Pins and Posts: October 2021
SCOTUS Rules School District Violated Cheerleader’s Free Speech
In June 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court case Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. held that a Pennsylvania school district violated a student’s First Amendment right to free speech by disciplining her for sending private, vulgar social media messages criticizing the school and the school’s cheerleading team while off campus and outside of school hours. In so ruling, the court acknowledged that its prior precedent permitting public schools special First Amendment leeway to regulate on-campus speech is diminished, though not outright prohibited, in light of unique features that distinguish off-campus speech from on-campus speech.
Mental Health Days Get New Focus
Students wave red flags: They miss class. Their schoolwork is weak. They’re exhausted, unfocused. As schools step up support, one idea is becoming popular: Allow excused absences for mental health days. Rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide among students soared as schools and communities shut down during the pandemic. In a Harris poll of 1,500 teenagers, 78% said schools should prioritize mental health days so students can take proper care of themselves. In a roundtable with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, high school students urged him to make mental health in schools a top priority. “This year was really hard,” said Sara Falluji, a junior at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Lexington, KY. “If we don’t normalize having excused mental health days, then students’ stress and anxiety could get worse. It could turn into physical health issues and longer absences if we push students too far.”
English-Language Learners May Need More Support This Fall
The COVID-19 turn toward virtual learning had a disproportionate impact on the nation’s English-language learners (ELLs), who often found themselves with less time for casual conversations with their teachers and peers as a way to build their English-language skills. As teachers plan lessons for ELLs this school year, Barbara Lora, an English-language acquisition coach at the Brockton School District in Brockton, MA, suggests they remember that ELLs need scaffolding and support to continue progressing rigorously, and exposure to all the same content as their grade-level peers.
Florida Principal Writes Personalized Note to Each Graduate
In the spring of 2021, while the seniors at Matanzas High School, in Palm Coast, FL, were closing out their school year, Principal Jeff Reaves was preparing his final farewell to every graduate. From March until the morning of graduation on June 2, Reaves scoured through transcripts, emails, and his own memories to handwrite a personalized note to each of his graduating seniors. “I want to be positive for our students,” he said. “I wanted to shine some light on the students and encourage them as they begin their next journey in life.”