prison-like atmosphere for students. Nate Quesnel, superintendent for East Hartford, told the Courant, “We don’t necessarily believe that having an armed guard in front of a school is the most productive way to make a school safer, for a variety of...
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Testing Students for Alcohol Use: Violation of Constitutional Rights?
A private school in Illinois will begin randomly testing students for alcohol use this year, raising the issue of the constitutionality of drug and alcohol testing in schools once again.
A private high school in Illinois is raising the stakes on testing. However, the testing in question is not standardized examinations or even pop quizzes in the classroom. This school is adding testing for alcohol consumption to their current tests that randomly screen students for drug use.
 
Hair Test Detects Alcohol Consumption
 
The Huffington Post reports that St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights, Illinois, will unveil their random alcohol testing at the start of the new school year. The private Catholic high school has been testing students for drug use for a number of years, and now will use a similar test to check up on students’ alcohol consumption. The alcohol test is a new addition and the high school will be one of the first in the country to try out this new testing method.
 
“We’re adding this test because we care about our kids and we want them to be the best God created them to be,” St. Viator President Corey Brost was quoted as saying at the Huffington Post.
 
The new test will use hair samples, about the width of pencil lead, to reveal any alcohol use by the student. The test provides information about students who have had two to three drinks a week, over a period of the three months prior to the test. Hair samples have been used by the school in the past to test students for drug use, but this will be the first time the test is used to...
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Recent Public School Articles
Students of Color Disproportionately Disciplined in Schools
Students of Color Disproportionately Disciplined in Schools
Research shows that students of color face a disproportionate number of disciplinary actions in U.S. public schools. Learn about these disparities, as well as the policies that fuel them. Also learn about suggested measures to address this problem.
Charter Schools Produce More Graduates than Public Schools
Studies show that graduation rates at charter schools outpace graduation rates at public schools. Learn how charter schools have been able to improve graduation rates, and the positive effects charter schools have on students’ lives in the long-term.
Changing Demographics Will Alter the Diversity of Public Schools
Learn about projected changes in public school enrollment of various ethnic groups and what problems may be ahead for state education systems as they try to cope with increasing financial demands as a result of increased enrollment.
Public School Policies

Education Reform

Education reform is in the works, and you can stay updated on the latest changes, debates, and policies here. Learn more about No Child Left Behind and how it impacts your child. Explore how federal and state government is working to improve school performance, student achievement and education standards.

Teachers and Unions

A comprehensive look at teachers, tenure, and unions. Learn how unions impact school performance. Explore the impact of education reform on teaching qualification standards, traditional unions and controversial tenure rules.

Public School Budgets

We offer an overview of public school budgets; where the money comes from, how it’s spent and what schools are doing to get more funding. Learn how schools are cutting budgets and how the cuts will impact your child. Delve into some of the creative ways school districts are trying to raise money and where the extra money is spent.

Vouchers

Explore both sides of the school voucher debate. Learn what your options are, how those choices are funded and the impact on your local school district. From the latest government initiatives to results from recent studies, explore vouchers and the options they provide.

School Discipline Policies

Examine the various discipline methods being put to use in public schools. From detention to expulsion, spanking to handcuffing, school discipline can often be controversial. Does spanking work? Do police belong in schools? Learn more about what is being done to punish out of control students.

School Controversies

The most controversial issues impacting public school students today. From bullying to book bans, this is a comprehensive look at some of the most oft-debated issues. This section features articles on school segregation, religion, over-crowding, civil rights, and green technology.