An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


July 26,
Issue 52
School Climate
Bullying rates and feelings of hopelessness remain high for students, California Healthy Kids Survey finds
Being bullied remains a persistent problem for students in middle school and high school, with a combined average of 36 percent of middle and high school students surveyed reporting having been bullied at least once in the last 12 months, according to a new report released by the California Department of Education. The report is based on 2013-15 data from the California Healthy Kids Survey conducted by the research group WestEd. Forty percent percent of 7th graders, 38 percent of 9th graders and 31 percent of 11th graders reported having been bullied.

Those rates were unchanged or slightly higher than bullying rates reported in the previous 2011-13 data collection, depending on grade level. The survey was administered to a randomly selected, representative state sample of 36,573 students in grades 7, 9 and 11. Parental consent was required.

The report found "disturbingly high levels" of symptoms indicating a risk of depression. About 1 in 3 students in 2013-15 reported feeling "so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more" in the past 12 months that they stopped doing some usual activities. The rate of chronic sadness was 26 percent in 7th grade, 32 percent in 9th grade and 34 percent in 11th grade and  were unchanged from the 2011-13 survey.

About 1 in 5 students in 9th grade and 11th grade reported seriously considering suicide.

On the positive side, 11th grade students reported decreased rates of binge drinking, alcohol use, marijuana use and drinking and driving.

First survey on sexual orientation

The survey also found significant numbers of students who did not identify themselves as heterosexual.

When asked "Which of the following best describes you?" 76 percent of 7th graders, 86 percent of 9th graders and 88 percent of 11th graders chose "heterosexual/straight." The 2013-15 survey was the first time researchers asked the question.

"Gay/lesbian/bisexual" was chosen by 3.5 percent of 7th graders, 6.4 percent of 9th graders and 7.2 percent of 11th graders. "Transgender" was chosen by between 1.1 and 1.6 percent of students across the grade levels. "Not sure" was selected by 11 percent of 7th graders and dropped to 4.2 percent for 11th graders. "Declined to respond" was chosen by 14.5 percent of 7th graders, 6.1 percent of 9th graders and 4.7 percent of 11th graders.

New federal tools for schools to address harassment of students based on their religion

Incidents of bullying based on actual or perceived religious background, including Jewish students who are called anti-Semitic epithets and Muslim students who are picked on for wearing a hijab and called terrorists, are increasing, the U.S. Department of Education said.

In response, the department has launched a new webpage outlining the federal legal protections -- including provisions in the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act -- for students based on religion or shared ancestry with a religious group. This fact sheet gives examples of school scenarios that could prompt a civil rights investigation.

In addition, newly adopted regulations will make it possible, starting in October, for school districts, students and parents to request help from a regional federal Equity Assistance Center. The department also lists resources for schools at the bottom of this 2015 guidance letter.
Experts say schools must do more to address early signs of sexual harassment
A new California law requiring 7th- through 12th-grade students to be educated about sexual harassment and assault will enter its first full year of implementation this fall, and experts and advocates say schools have the opportunity to address troubling attitudes about gender and power that they say can contribute to sexual harassment and even assaults on college campuses. Read more at EdSource.
Special Education Services
New guidance issued July 26 by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights reiterates that schools are obligated to assess and support the educational and behaviorial needs of students with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Under the provisions of the federal civil rights law called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, schools must determine if a student has attention disorder and provide intervention strategies. The Office for Civil Rights said the most common complaint it receives related to ADHD is about struggles with academics and behavior that students with ADHD experience at school "when they are not timely and properly evaluated for a disability, or when they do not receive necessary special education or related aids and services."
School Nutrition
U.S. Department of Agriculture adopts final rules on school snacks, student wellness policies and community eligibility
It's official: The U .S. Department of Agriculture has announced final rules for school wellness policies, nutrition requirements for school snacks, eligibility for free or reduced price meals by community income level and state oversight of school meals programs.

The rules come despite Congressional wrangling over how much healthy food children should be eating -- a debate that for nearly a year has kept Congress from passing a reauthorization bill, known as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act, that includes the national school lunch program. Reauthorization is not necessary for the federal nutrition programs to continue but provides an opportunity for the programs to be tweaked.

In the meantime, the previous reauthorization, known as the Healthy, Hunger-Free Act of 2010, remains in effect and these new rules are part of that act.

Some of the rules are currently in place as interim rules, while others are new. Among the highlights, according to California Project Lean, a program of the Public Health Institute:
  • No marketing of unhealthy foods at schools, including at fundraisers.
  • Parents, community members and school staff must be invited to develop and assess local school wellness policies that reinforce healthy eating and exercise.
  • Districts and schools that want to streamline the school meals reimbursement process by using community income eligibility, instead of qualifying low-income students by household, will find the requirements in the final rules.
School Discipline
Students who don't conform to gender stereotypes are often targeted by bullies, but less well known is that these students are also more likely to be disciplined at school, including for incidents in which they may have been the victims, according to a new report by GLSEN, a national education organization focused on school safety and welcoming environments for all students.

The report said that among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth students, higher levels of being bullied were associated with higher rates of being suspended, "potentially because bullying incidents put LGBT students in greater contact with school authorities."

The report is intended to bring the disciplinary experiences of LGBT youth into the conversation about why students are absent from school or dropout.

On the positive side, the report noted that teachers and staff who are supportive of LGBT youth "have steadily become more prevalent."

Tips from for making schools welcoming places for all students include, according to the report: 
  • Anti-bullying policies that state that bullying based on gender identity and sexual orientation is not allowed.
  • LGBT topics are included in lessons to increase student engagement and knowledge.
  • If school police are on campus, they know school anti-bullying policies and how to address the needs of LGBT students
  • School policies concerning public displays of affection are enforced in the same way for all students.
Upcoming Webinars and New Resources
Hear from LGBT youth about their experiences in a tribal youth program and how adults and youth can make an environment more LGBT-friendly. Hosted by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Thursday, July 28, 3 to 4 p.m. PT. Register here.
A teen father's involvement in his son's life for the first eight years is associated with higher math scores by age 10, research has found. That factoid and other information about the role of teen fathers -- and how to engage them-- are gathered into five resource briefs now posted at
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services and K-12 staff will discuss how to assist students with "access and functional needs," including those who are deaf, blind, or in a wheelchair, in an emergency. Friday July 29, 11 a.m. to 12 noon. PT. Register here.
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