Friday, August 12, 2005

U.S. Department of Education Watch: Good News?

Well our good friends over at the federal Department of Education have finally decided to address the problem of students feeling "unsafe" at schools... with a three day conference at a posh Washington hotel: (emphasis added)
The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools is taking a comprehensive look at school crime and student health, and safety at its upcoming annual conference, "Tying It All Together: Comprehensive Strategies for Safe and Drug-Free Schools," Aug. 15-17 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, 2660 Woodley Road N.W., Washington, D.C. [Ed's note: website here]

The three-day conference will cover topics such as crisis response and planning, school and environmental health issues, Internet safety, youth wellness and mental health, positive youth development, mentoring programs, truancy intervention, character and civic education, and more. Guest speakers will include U.S. Deputy Education Secretary Ray Simon, Chairman of Red Lake Indian Reservation Floyd "Buck" Jourdain and 9/11 Commission Cochairman Lee Hamilton.

"In order for our children to learn well and excel, they need to feel safe. We, as educators and parents, can play a role in ensuring that happens," Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said. "Parental involvement, one of the key elements of No Child Left Behind, is critical to the whole educational experience."

The conference has already registered more than 2,000 participants, ranging from education leaders, mental health representatives and parents to experts in the field of substance abuse and violence prevention. There are more than a dozen institutes and workshops.

Gosh, I just guess the Dept. of Ed.'s press office must have just forgotten to mention classroom teachers. Well, at least the conference's webpage suggested that "school personnel" (teachers, counselors, and health educators) should attend.

Take a look at the glossy four-page brochure
right here.

We can't have a dyed-in-the-wool Washington conference without an opportunity for folks to make some money out of it. Here are how those organizations desiring to sell products and services to conference attendees
are officially classified:

  1. Those vendors, organizations, or entities that feature federally recognized programs and/or information resources on specific issues featured in the 2005 National Conference. Their programs must be on a list of promising, exemplary, effective programs categorized by the U.S. Department of Education, other federal agency, or state educational agency.
  2. Vendors, agencies, or entities whose services, resources, and products support and strengthen the implementation of the core elements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
I was hoping to see a complete list of specific workshops and speakers, but that information isn't available online. Registration for the conference is closed, but, plans are in the works to webcast several sessions here.

After taking a look at the above list of conference guest speakers, my guess is that the thrust of this conference will be the prevention of (and coping with) drugs in the schools, acts of terror and school place massacres such as

Certainly, I don't wish to underestimate the conference's
goals and objectives, but I hope that some workshops will discuss the issue of schoolyard bullying, which is the type of school-place violence and intimidation that is most on the minds of parents, teachers, and students.

I could find nothing in the various websites and agendas about bullies or bullying.

For all the millions of taxpayer dollars that this conference is going to cost, I hope that some good comes of this, if nothing else, perhaps it will get the dialogue going
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