North Central College - Naperville, IL

Faculty volunteer to improve student safety in public school district

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North Central faculty volunteer to improve student safety in public school district 

Two North Central College faculty members are working to improve safety for students and staff at Rosa L. Parks Middle School in the West Harvey-Dixmoor School District 147 in Harvey, Ill., south of Chicago. They are Renard Jackson, assistant professor of education, and Keith Avery, lecturer in psychology.

By providing a free bullying and school climate assessment, Jackson and Avery hope to help students who are currently being bullied and suffering in silence. School Superintendent Dr. Alex Boyd, in conjunction with the District 147 school board, welcomed the assessment, which took place Dec. 6. Providing some visibility and resolution to bullying and school climate issues will help a student or school struggling with bullying.

Also, in the near future, Jackson and Avery will begin capturing detailed information from all students about what bullying might be taking place, what they see happening in their environment and how they feel about the educational environment. In addition, teachers’ perspectives will be captured and the data will be analyzed. Within days, the school/district leadership will have reports/data allowing them to take action that addresses their specific student needs and school climate issues. The process will also reveal places where the school is succeeding in its efforts to provide a safe learning environment for children.

“We are happy to assist because educational leaders at this district want to know about bullying and school climate issues, which is not necessarily true at all schools and districts,” says Jackson.

Avery, licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Naperville as well as lecturer in psychology at North Central College, says, "We recommend that this type of student safety tracking be made available to all students and schools, and we invite parents and educators to support this process. We can do much better and this tool can help identify how and where we can reduce bullying and improve the learning environment for kids.”

In addition, Avery has been working with school administrators in other school districts, making assessment of students, staff and faculty regarding bullying behavior, school climate issues, and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as required by Illinois State Law Public Act 93-0495. The law requires schools to assess and track SEL development and implement a program as part of their regular curriculum, just as they do with math, reading and other state learning standards.

Avery has developed the SEL School to help administrators and teachers be compliant with state standards and have a comprehensive bullying prevention program. It involves needs assessment, consultation, curriculum advice and tracking. Bullying and school climate issues can be traced back to unattained SEL objectives.