News from National Convention: Resolutions

PTA resolutions are a way for the membership of the association to express its opinion and intent to address issues affecting the lives of children and youth. They focus and formalize the position of the PTA on a variety of issues. At the 2017 National PTA convention in Las Vegas, the delegates adopted one resolution and added one more resolved clause to an existing resolution.

Resolution on Healthy Sleep for Adolescents

Any parent of a teenager knows how hard it can be to get them in bed at a decent hour, much less get them out of bed the next morning to get them to school. Research confirms this, noting that adolescents have their sleep patterns shift from those of their younger years, having difficulty falling asleep before 11:00pm and functioning at their best when allowed to sleep until 8:00am.

Unfortunately, many teens are not getting the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep that they need each night. More than two-thirds get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights. The reasons for this chronic sleep deprivation in teens is varied, but include large amounts of homework, busy extracurricular and work schedules, poor sleep routines (including using cell phones and other backlit screens shortly before bed that can disrupt the ability to fall asleep), and early school start times. Approximately 40% of high schools in the United States start at 8:00am or earlier.

The result of this sleep deprivation in teens results in increased risks in many aspects of their lives, including an increased likelihood of accidents due to impaired driving, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and other physical health problems in adulthood.

Early school start times have been identified as a key, but easily modified, component of adolescent sleep deprivation. Schools that have moved start times later for their older students have seen not only decreases in tardiness, absences, and discipline issues but also increases in student performance and greater participation in extracurricular activities.

To address these issues, the resolution calls on PTAs to educate youth, parents, educators, school personnel, school boards, athletic coaches, athletic organizations, state board of education members, and the community about the positive impact that sufficient, quality sleep has for teens’ health, safety, academic success, and future earnings.

PTAs are also encouraged (modified by the delegates from “urged” in the proposed resolution to address areas of the country with limited daylight hours during part of the year) to collaborate with other stakeholders and policymakers to develop solutions and policies that allow teens to get sufficient, quality sleep. National PTA is directed to work with the Department of Education to encourage states and school districts to incorporate standards regarding sleep needs and patterns, potential risks of insufficient sleep, signs of sleep related difficulties, and healthy sleep habits into existing health, science, physical education, and other appropriate curricula.

Proposed Amendment to Resolution on Sale, Resale and Destruction of Firearms

In 1996, the National PTA passed a resolution on the sale, resale, and destruction of firearms. Later that year, the Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included the Dickey Amendment, an amendment that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds for injury prevention and control to advocate or promote gun control. In the same bill, $2.6 million, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearms research the previous year, was earmarked for traumatic brain injury research.

The Dickey Amendment has been interpreted to mean that the CDC cannot conduct research into gun violence, and appropriations for the CDC since 1996 have continued to include the amendment. The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress attempted to remove the amendment in 2015, but were unsuccessful. It is also important to note that Jay Dickey, the representative for whom the amendment is named, has since stated that the CDC should be allowed to research the causes of gun violence, noting that “doing nothing is no longer an option.”

The amendment to the 1996 resolution inserts a new resolved clause that states: “That the National PTA and its constituent bodies shall seek and support legislation for state and federal funding initiatives for the research of the causes and effects of gun violence.” The delegate body voted to split the amendment into two resolved clauses, one directing the National PTA to work for federal legislation and funding and one directing state PTAs to do the same on the state level.

The National PTA legislation team that submitted the amendment stated that the reason for amending rather than submitting a completely new resolution was that the 1996 resolution specifically mentioned CDC research, but since that time, there has been extremely limited research to fully support a new resolution.

 

Protecting Your Kids from the Sun

Summer means spending more time outside, and with that comes an increased risk of sunburns. For children, sunburns significantly increase the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with 20% of Americans expected to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Rates of melanoma have doubled since 1982 despite an increased use in sunscreen. The reasons for this increase are numerous, including increased use of tanning beds (especially by adolescent girls) and infrequent or improper use of sunscreen.

Protecting Your Child

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of things you can do as a parent to protect your child from the sun.

  1. Seek shade: The ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause sunburns and skin damage are strongest during the middle part of the day, so plan indoor activities during those times if possible. If not, finds some shade under a tree, umbrella, or pop-up tent. These should be used to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
  2. Cover up: When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts. Clothes made from tightly-woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet t-shirt offers less protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter ones. Some clothing may have a UV protection factor listed based on international standards.
  3. Get a hat: Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and offer great protection. Baseball caps are popular, but don’t protect the ears and neck. If your child wears a cap, be sure to apply sunscreen to their ears, neck, and other exposed areas.
  4. Wear sunglasses: While sunglasses don’t protect from sunburn, if they block both UVA and UVB rays, they can protect your child’s eyes from exposure to UV rays. Such exposure can lead to cataracts later in life.
  5. Apply sunscreen: The CDC recommends using a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 rating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 as a minimum. For best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outside, remembering to protect the ears, nose, lips, and tops of feet. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after your child exercises or swims, even if using a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen. Combine sunscreen with the other options above to prevent the sun from damaging skin.

Other Things to Know

The CDC also provides some additional tips and information on protecting your child’s skin from the sun.

  • Turning pink: Unprotected skin can be damaged in as little as 15 minutes, but it can take up to 12 hours for the skin to show the full effect of exposure. If your child looks “a little pink,” it may be a burn in a few hours. To prevent further damage, get your child out of the sun before they hit “pink.”
  • Tan: As the CDC puts it, tanned skin is damaged skin. Any change in color of your child’s skin indicates damage from UV rays whether it is a suntan or a sunburn. The “healthy, tanned glow” of your childhood is now known to be an indicator of potential skin cancer in the future.
  • Cool and cloudy: Just because it is cool or cloudy doesn’t mean you can’t get a sunburn. It is the sun’s UV rays that damage the skin, and clouds only slightly weaken UV rays. So be sure to use sunscreen and the other recommendations when spending time outside even on cool or cloudy days.
  • Oops: Summer activities have a way of running longer than we expect—Little League games that drag on or not wanting to head home when the kids are having so much fun on the playground. Plan ahead by having additional sunscreen on hand in your car, stroller, bag, or backpack so you can reapply it when the fun doesn’t want to end.

Photo © 1985 by Erin Stevenson O’Connor under Creative Commons license.

7 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Have Productive Screen Time

As summer begins, it may seem like your child is now staring at a screen 24/7. The Safe, Smart & Social blog had seven digital safety experts who are also parents provide their best advice for teaching kids to be productive with their online time. Those are:

  1. Teach self-moderation: Learning to control your screen time is an essential skill these days, and one even adults struggle with.
  2. Don’t allow devices at the dinner table: A family dinner is more than just sharing meal, it’s also about sharing stories and experiences.
  3. Block distractions: There are many browser apps that will block Facebook, Instagram, and more so your child (or you!) can be productive when you need to be.
  4. Show how screen time can be productive: Teach your child time management through the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of work, 5 minutes of break, scaled as age appropriate) and show them how online tools can be used for working together on a group project as well as socializing.
  5. Lead by example: Don’t spend all your time on your phone as well, and consider providing the WiFi password only after chores have been done.
  6. Create a screen time log: Have your kids create a log of the sites they visit and time spent at each (or check their browser history at the end of the day).
  7. Set weekday screen time limits: Set limits on screen time and expectations for what must be done before getting online, with extra screen time as something to be earned.

Be sure to read the full article to find out more about each of these strategies.

 

Photo © 2011 by Jessica Fless-Hill under Creative Commons license.

Illinois PTA Convention Preview—Resolutions

The 115th Annual Illinois PTA Convention will be held on April 7th and 8th at the Hilton—Naperville. Convention is a great opportunity to attend interesting workshops and network with other PTA leaders, but it is also the time that the Illinois PTA conducts its business. Part of that business is directing the legislative and advocacy activities of the Illinois PTA.

One of the ways that PTAs influence what the Illinois PTA advocates on is through resolutions. Resolutions can come from an individual PTA or from the Illinois PTA Legislative Policies committee. A resolution can call for legislation, direct the Illinois PTA to work with other organizations, provide information to local PTAs, or study a topic further and make recommendations. At this year’s convention, there are three resolutions for the membership to vote on addressing financial literacy, climate change, and hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Resolution on Financial Literacy

The Illinois Learning Standards for math touch briefly on financial literacy, requiring students to understand how pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars work as money and as decimals for elementary students and to be able to calculate the effect of interest on money invested for a certain period of time for high school students. But the standards don’t address how to fill out a check, how credit card interest rates affect the cost of the things you buy, or whether you should buy a car by paying more money up front, taking a loan for three or five years, or leasing.

These issues are of increasing importance for our children as more and more students are graduating from college with more and more student loan debt. In fact, the total amount of student loan debt now exceeds the total amount of credit card debt in the United States. The Resolution on Financial Literacy addresses this issue through several actions:

  • That local PTAs and councils work with their school districts to incorporate financial literacy education into their curricula
  • That the Illinois PTA work with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to include financial literacy materials that meet the existing Illinois Learning Standards
  • That the Illinois PTA, local units, and councils work for legislation for programs that teach financial literacy.

Most of the concepts of financial literacy are based in math, and one of the most important ways to get students to take an interest in math is to show them how they can use it in real life. Thus, using financial literacy materials to teach math concepts can be accomplished within the existing Illinois Learning Standards. School districts just need to be willing to make the effort. In addition, many financial literacy materials already aligned with the Illinois Learning Standards are available, and programs from organizations like Junior Achievement can also play a role in developing financial literacy.

Resolution on Climate Change

The overwhelming majority of the scientific community agree that manmade climate change is occurring. Among the effects of climate change that have direct effects on Illinois are an increase in extreme weather events (e.g., tornadoes, droughts, and floods) and public health issues such as:

  • Increased respiratory ailments including asthma due to increased levels of pollen, mold, air pollution, and dust
  • Increased incidence of certain cancers due to higher levels of ultraviolet radiation
  • Increased foodborne diseases and nutritional deficiencies due to food contamination, shortages of staple foods, and the reduced nutritional value of food caused by rising carbon dioxide levels

The Resolution on Climate Change addresses this issue through a multi-pronged approach. These include:

  • The Illinois PTA providing information to local PTAs and councils regarding climate change and its effect on the health and welfare of children
  • The Illinois PTA, local PTAS, and councils encourage school districts to consider including renewable energy resources (e.g., geothermal heating and cooling, wind turbines) and green infrastructure (e.g., energy efficient windows, green roofs, permeable paving) when building or renovating school district facilities
  • The Illinois PTA work with other like-minded organizations on the issue of climate change and its effect on the environment and the health and welfare of children
  • The Illinois PTA, local units, and councils support legislation that regulates activities that contribute to adverse climate change, mitigates the negative effects of climate change, supports and encourages the use of renewable energy, and supports efforts to remediate the negative effects of climate change that have already occurred.

Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, uses the injection of water and undisclosed chemicals into rock layers at high pressure to fracture the rocks, allowing oil and natural gas to be extracted more easily. The contaminated wastewater from this process is then injected back into the ground for disposal.

Research has connected hydraulic fracturing to a significant increase in earthquakes, unsafe levels of air pollution near fracking sites (resulting in asthma attacks, lung disease, dizziness and seizures, birth defects, blood disorders, and cancers, among other health effects), and contamination of groundwater. The latter is of particular concern in Illinois, where 35% of all residents, including 90% of all rural Illinois residents, rely on aquifers for their drinking water.

The Resolution on Hydraulic Fracturing addresses this issue through both education and legislation. The resolution calls on the Illinois PTA, local units, and councils to:

  • Share information on the health and safety concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing and wastewater disposal
  • Work with other like-minded organizations to raise awareness of these concerns
  • Support additional research on current and new methods of oil and gas extraction and their potential environmental effects by independent researchers not affiliated with the energy industry
  • Support state and federal legislation that addresses the environmental and health effects associated with hydraulic fracturing.