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State Education Consultant Offers Insights On Safe School Climates For Head O' Meadow PTA



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Education consultant Jo Ann Freiberg, from the Connecticut State Department of Education, offered insight and advice for parents attending Head O' Meadow Elementary School's PTA meeting on Wednesday, March 22.joannfreiberg.com

Head O' Meadow lead teacher Carol Danenberg introduced Dr Freiberg to the gathered parents, sharing that Dr Freiberg works closely with the Head O' Meadow and the district's Safe School Climate Committee.

- which she said is where she shares research and resources - Dr Freiberg is currently the co-chair of the National School Climate Council and is on the Connecticut statewide task force on sportsmanship.According to her website,

Dr Freiberg said she has two main jobs with the state Department of Education: she offers professional development opportunities and she receives bullying complaints at the state level. During the entire presentation Dr Freiberg was careful not to overuse the term "bullying," as she said it is a label applied after an investigation and "it is not a behavior."

There are national school climate standards, and Dr Freiberg said those standards are at the core of what Newtown does across the district. Dr Freiberg also said she is a resource for districts and parents, and she strongly suggested that parents should speak to their district educators about concerns without delay. When sharing those concerns she recommended not doing so in confrontational manor.

"Describe the behaviors. Don't label it," she said.

Regardless of whether any given situation is determined to be a case of bullying, Dr Freiberg said districts want to fix the issue.

"We want to educate and help," she said.

Instead of speaking about "bullying," Dr Freiberg said to speak about safety.

'Totally Preventable'

Dr Freiberg also shared an overview of the history of state bullying laws and spoke about different types of school shootings. In the case of "rampage school shootings," which she described as cases of someone from within the school community attacking, Dr Freiberg said school districts can help prevent them.

"I think they are totally preventable, because we know what all the young people had in common," said Dr Freiberg, adding that in rampage school shootings in the past the perpetrator had either internal issues or had a family in crisis.

Schools can control how people are treated in school and the school's culture, Dr Freiberg said.

"We want to make sure our school communities are welcoming," she said.

It is important that students have at least one connection with an adult.

Other school tragedies Dr Freiberg spoke about included cases when a person outside the school community attacked and when a person or people are specifically targeted. School tragedies, she added, are not all the same, and each is dealt with differently.

Dr Freiberg said the "ultimate remedy for this beast we call bullying" is creating safe areas. Intellectual safety, relationships, and the physical and social environments should be considered, according to the presentation. The goal of a safe school climate committee, Dr Freiberg said, is to improve the quality of the environment.

One thing Dr Freiberg said she hopes parents will speak with educators about is "school connectedness." She shared five measures of school connectedness: Being close to people, friends, and a special relationship with at least one adult; being happy to be at school; feeling as though they are a part of the school with a true sense of belonging; feeling as though adults in school treat them fairly, which she said is not the same as equal; and feeling safe physically, emotionally, and intellectually.

"This is what you should be talking about," said Dr Freiberg, adding that parents should have conversations about school connectedness both with their child/children and their school.

Dr Freiberg also spoke about restorative practices that she said districts are embracing to work toward fostering relationships and building community while also repairing relationships when harm has been done in the community.

Consequences, she added, should be educative and restorative. She also spoke about the "tool box" each person has to help them deal with situations. Based on what a child or adult has learned, tool boxes may be empty or filled with the wrong or rusty "tools."

"Our job as adults is to help give kids the best tools we can," Dr Freiberg said, before offering suggestions for handling specific situations and answering questions from those present.

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