Are ‘Hardened’ Schools Safe From Gun Violence?

American schools use a variety of strategies, including monitored or locked doors to school buildings, security cameras, metal detectors, the hiring of resource officers, and random checks of lockers to prevent violence. But is it working? A study titled “School Firearm Violence Prevention Practices and Policies: Functional or Folly?” by Jagdish Khubchandani, a Ball State University health science professor, and Professor James Price from the University of Toledo, found evidence that no programs or practices have actually reduced gun violence in schools. “To the extent that schools adopt ineffective firearm violence-prevention measures, they are creating a false sense of security,” Khubchandani says. “School systems need to engage in collaborative research for evidence-based practices and policy advocacy through coalition-building to address state firearm laws. Schools also need to expand their mental health services and cost-effective educational interventions for reducing violence.”

Khubchandani warns that school officials should not give in to political pressures to “do something” when that “something” is likely to be ineffective, deceptive, and wasteful of school resources.

Mental Health Days

Statistics show that 1 in 5 students suffer from a mental health issue. Oregon has become the first state to write excused mental health days into law. Two high school seniors, Hailey Hardcastle and Derek Evans, led a group of students and lobbied state legislators last winter to include mental health days as excused absences. They were inspired to do so by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students in Parkland, FL. The law states that each student is allowed five mental health days within a three-month period to help combat depression and anxiety; however, each district will be able to tailor that law to suit its own needs. “Students were already taking mental health days, but they had to lie about it on the excuse card,” Evans says. Now, students will be able to tell the truth and not be penalized, meaning they will be able to make up homework assignments and missed exams. Industry experts note that recognizing mental health issues and including mental health days as excused absences is a step in the right direction toward starting a conversation about mental health.

Esports Pilot Program Comes to Virginia Schools

Virginia is adding electronic sports, better known as esports, as a school competition. The Virginia High School League (VHSL) has approved a one-year pilot program for esports as a competitive activity. For the first year, Virginia will compete in League of Legends, Rocket League, and SMITE. Schools will be allowed to enter multiple teams of different students for each game title. “Through this pilot program, the Virginia High School League will assess the potential participation of member schools in esports and provide data to the executive committee for potential sanctioning of esports as an official activity for the league,” VHSL said in a statement. Electronic sports are not to be confused with video games, since there are rules and guidelines that make them different from playing at home. VHSL will require that practices and competitions take place after school in a supervised environment. Seasons will run from October to January, and likely from February to May, with weekly games leading up to playoffs and championships.

YouTube Launches Educational Playlists

YouTube is introducing a new education feature called Learning Playlists that will offer dedicated landing pages for educational videos on a variety of topics, including math, science, music, and language. The playlists will have beginner to advanced lessons with organizational features such as chapters around key concepts. The pages will also be notably free from adlike recommended videos, letting viewers focus on their lessons without distractions.

The platform has been working with creators and educational organizations to expand educational content in the past year. Last October, YouTube announced that it was investing $20 million toward these creators and resources through a Learning Fund initiative.