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.

 

Revamped FERPA|Sherpa Provides More on Student Privacy

Online access and technology plays an increasing role in classrooms, and with that increase comes concerns about student data and privacy. Illinois PTA highlighted this issue a few years ago when National PTA partnered with the Future of Privacy Forum and ConnectSafely to create the Parents’ Guide to Student Data Privacy.

The guide was part of FERPA|Sherpa, a website and resource center to help students, families, educators, school districts, and legislators understand and navigate federal education privacy laws. In the past three years since FERPA|Sherpa was first launched, over 100 new laws have passed in 40 states regarding student privacy, new resources have been published, and best practices regarding student data protection continues to grow.

To reflect all those changes, FERPA|Sherpa has relaunched with a new design. Sections for families, schools and districts, education technology companies, and policymakers have been revamped. New sections for students, educators, state education agencies, and higher education have been created. A searchable resource bank of over 400 education privacy resources has been complied.

For families, the resources include not just the Parents’ Guide to Student Data Privacy, but also short videos and information on the role of student data in education, how student data empowers parents, how student data is used, and parent and student privacy rights. Of special interest to PTAs is the video on “directory information” and student privacy. There is also a section on keeping kids safe online outside of school as well.

Be Internet Awesome Teaches Kids to Be Safe Online

Technology and the internet are integral to our daily lives these days, and just like we teach our children to be careful and good citizens in the real world, we need to teach them to do the same in the online world. For adults who are less tech-savvy than their kids, that can be a challenge. National PTA has partnered with LifeLock for several years to provide The Smart Talk to help parents have conversations with their children about technology and online behavior.

This week, Google announce the launch of Be Internet Awesome, a new interactive way for kids to learn how to be smart, positive, and kind online. Developed in collaboration with online safety experts like Family Online Safety Institute, the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, and ConnectSafely, Be Internet Awesome focuses on five key lessons to help kids navigate the online world with confidence:

  • Be Internet Smart: Share with care
  • Be Internet Alert: Don’t fall for fake
  • Be Internet Strong: Secure your secrets
  • Be Internet Kind: It’s cool to be kind
  • Be Internet Brave: When in doubt, talk it out

To engage kids in a fun and interactive way, Google created an online game called Interland. The game is free and web-based, so it can be played in any browser on a computer, tablet, or phone. In the game, kids travel to four lands to battle hackers, phishers, oversharers, and a bullies while practicing the skills they need to be good digital citizens.

Resources for Adults

But the Be Internet Awesome initiative isn’t just for kids. Google worked with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and educators from across the country to create a classroom curriculum that brings the five principles of the program into the classroom.

There are resources for families as well. To help you talk with your child about online safety, there is the #BeInternetAwesome Challenge, a video series that makes talking about online safety easier for families. In addition, there is the Be Internet Awesome Pledge that families can use to reinforce the importance of being smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave online.

Bullying Doesn’t Happen Where You Think It Does

Where does bullying take place? Most parents would answer out on the school grounds, in the cafeteria, or perhaps in a bathroom or locker room—all places where teachers are less likely to be present or where there are a lot of kids. A new report from the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shines a surprising light on where bullying takes place.

The most commonly reported place to be bullied for students ages 12 through 18 was actually in a hall or stairwell, with 41.7%. The figure was nearly identical for boys (41.8%) and girls (41.6%). This finding is somewhat surprising, as students only spend a tiny fraction of their day moving between classes. It also provides important information on how schools could potentially reduce bullying by having teachers in the hallway outside their classrooms during passing periods as well as monitors in the stairwells.

The second most common location was actually in a classroom, with 33.6% of students reporting being bullied there. In an article about the study on Edutopia, author and former teacher Stephen Merrill speculated that such bullying might be more common during the transitional moments in the classroom when students are arriving, moving between activities, or leaving the classroom—all more chaotic times that are more difficult for a teacher to manage.

The remaining locations for bullying that were surveyed were in the cafeteria (22.2%), outside on the school grounds (19.3%), online or by text (11.5%), on the school bus (10.0%), and in a bathroom or locker room (9.4%).

If your PTA would like to address the bullying issue in your school, take advantage of PTA’s Connect for Respect program. This turnkey program provides your PTA with all of the materials and resources needed to assess your school’s current climate, to engage the school community in dialogue, and to develop and implement an action plan.