Next week is my son’s last week of school. It has been quite a year. Natural disasters including Hurricane Sandy (which cancelled classes for weeks in some schools in the Northeast) disrupted the schedule for many students. Mandatory budget cuts resulting from sequestration meant that my son’s beloved speech therapist found herself looking for another job.
These are some of the events and issues I’m remembering as the 2012-2013 school year comes to a close.
1. Sandy Hook Tragedy Stuns the Nation
On December 14, six months ago today, 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut. Their deaths sparked huge and emotional debates about gun control, mental health and school safety. Some have contended we need to train teachers to carry concealed weapons, place armed guards in schools and outfit children in bulletproof clothing. But U.S. lawmakers have still offered mostly talk but little real action, notably with the defeat in the Senate of legislation for extended background checks on guns in April.
2. Climate Change Becomes Part of U.S. School Curriculum
Under new science education guidelines, U.S. students are now to receive instruction on climate change; as Care2 blogger Judy Molland wrote, the “guidelines also take a firm stand that children must learn about evolution, the central organizing idea in the biological sciences for more than a century.” However, states are not actually required to adopt the new standards, though 26 states, including Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas and New York, are “seriously considering” doing so.
3. President Obama Calls for Free, Universal Preschool
Obama highlighted the importance of universal preschool education in his State of the Union address, noting that kids who do not attend preschool are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school, 60 percent more likely not to attend college and 70 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime. Nonetheless, a number of conservative voices belittled the proposal (even suggesting that universal preschool could “undermine family values”).
4. Students Use Social Media to Turn the Tables on Bullies
Even as states and school districts implement anti-bullying policies, we still hear too many reports of bullying and of students victimizing other students via Facebook and social media, sometimes with tragic results — and of LGBT teachers being cruelly outed and even fired (by schools with a religious affiliation in some cases — so much for tolerance). But some are turning the tables on cyberbullying by using these same tools to create powerful anti-bullying messages: bullies and hate can be fought.
Read more: antibullying, bullying, college debt, Cyberbullying, disability, gun control, gun safety, malala yousafzai, mooc, Newtown, online education, preschool, sandy hook, school, sequester, students
Photo via nedradio/Flickr
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