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Tara Gibson

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LGBTQ Bullying: Startling Statistics Prove It Must Be Addressed in K-12 Schools

Posted by Tara Gibson on Mon, May 20, 2019 @ 09:05 AM

It’s no secret: high school is no walk in the park. With the ever-changing student challenges, online social media pressures and educational standards, on top of going through puberty, young adults don’t have it easy. Teenagers who identify as LGBTQ unfortunately can have it much worse. 

Startling LGBTQ Bullying Statistics

Mental Health America and the Human Rights Campaign report the following:

LGBTQ Bullying

  • Only 37% of LGBTQ youth report being happy, whereas 67% of non-LGBTQ youth report being happy.
  • 80% of LGBTQ youth believe they will be happy eventually and things will get better, with nearly half believing they’ll need to move away from their current town to find happiness.
  • Gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts
  • LGBTQ youth identify bullying as the second most important problem in their lives after non-accepting families
  • LGBTQ youth who reported they’re frequently harassed in school had a lower GPA than students who were less often harassed
  • One survey revealed that more than one-third of gay respondents had missed an entire day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe there.
  • 60% of LGBTQ students did not report incidents to school staff. One third of those who did report an incident said staff did nothing in response.

The above are just some of the startling statistics that affect both LQBTQ teen’s mental health and their educational success.

The Tragic Loss of Nigel Shelby & Others

Nigel Shelby was just 15 years old when he took his own life this year due to extreme anti-LGBTQ bullying at his school. Nigel’s mother, Camika Shelby, described Nigel as “outgoing” and “always full of joy, full of light, he was always singing, always dancing.” She also said “I don’t want him to be remembered as a kid who was bullied for being gay and who took his own life. He was so much more than that. He was sunshine. He was just a great spirit to have around and it just breaks my heart because I feel like he had so much more love to give."

Nigel is not the only young LGBTQ teen to commit suicide. Unfortunately suicide is the second leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers, with the young LGBTQ community being at great risk due to bullying, social stigmas, family rejection, harassment, and abuse. The Human Rights Campaign tells us “Addressing these startling statistics starts with schools and communities alike working to foster safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ young people.” So, how can your school help young, at-risk, LQBTQ teens?

4 Ways Your K-12 School Can Address LGBTQ Bullying

There are several ways you can both address LGBTQ bullying instances, and also create a warm and safe environment for all students in your K-12 school.

  1. Get Your Staff on Board
    Having a group of supportive and understanding educators and/or school administrators gives LGBTQ students people they can go to. Students should feel comfortable coming forward to talk about bullying instances and see you as an ally. We recommend brushing up on LGBTQ terms and creating an inclusive learning environment, which we have outlined in a recent blog post.

  2. Create a Gay-Straight Alliance School Club
    Creating a GSA school club creates a safe space for LGBTQ students, and a supportive network of their student and faculty peers. Mental Health America says, “Students who attended schools with GSAs reported fewer homophobic remarks, more intervention from school personnel and a greater sense of connectedness.”

  3. Develop Strict Anti-Bullying Rules
    We encourage implementing strict anti-bullying rules for all students, and making sure staff carry out required discipline for those who break bullying rules. According to Mental Health America, “Students reported that school staff intervened twice as often in schools with comprehensive bullying/harassment policies.”

  4. Implement Anonymous Anti-Bullying Platform
    Some students feel safer when they’re able to report bullying and cyberbullying incidents anonymously. Putting a system in place that allows for anonymity, such as our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying Platform, your K-12 school could drastically reduce bullying. Here’s how it works:
    • Your school receives a unique local phone number
    • Students, parents and staff can leave voice or text messages anonymously
    • A designated school administrator is notified of new messages and can respond instantly
    • Messages are archived indefinitely for easy access and online reporting

Interested in Speak Up? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: student health, bullying, cyberbullying, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school climate

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Is Your K-12 School Ready?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, May 09, 2019 @ 09:05 AM

This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week and the 2019 hurricane season is nearly upon us. According to initial hurricane predictions from the Weather Company, this season is expected to be above average “with a total of 14 named storms predicted, seven of which are expected to be hurricanes.” Hurricanes are one of the most powerful and destructive natural disasters, forming over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico throughout hurricane season, which spans from June through November every year.

School Closed Hurricane Preparedness

Last year Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Florida hard in early October. Many K-12 schools and districts were either forced to close down, or were so severely damaged that many couldn’t return to those schools for the remainder of the school year.

The destruction caused many problems for teachers and students. Teachers weren’t sure on how much homework to give students, as many did not have internet access. Dress codes had to be completely dropped, as many families lost all of their belongings including school uniforms. According to the Orlando Sentinel, “A little more than 29,000 students across the district were enrolled in schools on the last day of classes before Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle... Enrollment had dropped by more than 2,600 students, almost 9 percent, districtwide by the Friday before Thanksgiving.” A huge drop due to students either moving away or dropping out of school all together.

K-12 schools must prepare both their faculty and their students before a hurricane or any other severe weather event.

Hurricane Preparedness: Before a Storm

  • Educate Students & Staff
    It’s extremely important to educate both students and staff on the potential threat of a hurricane or other severe weather event. Hurricane preparedness is understanding what could happen in the event of a hurricane and how your school can prepare for the worst.

  • Develop a Plan
    Your K-12 school should have an action plan in place specifically for each natural disaster threat, including a hurricane. Although your school may be closed before a hurricane hits, there are still plans that should be put in place including evacuations, announcements, drills and more.

  • Examine School Layout
    Weather.gov recommends examining the layout of your school to determine potential shelter areas. In the case of a hurricane there are fast winds which could cause structural damage. Getting students to a safe area within school grounds is imperative to their safety. Weather.gov provides the following suggestions for safe spots within your school:
    • Interior, small rooms usually offer the best protection.
    • Offices or bathrooms are usually favored locations.
    • Interior hallways are usually another good option, but avoid getting too close to outside door openings.
    • Avoid exterior class rooms or rooms with many windows.
    • Avoid large span ceiling rooms like gymnasiums, auditoriums, and cafeterias.
    • Avoid portable classrooms.

  • Implement a Reliable School Notification Platform
    Keeping everybody updated with open communication is key in the event of a hurricane or any other severe weather event. It’s important to make sure your school notification platform is reliable so school administrators can send alerts to parents, students and staff across multiple channels such as text, email, phone call, and social media, quickly and easily. Our notification system, SwiftK12, is backed by a fully redundant network. SwiftK12 helps K-12 schools reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes. When time is of the essence, it’s comforting to have a trustworthy system to help. 

  • Practice, Practice, Practice!
    Once in place it is essential to practice running through your plan to determine if everything would run smoothly in the event of a hurricane. This includes working with students to go through drills, testing your school wide alert system, and making sure any kinks are worked out. gov states “A practice will not only help confirm the validity of your plan and illustrate any deficiencies to be addressed, but can educate your students and staff on proper responses during severe weather.”

Hurricane preparedness should not be taken lightly, especially in K-12 schools and districts. Schools are responsible for staff and student safety, which is why having a plan, determining safe spaces, implementing reliable technology, and practicing your plan is extremely important.

At Alert Solutions we offer a reliable and efficient school notification platform, SwiftK12, which is used across the country and internationally to send out alerts and messages to keep students, staff, and parents safe and informed.

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: student health, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

A Round Up of Our Favorite K-12 School Cancellation Announcements

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 30, 2019 @ 09:04 AM

There is nothing like waking up on a cold snowy morning to the news that school is closed for the day. You get to sleep in, play with friends, and not worry about the dreaded pop quizzes and homework assignments that were due. Students look forward to these days every winter!

Cancelling school is always a tricky decision, as school administrators don’t want students to miss out on precious learning time. It can also be a burden for working parents who need to find last-minute child care or have to stay home from work. Some students also rely on school for regular meals. With that being said, student and faculty safety must always come first. You don’t want to risk the lives of the community by not closing the school’s doors for a day or two.

Students and parents may receive a phone call, a text, or maybe something a little different. Superintendents, principals, and teachers are getting more and more creative with their announcements to the school community. As the weather warms up, we want to take a look back at some of the hilarious school cancellation videos from across the country.

Our Favorite School Cancellation Videos

  1. Swartz Creek Community Schools – Michigan


    This hysterical superintendent and high school principal duo, Ben Mainka and Jim Kitchen, announced their school cancellation to the tune of “Hallelujah”. With thousands of views, their entertaining video quickly went viral. We must add… they have great voices! Alert Solutions is looking forward to another school cancellation song from them next winter.

  2. Pontotoc County School District - Mississippi


    This high school principal, Jim Matthews, posted this incredible twist on 50 Cent’s hit “In Da Club” and graced the Pontotoc community with “It’s a Snow Day”. Ending the school cancellation with a peace sign, this amazing video got hundreds of thousands of views.

  3. Durham Academy – North Carolina



    An oldie, but a goodie! This head of school and assistant head of school, Michael Ulku-Steiner and Lee Hark, announced there would be no school for Durham Academy due to “ice ice baby”! A clever school announcement that has over 5 million views on YouTube.

  4. Moses Brown School – Rhode Island



    Alert Solutions is proud to be in the same state as this ingenious head teacher at Moses Brown School. His twist on the popular Frozen song “Let it Go” was switched to “School is Closed”. This school cancellation was put together creatively to announce a snow day a few years ago, but is still on our radar as it is so clever!

Although snow storms and severe weather events can surprise K-12 schools and districts across the United States, your school can always prepare a funny announcement in advance and surprise your community when the time comes.

The Alert Solutions school notification platform, SwiftK12, allows school administrators to easily send out texts, calls, and emails in the case of a snow day. The SwiftK12 email notification has the ability to embed videos, which could be a great way to share a clever snow day song. With a great social media integration, teachers can also share funny school cancellations on Facebook and Twitter.

We challenge you to create your own funny school closure announcement and share it with us! Want to learn more about our school notification system? Download our brochure today.

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school notifications, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent engagement, parent communication

School Lunch Debt: Can Your Students Afford Lunch?

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Apr 18, 2019 @ 11:04 AM

Did you know 100,000 schools and education institutions across the country provide lunch to 30 million students each day? That’s a lot of cafeteria school lunches! According to the National School Lunch Program, of those 30 million students the program estimates as many as 20 million students receive their lunch for free, 2 million pay a reduced price of 40 cents, and 8 million pay the full price. These incredible statistics are shocking to those who don’t often think about school lunch debt.

Some K-12 school districts are reimbursed this school lunch debt by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which pays schools for lunch expenditures based on the number of students paying full price, reduced price, or are receiving the meal for free. This only occurs if the schools are part of the federal school lunch program.

School Lunch

Students who are not enrolled in a federally subsidized meal plan at their school typically have accounts in which they put money for school breakfasts and lunches. As with any account, once the money is gone the bills will accumulate. This is where school lunch debt begins. The New Food Academy tells us, “…that (school lunch) debt accrual puts an increasing burden on schools that bear it, sometimes to the tune of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single district. In late December, The Washington Post reported that K-12 students in the D.C. area owe a collective $500,000 in unpaid lunch debt for the first semester of the current academic year alone.”

School lunch costs vary by the school district and state, but according to New Food Academy, on average a single meal costs students $2.48 at the elementary school level and $2.74 at the high school level. Although this price doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up for families providing for multiple children. Lunches can be expensive and lead to school lunch debt.

Frances Frost, a mother in Maryland, spoke openly to the Atlantic and talked about the various permission slips, picture day fliers, and field trip notices she receives on a daily basis. She had unfortunately missed the reminder on refilling her daughter’s school lunch account. She says “…the lunch server graciously let Natalie keep her selected hot lunch with a reminder to bring money for her meal account.” This isn’t always the norm.  There have been discussions on how school lunch shaming is happening in some schools and districts, which is when the cafeteria workers refuse a student lunch as they do not have any money in their account.

This “shaming” sometimes subjects children to the embarrassment of returning their lunch due to insufficient funds.  According to The Atlantic, “Last year in Bedford, Kentucky, parents complained and accused the local elementary school of “bullying” after a child’s lunch was confiscated and thrown away in front of her friends for running a negative balance. Dominic Gant, a high-schooler in Dowagiac, Michigan, was left embarrassed and hungry when his lunch was taken and trashed for owing $4.95. A 12-year-old in Dickinson, Texas had his school breakfast dumped over a 30 cent debt…” The stories continue. Although school lunch debts can seriously add up and create a financial burden for school districts, the shaming and bullying of children who owe money should not occur.

Alert Solutions may have a fix for this problem. Our school notification system, SwiftK12, allows administrators to set up automated alerts to go home to parents, including low lunch balance alerts. The  low lunch balance alert feature can automatically send parents an email, voice call or text message with the student’s name and the remaining dollar amount. Parents can also choose their preferred communication method to make sure they receive and read the notification.

With this feature, school administrators can:

  • Set up different fee alerts based on the balance level
  • Reduce manual staff labor, freeing up time
  • Easily recover unpaid balances, restoring a healthier cash flow for your K-12 school district
  • Notify and engage with parents more effectively
  • Cut down on paper costs

Free up staff from the tedious task of fee reminders and effectively recover unpaid balances with this helpful tool. Ready to learn more?

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school notifications, school announcement, educational technology, lunch balance, power announcement, powerschool, school programs, parent communication

Using Accurate Data to Enhance Your Parent-Teacher Communication Strategy

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Apr 09, 2019 @ 08:04 AM

Both parents and teachers are a child’s best role models as they grow up and develop into a young adult. For this reason, it’s very important your classroom encourages great positive parent-teacher communication. This communication should be ongoing throughout the school year, whether it’s a quick message home or a scheduled one-on-one meeting.

Keeping parents involved in their child’s education provides a community feeling which benefits both the student and the K-12 school. Positive parent-teacher communication promotes a level of trust between parents and teachers. As a parent you’re trusting your child is in good hands while they are at school, and as a teacher you’re trusting your students are going home to a positive environment. 

Multiple studies show us that engaged parents directly correlates with the following:

  • Students Perform Better in School
    Studies show students earn better grades and higher test scores. They also attend school more regularly and are more likely to pass their classes.
  • Students Have Improved Behavior & Positive Attitudes
    Students who have involved parents have reduced rates of substance abuse and delinquent acts compared to students whose parents are not involved.
  • Students Have Enhanced Social Skills
    Parent involvement often encourages students to interact with their peers. This leads to better social skills and academic outcomes.

Clean Data for Positive Parent-Teacher Communication

Clean Data for Parent-Teacher CommunicationTo help stay on top of your parent-teacher communication, you have a supportive ally: data. According to Education World, “student data helps keep both parents and the community in the loop about how schools are serving its students. Data helps people within the community compare how schools in the area perform compared against each other.” With clean data, you’re not only able to track how students are performing, but you will have up-to-date parent contact information to communicate that performance.

Using an effective school notification platform helps teachers keep parents engaged in their child’s education. Discover the 3 tools below that your school notification system needs to have:

  1. SIS Integration
    School administrators and teachers are always on the lookout for a school notification system that integrates with their current SIS, or student information system. Although the ease of having an integrated notification system sounds good enough to many, having an SIS integration also allows for greater school data accuracy. Having your school data linked with your school notification system ensures that any message an administrator or teacher sends goes to the correct and up-to-date contact information.

  2. Parent Portal
    A parent portal is an extremely useful tool in parent-teacher communication. When sending out important school alerts and notifications, it’s essential the message is being delivered to parents and staff using up-to-date contact information. Allowing parents to view and edit their contact information and review previously sent messages, documents, and files, is a great way to ensure positive parent-teacher communication. A parent portal also allows users to determine which phone number or email address should be contacted based on the type of message, and allows parents to set their preferred communication methods such as text, email, or phone calls.

  3. Multi-Language Translation Tool
    Working in a diverse school often means English is not everybody’s first language. According to the US Census Bureau, minorities will become the majority in 2023 of children under 18. It can be tricky to foster positive parent- teacher communication when navigating language barriers. Fortunately, with a multi-language translation tool teachers are able to reduce miscommunication by accommodating the language needs of parents, staff, and school community members. Knowing which parent or guardian speaks a different language is important data that will help foster a good relationship between teachers and parents.

The above tools help school administrators and teachers utilize their clean data to nurture positive parent-teacher communication.

Alert Solutions’ school notification platform, SwiftK12, has all three of these helpful tools. We understand communicating effectively with parents, staff, and students is essential in the daily and weekly operations within a K-12 school or classroom.  From unexpected school closures to automated attendance notifications, SwiftK12 enables teachers and administrators to reliably reach hundreds or even thousands of student families within minutes.

Improve parent-teacher communication with your school notification system!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: school announcement, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, parent communication

Do You Have an Inclusive Classroom? Protect Your LGBTQ Students

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 28, 2019 @ 10:03 AM

Putting a focus on creating an inclusive learning environment for the young LGBTQ populations in K-12 schools is more important than ever. While there are more LGBTQ leaders represented in politics, media, and entertainment industries, schools can still be a very challenging place for LGBTQ kids. At a younger age children are questioning and discovering exactly who they are, which is why it’s essential to make sure you have an inclusive classroom and a safe place for kids to learn.

LGBTQ Inclusive Classroom - Rainbow Puzzle Pieces

Studies have shown LGBTQ students are much more likely to experience bullying and harassment in school, which leads to absenteeism and a higher risk of suicide. Mary Gilreath, a teacher in Colorado, goes out of her way to address gender identity in her classroom. Gilreath says “it’s a safety issue and a mental health issue for kids," pointing to the recent suicide of a 9-year-old Denver boy who was bullied after he came out to his classmates.

A 2013 study reports more than 74% of LGBTQ students were verbally harassed, and 36% were physically harassed due to their sexual orientation. Truly shocking statistics. Bullying in any way is terrible, but bullying directed at young children who are discovering their gender identity can be extremely detrimental to a child’s mental and physical health. At Alert Solutions, we do not tolerate bullying or cyberbullying in any way. Our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform was designed to help drastically reduce bullying incidents in K-12 schools, while maintaining student anonymity.

Before working on an inclusive classroom, teachers and school administrators need to understand gender identity terms. Without this knowledge teachers will struggle to fully grasp the range of identities within these communities, which automatically puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to supporting their students as allies. Accredited Online Schools put together a helpful list of the most common terms that relate to LGBTQ groups. They include:

  • Ally
    An ally is somebody who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ, but supports any and all individuals who do. They also advocate on their behalf.
  • Asexual
    Asexual individuals are not sexually attracted to either sex.
  • Bisexual
    Bisexual individuals are attracted to both sexes, either in physical or emotional ways, or both.
  • Cisgender
    A cisgender individual is somebody who identifies with the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • Closeted
    An individual who has not yet revealed their gender identity or sexual orientation publicly.
  • Coming Out/Disclosure
    When an LGBTQ individual discloses their sexual orientation or gender identity to their friends, family, and community.
  • Gay/Lesbian
    Individuals who are emotionally, romantically, or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
  • Gender-Expansive
    Gender-expansive individuals believe there is a wider spectrum of gender identities than just male and female.
  • Gender Expression
    How one expresses gender identity using outward appearances, behaviors or other means.
  • Gender Identity
    Gender identity is how somebody sees themselves, not by the sex assigned at birth.
  • Gender-Neutral
    Gender neutral “refers to a number of different concepts, all of which revolve around neutrality. It could be used to discuss gender-neutral pronouns, bathrooms or identities.”
  • Questioning
    Individuals who are questioning are people who are exploring their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Transgender
    Individuals who are transgender don’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. They choose to express a different gender identity.
  • Transition
    Transition is “when an LGBT individual takes steps legally, medically, or socially to affirm their gender identity. This may include changing one’s name or seeking gender reassignment surgeries.”

Having knowledge of the above terms as a teacher or school administrator is the starting point of creating an inclusive classroom. Without knowing the several terms that relate to the LGBTQ community teachers may struggle to advocate for their students as allies, which would create an unsupportive learning environment where children spend most of their time.

5 Ways to Create an Inclusive Classroom

A Queer Endeavor is an organization that helps teachers navigate how to intervene when they see anti-LGBTQ bullying and how to be there for students who are feeling vulnerable. They put together a list of helpful tips on how to make your classroom an inclusive classroom:

  1. Let Students Identify Themselves
    On the first day of class have students fill out index cards with their preferred name and pronoun. Teachers should update their class list, and make sure to address their students by their preferred name and pronoun.

  2. Avoid Gendered Language
    Teachers should avoid addressing the class with gendered language such as “Ladies and Gentlemen” or “Boys and Girls”.

  3. Avoid Grouping by Gender
    Instead of grouping students by gender for activities and projects, group them by preferences such as ice cream flavors or favorite animals. You could also group by birthdays or birth months.

  4. All-Gender Bathrooms
    If your K-12 school has all-gender bathrooms, make sure your students know exactly where they are. Teachers should also be clear they are for everybody.

  5. Solidify Your Ally Status
    Make sure your students know you are their ally. For example; you could hang a rainbow flag, share your own pronouns with students, and start up or support LGBTQ groups or clubs.

Having an inclusive classroom will benefit everybody in the class! LGBTQ students will feel safer knowing they have an ally in a teacher or school administrator, and will likely have their classmates as their allies as well.

At Alert Solutions we understand the importance of having an inclusive classroom. We work hard to help K-12 schools and districts battle and tackle bullying incidents with our Speak Up! Anti-Bullying platform.  Want to learn more? Download our brochure today!

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Topics: bullying, cyberbullying, school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, school climate

National Nutrition Month: 5 Ways Your Class Can Celebrate

Posted by Tara Gibson on Tue, Mar 19, 2019 @ 09:03 AM

March is National Nutrition Month! The Academy of Nutrition and Diabetics created this yearly campaign to encourage people to focus their attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. With students spending the majority of their time in schools, what better place to teach and promote healthy eating and exercise? Educating children of the significance of a proper diet is very important, as a child’s nutrition and lifestyle habits have a direct effect on every function of their body.  

Students on Field Trip - National Nutrition Month

Teaching kids the skills they need to make these proper food choices will help them develop lifelong healthy eating patterns. NCBI tells us “Healthy eating habits among adolescents and children are essential for healthy growth, cognitive development and other aspects of health and wellbeing.” These good habits have also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

The School Nutrition Association shares the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 “required the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update federal nutrition standards for school meals”. These updated rules went into effect in July 2012 and require K-12 schools to offer students larger portions of fruits and veggies with every lunch, grains offered with meals must be whole-grain rich, meals must meet age-appropriate calorie minimums and maximums, sodium levels must meet certain limits, and meals cannot contain added trans-fat. Full guidelines can be found here.

Although the guidelines may seem to be rather strict, this doesn’t mean schools aren’t feeding their students delicious meals. Popular menu items such as pizza and macaroni are still served, but have had slight makeovers. For example, school pizza is now required to be prepared with whole grain crust, low-fat cheese, and reduced sodium sauce.

5 Ways K-12 Schools Can Celebrate National Nutrition Month

There are fun ways to teach your students about nutrition in the classroom. Have a good time and celebrate National Nutrition Month with these 5 ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  1. Take a Field Trip
    A field trip to a local farmers market or farm is a great way to get out of the classroom and celebrate National Nutrition Month. Introduce your students to healthy organic foods such as fruits and veggies grown locally! TeachHub also suggests a supermarket scavenger hunt as another field trip idea. “As you walk through the supermarket aisles, ask students to point out healthy foods that belong to each group on the food plate. Then, for a fun activity, divide students into groups and hand each group a list of healthy foods to search for.”

  2. Food Group Project
    For National Nutrition Month consider a group project in which you assign teams of students to different food groups. Have your students research their food groups in depth and present the nutrition facts to the class. This way they’re learning about their own food group, and also learning from their peers about the several other food groups.

  3. Taste Test
    What better way to get students to try new foods than a taste test! Cut up several different fruits and veggies into bite-size pieces and have your class try one of each. Be sure to check that there are no allergies in your class. After the taste test have the children participate in an open discussion amongst each other and then vote on their favorites with an explanation as to why!

  4. Food Product Boxes
    Another idea for National Nutrition Month is to have your classroom save empty boxes of food and bring them into class. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends the class should “Spend some time reading labels and comparing information in the Nutrition Facts panels. Expand into a menu-planning opportunity, individually or in teams.”

  5. Tip of the Day
    Get parents involved! Consider sending home nutrition tips or trivia questions through your school notification platform and encourage parents to keep the nutrition discussion going outside of the classroom. You could even try sending home healthy recipes to try out. Getting parents and guardians involved will help solidify these healthy eating habits, which will only result in good outcomes as a child grows. For an extra incentive we suggest giving out prizes to the students and parents who participate!

At Alert Solutions we want all K-12 schools and districts to understand the importance of teaching children about nutrition and healthy eating habits, and why it is essential for healthy growth and cognitive development. Our school notification platform, SwiftK12, is a great way to communicate with parents outside of the classroom to keep the nutrition conversation going. 

Interested in learning more? Download our brochure today!

SwiftK12 Brochure Download

Topics: student health, school announcement, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, parent engagement

Education's New Partner in Battling Chronic Truancy: Pediatricians

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Mar 07, 2019 @ 14:03 PM

It’s no secret; chronic truancy is detrimental to student achievement. Students who do not attend school regularly are more likely to not do well academically, or even drop out of school all together. A shocking statistic unveils more than 6.5 million US children, about 13% of all students, miss 15 days or more each year. This doesn’t just apply to middle school and high school. The American Academy of Pediatrics states “at least 10 percent of kindergarten and first-grade students miss a month or more of the school year, while about 19 percent of all high school students are chronically absent.”

Stethoscope

There are many factors that contribute to high chronic absenteeism. Children who are exposed to major trauma such as domestic violence, have recently experienced a natural disaster, or have a history of maltreatment are more likely to experience absenteeism. AAP explains “these children are also more likely to experience other risk factors for chronic absenteeism, including poor mental and behavioral health, poor health outcomes, poverty, homelessness, and frequent school changes.”

Poor health seems to be a large factor in chronic absenteeism. A study in central Texas by the Austin-based E3 Alliance “found that 52 percent of absences were due to chronic or acute illness. By contrast, skipping school accounted for 5 percent.” Luckily, educators has a new partner to help with the growing truancy problem; pediatricians. There is strong evidence showing physical and mental health interventions are helping to improve student attendance.

How Pediatricians Can Help Reduce Truancy

The American Academy of Pediatrics released an extensive report covering proven measures to help reduce truancy, including the following recommendations for pediatricians and their colleagues:

  • Emphasize the value of developing good school attendance habits from an early age.
  • When children and their parents come in, pediatricians are also encouraged ask about the number of school days missed within the month during every visit.
  • Document children's medical needs for an Individualized Education Program or 504 Plan when needed for access to services that optimize learning opportunities.
  • Encourage parents and families to share any and all health concerns with the school nurse on staff.
  • Give guidance on when students should stay home from school and when they should not. For example: Lice is not a reason to stay home from school.
  • When the absence is not appropriate, do not write absence excuses.
  • Always have children return to school when their appointment shows they are well enough.
  • Work with K-12 schools to promote and advocate policies that promote school attendance.

Four Health Strategies from AAP

AAP also put together several strategies that K-12 schools can implement to promote school attendance and tackle chronic absenteeism through healthcare.

  1. Infection Prevention
    Absenteeism isn’t always a malicious way to get out of school work as many students fall sick during the school year forcing them to miss school. Schools are known to be a source of many wide-spread illnesses such as common colds and influenza. Hand hygiene interventions are one way schools are working to battle truancy. Promoting the use of hand sanitizers and hand-washing helped with reducing sicknesses. According to AAP, “in addition to studies of hand hygiene interventions, school-located influenza vaccination programs have been shown to reduce school absenteeism during influenza season.”

  2. School Nurses
    Having a full-time school nurse on staff plays a significant role when it comes to student attendance. “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Association of School Nurses recommend a minimum of 1 full-time professional school nurse in every school, recognizing that the ideal nurse-to-student ratio varies depending on the needs of the student population”.

  3. School-Based Health Centers
    According to AAP, a school-based health center provides health services to students who may have been sent home or missed school because of illnesses and injuries or attending medical appointments for management of chronic health problems. These health centers include care for dental services, preventative services, mental services, and behavioral health services.

  4. Mental Health Care
    In a recent blog post we covered the importance of educators looking out for mental health concerns among their students. As K-12 schools are the place young people spend the majority of their days, educators are the first line of defense. Schools play an important role in identifying early warning signs, addressing mental health concerns, and providing help and care.

Not everything is black and white. Chronic truancy and absenteeism have many influencers and healthcare is only one of them. Whether a student is experiencing extreme anxiety about being in school, or has fallen ill and caught a bad stomach bug, missing school has extreme effects on student success and graduation rates.

Alert Solutions works with K-12 schools and districts across the country to help reduce chronic truancy. Schools using SwiftK12, our school notification system, send out automated attendance alerts notifying parents and guardians on whether their child is in school. These alerts not only help increase parent communication, but they also  save hours of time for school staff each day, and most importantly, have been known to help increase student attendance rates.

Download our Reducing Chronic Truancy Guide for helpful tips, tricks, and strategies to battle absenteeism.

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Topics: student health, attendance, school announcement, Medical, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, truancy

School Safety Bans You’ll Have to Read to Believe

Posted by Tara Gibson on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 @ 10:02 AM

K-12 schools and districts across the country do everything they can to keep students, teachers, and administrators safe. With the frightening rise of violence in schools over the past few years, it’s no surprise that school safety is a key topic for educators.

Parents and students should both be aware of what you can and cannot bring onto school property. Depending on the area you live in, these are subject to change. Some of the most common school safety bans include: 

  • Guns & Weapons
    This school safety ban speaks for itself. No school wants any potentially harmful weapons brought onto school campuses, as they can cause injury or death to students, faculty, and others in the vicinity of the school.
    Drug Free School Zone
  • Drugs & Alcohol
    Drugs and alcohol are illegal substances that are never allowed on school premises.

  • Bullying & Cyberbullying
    Bullying in any form is always a school safety concern. Bullying and cyberbullying can have detrimental effects on a student’s well-being and is a commonly battled issue in many K-12 school districts.

  • Gang Affiliation & Violence
    Another common school safety ban is the affiliation to any gangs in the area. Gang affiliation often relates to violence, which is always prohibited in schools.

Communicating these school safety bans is easy to do with an effective school notification system. Sharing a list of the banned items along with a brief explanation to parents keeps them informed and engaged with their child’s education. A commonly discussed topic covered by Alert Solutions is the importance of parental involvement, as it is shown to improve student performance, student behavior, and reduce bullying incidents.

Most schools have effective bans in place related to school safety, but others have some interesting school bans that raise some questions, and certainly some eyebrows.

6 Interesting School Safety Bans

  • Bottled Water
    Some of you may remember the flipping water bottles craze that swept the nation back in 2016. Many students were flipping water bottles throughout classes which resulted in bottle flipping bans, and at least 2 schools completely banned plastic water bottles as they caused so many distractions.

  • The Dictionary
    Yes, believe it or not, the dictionary was banned. This happened in a school in California when a parent complained the book contains references to inappropriate behaviors. According to Business Insider, “the ban didn't last long — days later, teachers and administrators voted to bring the dictionaries back into the classrooms. As a compromise, they sent students home with permission slips so objecting parents could opt for their students to use to a different dictionary.”

  • High Fives, Tag, Holding Hands and Hugs
    In some K-12 schools across the country, hugs were deemed an inappropriate form of touching and a bill was passed in Tennessee claiming hand-holding was a gateway to sexual activity, which caused school wide bans of both. Tag and high fives were also considered to be dangerous, which led to schools bans as well.

  • Yoga Pants
    Some schools consider yoga pants to be too revealing, and an apparent distraction, so they are steadily being banned from dress codes in many schools. School-aged girls are opting to wear yoga pants as the new comfortable replacement to sweatpants. According to TeachHub, “a school in Rockport, MA, sent home 20 female students when they showed up in the banned apparel.”

  • Red Ink
    This school ban applies more to teachers than students. Business Insider shares “the sight of red ink became so jarring that several schools in England banned teachers from using it in the 2000s. Many of them hoped that by forcing teachers to make their corrections in other colors, it would soften the stigma of making a mistake.” Red ink was considered to be de-motivating and have negative connotations.

  • Ugg Boots
    When cell-phones were widely banned in many schools, students would hide them inside their Ugg boots to sneak them into classes. This led to a Pennsylvania school banning Ugg boots on campus to prevent students from using them to secretly store their phone.

Although some of the above interesting school safety bans are slightly ridiculous, schools take the well being of their students very seriously.

At Alert Solutions, school safety is extremely important. We work with many schools that use our SwiftK12 school notification platform for school safety purposes. An emergency can happen at any time without warning, which is why having a reliable way to communicate is key. If there is a danger on school grounds, administrators are able to alert parents, students, and faculty quickly with ease using their preferred communication method.

For more school safety tips, download our guide below.

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Topics: school announcement, school safety, power announcement, powerschool, education, emergency preparedness, emergency response

K-12 School Budgets: 4 Ways to Cut Costs Efficiently

Posted by Tara Gibson on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 @ 09:02 AM

Discussions on school budgets and cutting costs come up in K-12 school districts across the country each year. Every district looks for efficient ways to streamline operations and save money without putting students at a disadvantage and upsetting teachers, administrators and parents.  

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The role and purpose of a K-12 school budget is outlined within the AASA White Paper: School Budgets 101 as “a district’s plan for the upcoming year as related to anticipated revenues and expenditures. School budgets allow districts to translate sometimes intangible missions, operations and objectives into reality by outlining and providing specific programs and funding/financial terms.”

According to the Government Finance Officers Association, “Budgeting principles and policies should be developed collaboratively by the district’s school board and the staff members who develop and recommend the budget. Because both parties have integral roles in developing, adopting, and, ultimately, implementing a budget, both parties must strongly support the principles and policies underlying the budget.”

Everybody should be involved with these important financial decisions, and everybody should seek to balance the school budget equally to benefit the district and in turn the teachers and students. So, how do you make these difficult resolutions?

Making Room in Your K-12 School Budget: 4 Suggestions

Cutting school budget costs is no easy feat. The below suggestions are examples of what some K-12 school districts have done to help with slimming down yearly costs.

  1. Target School Utility Costs
    One thing to consider when discussing your school budget is what your yearly utility costs are. If you’re able to bring down electricity costs from your building equipment and lighting, that may free up some room for your budget. According to School Leaders Now, a district in Grapevine-Colleyville found that the lightbulbs in all of their buildings were not energy efficient. “A company was hired to help encourage more energy-minded behavior, from decreasing water usage to making sure all lights were turned off at night. Together those strategies lowered the district’s utility bills from $4.7 million in 2011–12 to $3.3 million this past year (2017).”

  2. Consider Contracting Services & Sharing Services
    A School Budgeting Report refers to contracting services, or outsourcing, as “a practice of making agreements with outside organizations to provide services in a school district.” These outsourced services are a great way for you to maximize your school budget, and cut costs on services such as food & nutrition, transportation, security, custodial services, maintenance, tutoring, and more. Reduced purchasing costs occur with outsourcing as contractors often have the ability to buy in higher volumes. School districts can also share these services with other districts. In a recent study, “Deloitte found that potential savings across the country from shifting just a quarter of non-instructional services to shared services could potentially yield savings in the range of $9 billion.”

  3. Go Green & Paperless
    Did you know the average school with 100 teachers can use over 250,000 pieces of paper annually? We did the math in a prior blog post and found that these costs add up to about $32,500 in paper and printing costs. A shocking number for handouts! Our Secure Document Delivery Module allows administrators to send report cards, transcripts, school schedules, student evaluations, and more home to parents electronically (with no page limit), saving schools thousands.

  4. Online Schools & eTextbooks
    Most K-12 school districts receive money from the state based on student enrollment. In 2013 the Grapevine-Colleyville district launched a virtual school which boosted their number of students enrolled to almost 14,000. “The virtual campus within the district teaches students from all over the state. The expansion was a way to increase state funding and service a larger number of students with fewer teachers, resulting in cost savings.” Another way school districts can utilize online schooling and e-learning is by conducting Summer School online instead of on campus. Technology also makes it possible for schools to save money by switching from traditional textbooks to eTextbooks. Governing tells us “Traditional textbooks cost California $350 million annually. By transitioning to online textbooks, the state hopes to encourage students' participation in virtual learning while radically reducing textbook costs.”

Alert Solutions works with many school districts across the country. We provide an affordable school notification system, SwiftK12, with features like our Secure Document Delivery Module that allows schools to cut out paper and save money! Get started today.

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Topics: school announcement, mobile learning, report cards, educational technology, power announcement, powerschool, education, school programs, go green

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