Students stand up: Empowering bystanders
June 26th, 2013
11:48 AM ET

Teens trained to spot drama before it turns dangerous

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

(CNN) - Lauren Astley knew her ex-boyfriend was having a hard time getting over their breakup.

Nathaniel Fujita hadn't wanted to end their three-year relationship. He made it clear in a long e-mail, asking her to give him a chance to find "a part of you that still loves me." But after several "negotiated truces," as her mother calls them, it was over in May 2011, a few weeks before their graduation from Wayland High School in Massachusetts.

But Lauren, 18, didn't stop worrying about Nate, especially as he withdrew from his friends. She was known for being kind, caring and deeply involved in the lives of friends - attributes her classmates lauded in her senior yearbook, along with her singing voice and warm smile. She discussed her ex-boyfriend's antisocial behavior with friends, and they decided together that she should be the one to reach out to him. After weeks of ignoring her texts, Nate, 19, finally agreed to meet her on July 3, 2011.

The next day, her body was found in a marsh about five miles from his home. He had strangled her with a bungee cord, stabbed her multiple times and slashed her throat. Her body was dumped in a nature preserve he knew from science class.

Nate had shown signs of jealousy in the past, but nobody suspected he would hurt Lauren. During his murder trial, his lawyer said he snapped mentally when he killed her. Prosecutors said it was a case of extreme dating violence, that he wasn't psychotic - just angry, hurt and humiliated by the breakup.

Nate was convicted of first-degree murder in March and sentenced to life in prison. But the quest for closure doesn't always end with a jury's verdict, especially in places like the couple's hometown of Wayland, which calls itself a "stable and progressive community, characterized by a legacy of civic engagement."

It's the kind of idyllic American suburb where "things like this aren't supposed to happen." In the wake of her death, community members pondered the warning signs. What did we miss? Could anybody have stopped this before it spiraled out of control?

Lauren's family saw new meaning in their "typical teen" drama: the fights, the constant cycle of breakups and reunions, the young man's retreat from social life after the breakup.

But as the couple's case shows, the line between adolescent drama and dating violence is a hard one to draw, especially in the moment.

Finding a new normal

Questions about what could've been done differently arose recently in Steubenville, Ohio, in Torrington, Connecticut, and in other communities where teen dating violence and sexual assault drew national attention. Blame bounces around the victim's clothes, the amount she drank, whether she "put herself in that situation," and to the perpetrators, parents and society for fostering a culture in which violence among teens - sexual and otherwise - makes regular headlines.

The Steubenville case, in which a teen was sexually assaulted as others watched, revived discussion around the importance of bystander education - teaching people to intervene safely in behavior that promotes sexual violence, said Tracy Cox with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

School violence prevention programs typically focus on risk-reduction by teaching girls not to be victims and boys not to be rapists, with no other roles to play. Even though bystander intervention not a new concept, some schools, advocacy groups and corporations are pushing it with renewed vigor in an effort to deter violence.

The goal is to challenge perceptions of "normal behavior" and make teens aware of the nuanced interactions that create a hostile climate

Read the full story

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Filed under: Counselors • High school • Massachusetts • Mental health • Parents • School safety • Students
April 11th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

To stop school violence, L.A. focuses on teens' mental health

In Los Angeles, a program is trying to stop school violence by addressing teens' mental health. There's no predicting violent outbursts, the team says, and it's tough to watch out for L.A.'s nearly 700,000 students - but they feel like they've reached kids who probably wouldn't have gotten help, otherwise.

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Filed under: Counselors • Mental health • Safety • School safety • Students
How to get the most out of your college campus visit
Oh, sure, students (models?) are all smiles in the brochure. But what will you really see on the college tour?
March 13th, 2013
05:00 AM ET

How to get the most out of your college campus visit

By Donna Krache, CNN

(CNN) – This spring, high school students and their parents will descend on college campuses, maps in hand, to see the sights and get a “feel” for the educational experience.

It’s exciting but overwhelming. What can you really know about a college after a walk through campus or an overnight stay?

CNN spoke with Peggy Hock, the director of college counseling at the Pinewood School in Los Altos Hills, California. Hock works with high school students and parents who are delving into the all-important college-decision process.

Hock says that she typically starts the college conversation with students by asking students to develop a vision for what they want in their college experience. She asks students to write down five things a college has to have to be a good place for them.

Then, she tells them to do some research into what colleges meet their criteria and plan to visit a short list of small and large schools that fit their vision. She recommends the College Board’s new “Big Future” site, especially for students who don’t have access to college counselors. The site’s “Find Colleges” section lets students indicate whether an aspect of the college is a “must have” or a “desirable” and matches those preferences to colleges that fit. Then, decide what colleges you’ll visit.

“It’s important to have some idea of why you are visiting that college,” Hock says.

If you have a counselor, she has something to say: Listen. She once had a student who narrowed down his college list to a few large universities in his home state of California. Based on what she knew about him, she suggested he check out another college - in Pennsylvania. He visited, and during a walk across campus, was stopped by a faculty member who asked whether he had any questions.

“These are my people!” the student told Hock. One year later, he’s a happy freshman at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.

Here are some tips from Hock for getting the most out of your college visit:

Plan accordingly
Work geographically, scheduling no more than two visits per day to different schools in the same area. Register for the campus tour in advance.

Take the official tour and attend the information session
Sure, you’ll get the canned speech, but you will also get some important facts about the college and its physical layout. And many times, some of your questions will be answered in these presentations.

Ask questions that can’t be answered by canned responses
You want to get as true a picture as possible of the academic and social culture of the place. Hock says that some of her students ask questions such as “How much do you study?” and “Have you ever gone to a professor for help?” A question such as “Do you find study groups helpful?” will give you some insight into whether a campus is competitive or cooperative. Ask your guide, “What did you do last weekend?” and “What surprised you most when you got here?” to get some authentic, first-person insights about living at and attending this university.

FULL POST

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Filed under: College • Counselors
Newtown school shooting
December 14th, 2012
03:39 PM ET

Support crucial for kids after trauma

Follow news about Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on CNN's live This Just In blog.

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

(CNN) - School shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, may have long-lasting consequences, but with proper support, many children are able to move on, experts say.

Children need to be with their families as quickly as possible after exposure to such horrific events, said Steven Marans, director of the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence/Childhood Violent Trauma Center at Yale University's Child Study Center.

Marans and colleagues are making themselves available to Connecticut officials, including the governor's office and state police.

The good news is that most kids do bounce back from a single incident of trauma, said James Garbarino, professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago and author of "Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them." If children can get back into their normal routines and get proper support, he said, they will do well.

Long-term issues are more likely for children who were very close to someone who died in a shooting, who witnessed the event or who were in close physical proximity to it, Garbarino said.

In addition, "Kids who are having difficult lives before the event are the ones most likely to have issues," Garbarino said.

Read the full story

 

 

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Filed under: Counselors • Issues • School violence
March 5th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

My View: It’s time to change schools’ culture of misery

Courtesy NEABy Jessie Klein, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Jessie Klein is a sociology and criminal justice professor at Adelphi University. She is the author of “The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools.” During the last two decades, she led and administered high school guidance programs. She served as a supervisor, school social worker, college adviser, social studies teacher, substance abuse prevention counselor and conflict resolution coordinator and worked as a social work professor. You can see more of Klein’s work at jessieklein.com.

(CNN) - Misery has become the norm for young people in school - the Ohio school shooting last week and the case of the Rutgers University cyber-bullying suicide are only the most high-profile of recent related fatalities.

Such despairing actions like suicides and shootings aren’t aberrations. Kids across America are distressed and crying out for help in different ways. When they abuse substances, cut themselves, sink into debilitating depression and paralyzing anxiety, become truant, drop out of school or commit suicide or school shootings, they are saying the same thing: It is too much to bear.

These incidents and the hundreds that came in the decades before, are treated time and again as problems with the individual at the center of the story – but Tyler Clementi and T.J. Lane are not the only lonely teens who were at risk for drastic actions like suicide and shootings.

Educators, parents, and other concerned people often ask me to describe the profile of a bully or someone likely to commit suicide, but this is the wrong question. Instead, we need to examine problem-schools where kids endure a hostile environment every day.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Behavior • Counselors • School violence • Voices
Today's Reading List
November 22nd, 2011
12:05 PM ET

Today's Reading List

Here’s what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:

WSVN-TV (Miami/Fort Lauderdale): Alleged bullying victim files suit against school district
A mother files suit against the Broward County School District after she says her daughter was bullied and complaints to the school were not addressed.

U.S. News & World Report: Counselors Say Schools' Missions are Misguided
According to a new survey by the College Board, guidance counselors believe that they are not being used effectively to help promote student achievement.

Indystar.com: Bridging cultural divide between teachers, students
"Cultural competency" training is being used to help teachers connect with students of different cultures and backgrounds.

San Antonio Express-News: Teachers go online to meet classroom needs
Teachers across the country can use the Internet to find funding for classroom supplies and equipment.

St. Louis Today: Vets returning to college face unique challenges
American colleges and universities expect to see a surge in enrollment as veterans return home. Some experts warn that many colleges aren't ready as these former service members transition from battlefields to college campuses.