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Four Elements to Successful Bullying Recognition and Prevention

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Four Elements to Successful Bullying Recognition and Prevention

Follow this comprehensive guide to make your schools safer places for all students.

JoLynn Carney, PhD, and Richard Hazler, PhD

Recognizing and preventing bullying in schools is primarily a matter of organized implementation of a few critical themes. Effectively addressing the complex dynamics between a target, a bully, and bystanders involves strategies that include reducing isolation, empathic investment in those who are seen as different, creating the sense of a team effort within the community, and supporting ongoing investment efforts.

There are numerous approaches to bullying prevention. Some are single-focus programs such as Olweus Bully/Victim Prevention. Others such as Positive Behavior Supports, and Project TEAM incorporate bullying prevention as one part of a comprehensive program to create an overall positive and productive school environment. SafeSchools Training from Scenario Learning provides practical training and the insights needed to manage bullying behaviors in schools and can be incorporated into a school-wide comprehensive prevention model.

Programs differ in specifics and focus, but their success is built on making sure everyone feels personally invested and is committed to taking action.

  1. Isolation Reduction

A common sign that a person or group is being bullied or is highly vulnerable to bullying is isolation. Students who frequently sit alone at lunch, make poor eye contact, and avoid speaking to others may be targets or particularly vulnerable to bullying. Interpersonal abuse can’t continue when bystanders break the isolation by taking actions that support people who may be vulnerable. Helping targets to make connections with others is the key.

Children can befriend their peers, and adults can create circumstances in which children are comfortable and supported by others. The more peers and adults demonstrate support to all students, especially those who might be vulnerable as targets, the more quickly bullying can be curbed before it begins.

  1. Empathic Knowledge and Investment

Individuals and groups viewed as “other” (i.e., “not like me”) are highly vulnerable to bullying. We tend to feel greater emotional connections to individuals we sense commonalities with, and less emotional connection with those we see as different. Bullying stops when targets are viewed as significant people just like us, when we are sensitive to their joy and pain, and when we feel the need to keep them from harm. Creating empathic investment in all parties, including bystanders as well as bullies and targets, is therefore essential for success.

Empathy can be fostered during regular classroom discussions—around stories, books, and videos that tap the emotions; abuse in the news; and examples of prejudice and discrimination that occur locally and in the wider world. These discussions should include how these events relate to hurting others in our own lives, why people do hurt others, and how we can help change or prevent those situations. Discussions also need to emphasize the positive aspects of people and groups who seem different, so that people are more likely to support them for positive reasons and share concern for their problems. Bringing people emotionally closer by increasing these positive connections reduces bullying.

  1. Community as a Team

The more people are invested in empathy and the reduction of isolation, the more their support and caring concern prevents and stops bullying. Everyone recognizes how successful teams, clubs, and organizations have a shared vision and work together for common goals, and feel connected in the process. This is a team approach that gets individuals working in common directions and feeling their own worth and appreciation within the group.

Setting goals that excite all members of the community, whether school-wide or even within a classroom create a sense of greater good that also supports individuals. Recognizing those who help individual students and the larger group move toward goals is essential to maintaining motivation and caring among students. Celebrating the joy that comes with being a part of the team is critical and can come in many forms, including team-building activities and events, team songs, banners, and as many daily reminders as possible that highlight the support for the group, its goals, and its individual members.

  1. Ongoing and Organized Investment

Creating a supportive environment for all students must be a consistent priority. Teams that experience great victories only to then stop practicing and evolving with changing times lose their potential for greater accomplishments. Prevention of bullying is an ongoing task that must be regularly evaluated and revised based on evolving circumstances. We must continually find ways to seek new growth and successes.

For additional information and details see: Hazler, R.J. & Carney, J.V. (2012). Critical characteristics of effective bullying prevention programs. In S.R. Jimerson, A.B. Nickerson, M.J. Mayer, & M.J. Furlong (Eds.), Handbook of school violence and school safety: From research to practice 2nd Edition (pp 357–368). New York: Routledge.

Dr. Richard Hazler is a Professor of Counselor Education at Penn State University. He is well known for his work in areas of bullying, peer-on-peer abuse, and youth violence. He is the co-author of “Bullying: Recognition & Response” for SafeSchools from Scenario Learning.

Dr. JoLynn Carney is a faculty member in the Department of Counseling at Penn State University and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. Her research and publications focus on areas of youth violence, peer-on-peer abuse, and adolescent suicide. She is the co-author of “Bullying: Recognition & Response” for SafeSchools from Scenario Learning.

Photo: GettyImages

Digital Path to Success

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Digital Path to Success

Nine key steps to creating a modern digital learning environment.

By Susan K. Allen, Christine Johns, and Dwight Jones

Creating modern digital learning environments can be exciting. As a school administrator, it’s exciting to imagine students learning at their own pace on tablets loaded with interactive, customized lesson plans. You may envision teachers as facilitators in classrooms where students are empowered to lead their own learning, thinking critically and creatively as they access original source materials and collaborate to create blogs and videos.

However, the transition to a modern digital learning environment can also be daunting. It requires much more than simply providing devices to students. A digital transition is a multi-faceted, multi-year process that must be carefully thought-out, planned, and communicated.

We are three superintendents with 16 years of school leadership and 20 years of K-12 teaching experience among us. As the heads of school districts—one small, one medium, and one large—we have created modern digital learning environments for our students. We know firsthand what works and what doesn't. We’ve experienced setbacks and successes. Sometimes we moved too fast, other times we wished we had been bolder. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and we want to share our insights with you.

These nine key steps focus on the common elements of a digital transition that are essential for success. It is our hope that these steps will help other school leaders create the modern classrooms today’s students demand and deserve.

  1. Start with the “why.”

In our experience, this first step is the foundation for a successful digital transition.

Consider how digital learning will align with standards, add value for teachers, and enhance the student learning experience. Then, make sure you broadcast this message to stakeholders clearly and frequently.

Begin by involving all stakeholders—principals, teachers, parents, students, the board of education, local businesses, and community residents. Is the goal of digital learning to provide education for all levels of learners? Is it to prepare students for the workplaces they will encounter? Is it to engage and challenge students with inquiry-based lessons? Your answers will be tailored to the needs of your school district and community.

  1. Assess your district’s readiness for a transition to digital learning environments.

Don’t rush. Build broad-based understanding and support of upcoming changes through meetings with the board of education, principals, teachers, your PTA, and other stakeholders. Develop and communicate a rollout plan that takes into account which schools in your district are most ready to make the digital transition as well as which schools are most in need of digital investment. Some school districts will start with a particular grade or subject, while others will begin with the teachers who are most eager to learn about and use digital learning tools.

  1. Make sure the digital content aligns to standards.

Just like print materials, digital materials must deliver on the standards that students are expected to know and be able to meet. There are many great resources—both print and digital—that generate engaging classroom experiences but have nothing to do with the curriculum. Invest in digital resources that enhance your teachers’ abilities to deliver the learning objectives they’re expected to teach.

  1. Clearly communicate your vision.

As you embark on a digital transition, use the communication tools you already have to provide a framework, and make answers to questions easily available to all stakeholders. There is no such thing as overcommunication. Your district must be relentless in its effort to explain the importance of the digital transition you are planning. Do not expect anyone in the district, not even teachers or principals, to automatically know the value of digital tools.

In addition to proactive communications describing the goals and benefits of the initiative, it is important to keep lines of communication open throughout the process. Be transparent about challenges, setbacks, and promises with all stakeholders. Listen to concerns, and address them as they arise.

  1. Empower navigators.

Dedicate knowledgeable staff to guide the purchasing process for both hardware and digital curriculum materials, and to steer professional development. Navigators should be the point people in your district moving this project forward and providing answers throughout the process. Before they begin their work, it could be helpful for them to reach out to colleagues in other school systems to benchmark and learn about their experiences.

  1. Start your digital transition slowly.

Tap teachers who are enthusiastic about the transition, and allow them to pilot the service before rolling it out on a large scale. Those teachers can then serve as resources and share their insights and experiences with other teachers preparing for the transition to digital learning. Celebrate teacher leaders who are risk takers, leading every day by example.

  1. Provide ongoing professional development.

Professional development should be embedded in various stages of the project and ongoing. Teachers and other staff should gain a real facility with using technology in order to integrate digital content into instruction in a way that creates self-directed student learners.

Be prepared to provide professional development that meets teachers on all levels. Some teachers are going to be skilled and eager digital instructors, while others will be wary of change to their established lesson plans. Full-scale professional learning should be based on the content that will be taught, not on grade levels or familiarity with the intricacies of the devices. Teachers want to know how to teach content effectively and with ease.

  1. Focus on learning, not technology.

Show teachers how technology can be used to support a variety of teaching styles, including small-group collaboration, rotating through technology stations, student presentations, and teacher-led instruction. The goal is to create classroom environments where students are directing their own learning and teachers are guides, not dispensers of information.

  1. Promote digital citizenship.

Make sure students learn digital citizenship and sourcing skills. Devote classroom instruction time to teaching students how to be good digital citizens. That includes knowing how to interact online without bullying, how to advocate responsibly, and how to evaluate the trustworthiness of sources. Students also need to learn how to resist the siren call of a device. One student said a digital learning environment helped him learn how to resist distraction. “I had a choice to make,” he said. “I could remain distracted and my grades could go down, or I could use this tool to get better grades.”

Transitioning to modern digital learning environments is a large, complex task. Yet we feel that if these nine elements are kept top of mind by school leaders as their districts undertake a digital transition, the groundwork for creating the dynamic classrooms that will prepare students for success beyond graduation will be truly and successfully laid.

Dr. Christine Johns has been superintendent since 2006 of Utica Community Schools in Michigan, with 28,600 students over 66 square miles. She pioneered a digital transition that coincided with a shift in state standards and a change from half-day to full-day kindergarten.

Susan K. Allen, New York State's 2016 Superintendent of the Year, has been superintendent of the 3,000-student East Irondequoit Central School District since 2005. She pioneered a digital conversion that included giving each student in grades K-12 an iPad.

Dwight Jones, currently the superintendent in residence for Discovery Education, has served as commissioner of education for the Department of Education in Colorado and superintendent for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada, the nation's fifth-largest school district, with 315,000 students.

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Eight Things You Need to Know About Lead Exposure in Water

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Eight Things You Need to Know About Lead Exposure in Water

How schools can protect their students and communicate with their parents.

By Donna Mazyck

Recent news reports about lead in water supplies in many U.S. cities raise serious concerns, especially about the wellbeing of young children. Lead exposure causes significantly greater harm to children than adults. Exposure can lead to developmental delays and health problems. Here are eight things school officials can do to help keep their students safe and communicate the dangers of lead poisoning to parents.

  1. Know the sources of lead in the environment. Exposure to lead can come from paint or gasoline. Other major sources include water, dust, and dirt. Lead in homes or schools can come from lead paint in buildings that were built before 1978 or in water. 
  2. Test buildings for lead. Check with the health department about testing paint dust and paint chips from school. Let your community know that they should test for lead in homes built before 1978 and tell them to contact the health department if they have questions about finding a licensed lead inspector.
  3. Clean up lead dust that may come from old paint as it cracks and peels. Cleaning tips include using wet paper towels; cleaning around windows, play areas, and floors; using duct tape to cover peeling paint; washing hands and toys with soap and water; and washing hands before eating and sleeping.
  4. Test water. Have the water in your school tested and let the community know the results. Also, encourage children’s families to have their home water tested. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set 15 parts per billion as the level at which corrective action must be taken. Lead may be found in drinking water in some faucets and not others in a building.

If lead is found, precautions for using the water should be followed. Water shouldn’t be drunk or used from a faucet that has been off for more than six hours, and that includes use in cooking. In order to make sure the water is safe, the cold tap must be run for at least five minutes. Note that cold tap water only is safe to use, because hot or warm running water can have higher levels of lead. Pregnant women and children under six years old should avoid water from lead-tainted faucets entirely, even when these precautions are taken. They should drink only bottled water. Boiling water does not reduce its lead content, but NSF-certified water filters and replacements are effective at doing so.

In addition, encourage child-care centers to test their drinking water for lead.

  1. 5. If children are at risk, encourage parents to have them tested. If a blood test detects lead exposure, health care providers will develop a comprehensive plan for treatment.
  2. Encourage families to eat foods that reduce lead in the body. These include foods high in calcium, such as milk, leafy green vegetables, and fortified orange juice; foods containing iron, such as red meat, fish, chicken, dried fruit, and beans; and foods high in vitamin C, such as fruits and peppers.
  3. Track affected students’ educational progress. Follow the progress of students with lead exposure, and be sure to update parents. A developmental assessment can determine the amount of support children may need to ensure academic success.
  4. Work for prevention. Preventing lead exposure in children is the best solution.Work for prevention by advocating for the following:
  • Environments safe from lead
  • Tracking and identifying lead sources
  • Control or safe removal of lead

School nurses work with educators, families, and health care providers to keep students health, safe and ready to learn. For additional information on lead prevention and exposure in children, visit the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the EPA.

Donna Mazyck is the executive director of the National Association of School Nurses and a former school nurse.

Photo: © Ryan Garza/Detroit Free Press/zReportage.com via ZUMA Wire

Hamilton 101

Hamilton

Hamilton 101

The inside story of how the biggest show on Broadway teamed with two nonprofits to immerse high school students in American history—and challenge them to create their own performances.

By Wayne D’Orio

Six years before the play Hamilton opened Off-Broadway, creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda had a thought: Whenever I finish this play, it will be useful for teachers. That’s because before Hamilton won 11 Tonys, before its cast album was streamed 365 million times, before the top ticket prices soared to a record $849, Miranda debuted the show’s first song, “Alexander Hamilton,” at the White House Poetry Jam in 2009.

When video of the four-and-a-half minute performance hit YouTube, the number-one comment was, “My teacher showed us this in APUSH,” Miranda told Newsweek, using the acronym for AP U.S. History.

Six years later, when the play opened at Manhattan's Public Theater, one very interested observer made smart use of his second ticket by inviting Lesley S. Herrmann of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. As soon as the play finished, Herrmann turned to the man who invited her, historian and award-winning author Ron Chernow, and said, “We have to get this in the hands of kids.” Chernow's 2004 biography of Hamilton inspired Miranda to write his play.  

Fast forward another year to May 2016. Thirteen teams of 11th graders from around New York City are waiting anxiously in the wings to perform their own two-minute pieces on events or people from the birth of our country. “Welcome to the best day of the year for us here at the Richard Rodgers: EduHam,” says an enthusiastic Miranda as he looks out on a theater packed entirely with high school students. After the student performances, the high schoolers will see Hamilton, culminating their immersion in the life and times of the “10-dollar founding father without a father.”

So how did the hottest show on Broadway not only team up with two nonprofits to bring 20,000 11th graders, one of every four in the city, through the doors of the Richard Rodgers Theatre but then entice each of them to interpret original documents from the founding of our country and create their own artistic interpretation of a historical moment?

Laying the Groundwork

In some ways, this partnership between Hamilton, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and the Rockefeller Foundation was a whirlwind project, going from idea to fully realized program in less than a year. But in other ways, the seeds of the project were sown much earlier.

Miranda knew firsthand how powerful creating your own artistic project could be to young people; indeed that’s how he got his start in musical theater. He wrote three original songs when he was in eighth grade to help teach classmates the content of The Chosen, a coming-of-age story that takes place in Brooklyn in the 1940s. “My first musical I ever wrote was a class assignment,” he revealed to Arrive magazine.

Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller himself has a history of bringing Broadway to high school students. He created an educational program for the musical Rent, his first theatrical success.

And Gilder Lehrman has a long track record of creating history programs that benefit schools. Two-thirds of the students who take AP U.S. History visit the institute’s website, and its total traffic is expected to increase to 10 million visitors this year, up from fewer than 2 million visitors two years ago. 

Miranda’s father, Luis Miranda Jr., expressed interest in creating a program for schools, and he and Seller subsequently met last summer with Gilder Lehrman’s director of education, Tim Bailey. Bailey showed them a recent program he had written called Vietnam in Verse. The lesson plan used poetry and music from the era to discuss the issues of that period. Seller was impressed: “You’re in,” he told Bailey.

He and Luis Miranda found the money needed for the project, getting the Rockefeller Foundation to put up $1.5 million. The funds helped pay for the curriculum’s creation and subsidize the tickets needed for the 20,000 students. The play offers each seat for $70, basically its cost to run a performance of the play without making a profit. Rockefeller pays $60 while students pony up $10, both a nod to Hamilton and a way to make sure they’re invested in the project.

“Works like this don’t come around very often, and when they do we must make every effort to maximize their reach,” said Judith Rodin, president of the foundation.

“Here’s a story that talks about American history and the ideals of American democracy . . . in a vernacular that speaks to young people, written by a product of New York public education,” Rodin told The New York Times. “Could there possibly be a better combination in terms of speaking to students?”

Creating a Student Study Guide

Bailey started working on the framework of the project in September. He knew he wanted to have students deal directly with primary sources. Gilder Lehrman is the owner of 60,000 documents from American history, and Bailey knew that having students read and respond to these sources, while challenging, was key.

Summarizing key documents and events reduces moments to one story, Bailey says, robbing students of the ability to interpret, and disagree, about both people and history. But Bailey knows that asking students to read documents written more than 200 years ago can lead to lots of eye rolling. “There’s a fine line you have to watch as a teacher, between good instruction and frustration, and that line is different for every student,” says the former history teacher. “It’s a really complex skill for an educator, but it’s really what you have to aim for.”

Bailey’s study guide has students do a close reading of two documents, loyalist Samuel Seabury’s Free Thoughts on the Proceedings of the Continental Congress and Hamilton’s A Full Vindication of the Measures of the Congress. The guide instructs students to pick key words from the excerpts, then summarize the readings in the author’s words. For the last part of the lesson, students then restate each excerpt in their own words.

“We have to teach students the skills to unlock those sources,” he adds. “We provide enough structure so that students won’t freak out.”

He also has students mine the two excerpts from Seabury and Hamilton to discern exactly where each line in the song Farmer Refuted originated, demonstrating how Miranda went from fact to verse.

While Bailey worked on the classroom materials, others at Gilder Lehrman set up a private website where students can log in and not only see parts of five songs that are performed during the show, but also view nine video interviews created exclusively for them. In the videos, Miranda explains how Hamilton is different from other founding fathers, Chernow discusses the artistic license used in historical non-fiction, and actors read from actual documents of the period.

Miranda, handling the actual love letter Hamilton wrote to his not-yet wife Eliza, reads: “You not only employ my mind all day; but you intrude upon my sleep. I meet you in every dream and when I wake, I cannot close my eyes again for ruminating on your sweetness.” He looks up and tells students, “This puts whatever R&B song you’re listening to right now to shame.”

“We have amazing access to the show,” Bailey says. “It’s unprecedented.”

The website also features information on 30 different historical figures, ranging from Martha Washington to Hercules Mulligan, the tailor who used his access to British troops to spy for the Patriots. The site highlights 14 key events from the era, as well as 20-plus documents from The Federalist Papers to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

Projects and Performances

If the program sounds like a lot of work, it’s actually not, Bailey explains, adding that the whole project is expected to take only two or three classes. Most of the student work, including a suggested three hours of rehearsal, takes place outside the classroom. The program includes an 11-page teacher guide that discusses objectives, procedures, and alignment with four Common Core State Standards. The lesson includes a rubric that guides teachers in how to assess student work.

Students are given wide latitude in what, and how, they perform. They can present a rap, a song, a poem, a monologue, or a scene. And while their performance has to represent the era, they decide which key people, events, or documents to include.

“There are performances that had nothing to do with the shows,” says Bailey. One girl recited poetry about Phyllis Wheatley, a former slave and the first published African-American poet, who’s not in the play, and another student reworked the rapper Drake’s “5AM in Toronto” to tell the story of the Boston Massacre. (To see all the student performances from the May show, visit ABC’s Good Morning America.)

In May, students performed as Miranda and Christopher Jackson, who plays George Washington in the play, introduced each act and led the cheers. When a student named Reynaldo performed a dramatic rap as Hamilton that ended with his being shot by Aaron Burr, Miranda and Jackson were floored. “Whoa,” Jackson exclaimed. When Miranda recovered, he said, “I look forward to catching that single on iTunes.”

Right now, the educational program is only slated to run in New York for one year. (There have been two all-student matinees so far. The remainder will take place in the fall.) Bailey is confident the program will be approved for another year, and hopes that it can be expanded to other cities where the show is expected to open; Chicago will get a production starting in September, while two touring productions are expected to start in San Francisco in March 2017 and in Seattle in 2018. A London production is expected as well, and running an educational program overseas is certain to elicit different student viewpoints.

The program has reaped praise from high schools all the way to the White House, where the whole project first got started. When the cast came to perform at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in March, President Barack Obama said the soundtrack has become a favorite in his household, and he praised the educational component. “I'm thrilled they are working with New York public schools. There’s now a curriculum to give students context and a deeper meaning—or deeper understanding of our nation’s founding.” he said. “I hope this helps every teacher who spent hours trying to make The Federalist Papers teenager-friendly. The remarkable life of Alexander Hamilton will show our young people the possibilities within themselves and how much they can achieve within the span of a lifetime.”

For more about Hamilton's high school initiative, listen to Wayne D'Orio on EWA Radio

Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images

The Importance of Emphasizing Online Safety to Students

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The Importance of Emphasizing Online Safety to Students

Three steps to teach your students safe online behavior, whether at school or at home.

By Phyllis Schneck

The Internet and digital technology touch almost every aspect of our daily lives. Our children use technology more and more each day, and at younger ages than ever. According to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, 70 percent of kids have a mobile phone and 90 percent of kids have a mobile phone, tablet, or computer in their bedrooms.

This use of technology brings many benefits—and many potential dangers for students.

Just as we teach our children not to talk to strangers and to look both ways before crossing the street, we need to teach children how to behave safely and appropriately online. This is part of helping children utilize technology for enjoyment while still keeping safe.

Here are three lesson themes that teachers and educators can focus on when teaching online safety.

Lesson #1: Own Your Online Presence

Children view privacy differently than most adults. They post everything online and stay in constant contact with their friends. But children often don’t realize their actions online have lasting and potentially negative consequences.

For example, do your students know that what they post online today can affect them in the future? Do they understand that sharing personal information online can expose them to cyber predators, identity theft, and other online threats? Some students may not even realize that personal information such as their name, home address, school name, or pictures of themselves and their friends is “sensitive” and needs to be protected.

Students also need to understand that everything they post online, from pictures to status updates, creates a “permanent record” of their lives. As students get older, their online presence can impact college choices or their future careers. College admissions officers and job recruiters often check candidates’ social media accounts. It’s important for students to take ownership of how they portray themselves—their personal “brand”—online.

Lesson #2: Resist Cyberbullying

As children spend more time online, bullying and harassment move online too. In 2015, 34 percent of students reported that they had been victims of cyberbullying, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.

One of the first lessons students learn in school is to treat others with respect. Reinforce the idea that this rule applies online as well. Students must learn to treat others online just as they would want to be treated.

Children often forget that communicating via text, on social media sites, or in e-mail is just like having a conversation with someone in real life. As a result they sometimes behave in ways or say things online they would never do or say in person. We must teach our children that when they communicate online, they are affecting other people and must be polite.

Lesson #3: Cybersecurity Is a Shared Responsibility

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. campaign—a national awareness program to help all Americans stay safer and more secure online—is committed to supporting the effort to keep children safe. The campaign provides awareness resources to strengthen the public’s understanding of cybersecurity, making them available to schools, students, and educational staff.

The Stop.Think.Connect. toolkit provides educators a wealth of resources, including tip cards and presentations ideal for bringing online safety lessons into classrooms. Other resources include the Stop.Think.Connect. Parents and Educators Tip Card, the Stop.Think.Connect. Social Media Guides, and the Chatting with Kids about Being Online guide.

Please contact the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign at stopthinkconnect@dhs.gov or visit www.DHS.gov/StopThinkConnect if you have questions or would like more information.

Dr. Phyllis Schneck is the deputy under secretary for cybersecurity and communications, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in edu Pulse are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.