June 21, 2018

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the Federal Commission on School Safety (FCSS) will meet this week to gain more insight into how entertainment, media, cyberbullying and social media may affect violence and student safety. The meeting, “The Ecology of Schools: Fostering a Culture of Human Flourishing and Developing Character,” will take place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s Indian Treaty Room, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, 2018.

The Commission meeting will consist of three panels:

Panel 1: Cyberbullying and Social Media

The following experts will present their research and findings to the Commission:

  •     Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and co-director of its Cyberbullying Research Center. Dr. Hinduja is also the co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Bullying Prevention, a new peer-reviewed journal from Springer Publishing. He is recognized internationally for his groundbreaking work on the subjects of cyberbullying and safe social media use.
  •     Paul Gausman, Ph.D., is the superintendent of schools for the Sioux City Community School District in Sioux City, Iowa. He was named the 2014 Iowa Superintendent of the Year. Dr. Gausman was formerly the Superintendent of Schools for the West Central School District in South Dakota. He implemented programs in the Sioux City district to prevent school-based bullying, including the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) model that encourages kids to stand up for their peers to prevent violence, and the Coaching Boys into Men program.

Panel 2: Youth Consumption of Violent Entertainment  

The following experts will present their research and findings to the Commission:  

  •     L. Rowell Huesmann, Ph.D., is the Amos N. Tversky Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, as well as the director of the Aggression Research Program in the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the university’s Institute for Social Research. His research focuses on understanding the psychological foundations of aggressive behavior and, in particular, on understanding how the observations of others behaving violently influences the development of youth aggression and violent behavior.  
  •     Christopher Ferguson, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at Stetson University. He has clinical experience particularly in working with juvenile justice populations as well as conducting evaluations for child protective service agencies. In 2013, Dr. Ferguson was awarded a Distinguished Early Career Professional Award from Division 46 (media psychology and technology) of the American Psychological Association. In 2014, he was named a fellow of the American Psychological Association through Division 1 (general psychology, effective January 2015).

Panel 3: Effects of Press Coverage on Mass Shootings

The following experts will present their research and findings to the Commission:

  •     Jennifer B. Johnston, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of psychology at Western New Mexico University. Her primary research interest is the cognitive and behavioral development of children as affected by their media “diet.” Dr. Johnston has conducted extensive research on mass shootings and the media contagion effect. Her research supports the notion of a “Don’t Name Them” campaign, which describes how media can easily inform the public of mass shooting-related news without focusing any content on the name, face, history, manifestos or stated motivations of the shooter.
  •     Ben Fernandez is the chair of the National Association of School Psychologists’ (NASP) School Safety and Crisis Response Committee. Currently, he is the lead psychologist for Loudon County Public Schools in Virginia. In 2012, he was named School Psychologist of the Year by NASP, and, in 2015, Mr. Fernandez received a NASP Presidential Award.

Over the past several months, the Commission has gathered information from students, parents, teachers, school safety personnel, administrators, law-enforcement officials, mental-health professionals, school counselors, security professionals and others. On May 31, the Commission held its first field visit at Hebron-Harman Elementary School in Hanover, Maryland, and on June 6, hosted its first listening session at the U.S. Department of Education.  

    Field Visit at Hebron-Harman Elementary School: Secretary DeVos and representatives from the Commission traveled to Hebron-Harman Elementary School to learn more about Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). PBIS is a framework for assisting school personnel in organizing evidence-based interventions to help improve academic performance and social behavior outcomes for students. In addition to observing several first-grade classrooms, the representatives heard from nationally renowned PBIS expert George Sugai, Ph.D., as well as from Anne Arundel County Public Schools students, teachers and administrators about the school district’s PBIS program.

    Listening Session at U.S. Department of Education: The session provided an opportunity for members of the public to share with Deputy Secretary of Education Mick Zais and Commission representatives their views on how schools, districts, institutions of higher education and local and state government agencies can improve school safety.

Over the coming months, the Commission will continue to host listening sessions, formal Commission meetings and field visits. For more information, please visit the FCSS website: https://www.ed.gov/school-safety


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