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Violence in Student Writing
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Violence in Student Writing
A School Administrator's Guide

Foreword by Allan Osborne



November 2012 | 144 pages | Corwin

Your guide to action when student writing crosses the line

At what point should violent student expressions be considered a legitimate threat? This legal handbook helps you apply caution and logic in protecting your students' freedom of speech while also protecting the safety of everyone in the building. Gretchen Oltman, an experienced educator and licensed attorney, shows you how to react appropriately to warning signs from students. You'll discover how to:

  • Prevent violence by creating a positive and safe school environment
  • Guide teachers in assessing written threats of violence
  • Evaluate writing outside the classroom, including texting and Facebook postings


Violence in Student Writing delves into the real-life experiences of administrators, teachers, and students, exploring current and relevant issues in student writing violence and offering solutions that every school administrator needs to know.

"This book provides educators with legal and education frameworks for distinguishing students who are writing about violence from writing by violent students. Knowing the difference between the two can possibly save lives."
—Kenneth S. Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services
Author of Proactive School Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning

"Increased emphasis on writing, combined with evolving trends in online media and bullying, make this a book we all need to keep handy. Here, Oltman combines her wisdom as both a classroom teacher and a lawyer, offering us a guide we can trust as we all seek to navigate our way through the complex landscape of writing instruction."
—Jim Burke, Author of The English Teacher's Companion

 
Foreword by Allan Osborne
 
Preface
 
Acknowledgments
 
About the Author
 
Introduction
 
1. The Aftermath of Columbine on Student Writing
A Brief History of School Violence  
The Columbine and Jonesboro Shootings: Writings as a Pretext for Violence  
The Columbine Effect  
The Aftermath of Columbine on the Student Writer  
Boston, Massachusetts  
Cary, Illinois  
West Warwick, Rhode Island  
Prosser, Washington  
Johnston, Rhode Island  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
2. Schooling for Citizenship: A Legal Primer for Educators
Freedom of Expression in Today's Public Schools  
The U.S. Constitution  
Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District  
Bethel v. Fraser  
Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier  
Morse v. Frederick  
How Do These Cases Apply to Classroom Writing Samples?  
The True Threat Standard  
The Court’s Call for Citizenship Education  
Citizenship Education Through the Curriculum  
Courts Agree – Public Schools Are More Than Books and Pencils  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
3. School Culture and Student Safety
What Students Write About (And What It Can Say About Your School Culture)  
The School Administrator’s Influence On School Culture  
Improving Your School Culture  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
4. Regulating Student Expression: Examining Your School Policy
Why a Zero Tolerance Approach Fails Everyone  
Incorporating Legal Principles Into School Policies  
Sample Policies  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
5. Violent Writing Within the Classroom
Freewriting Is Not the Cause of School Violence  
Writing as a Predictor of Violence  
Writing Instead of Violence  
The Unique Nature of the Writing Classroom  
“But, Teacher, I Want To Be the Next Stephen King...”  
The Lost Lesson: Purpose and Audience  
Advice for All Teachers of Writing  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
6. Violent Writing Beyond the Classroom
Off-Campus Writings  
Cases Where Schools Prevailed  
Cases Where Students Prevailed  
Cyberbullying, Texting, and Facebook Writings  
When the Violent Writing Targets You  
Staying Informed  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
7. Communicating With Teachers About Student Violent Writing
Conversing With Teachers Before the School Year Begins  
Recognizing Potential Syllabus Problems  
Reviewing Teacher Classroom Policies  
Suggesting Teaching Methods When You Are Not a Writing Teacher  
Continuing the Conversation  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
8. Threat Assessment for Student Violent Writing Incidents
Assessment Does Not Mean Profiling  
Listening and Threat Assessment  
Keep a Copy of Student Writing  
A Sample Threat Assessment Form for Student Violent Writing Incidents  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
9. Acting and Responding to Student Violent Writing
The Need for a Timely Response  
Responding Reasonably to All Student Violent Writing  
Creating a Documentation Trail  
Potential Administrative Responses  
Summary  
Practical Applications for Teachers and Administrators  
For K-6 Schools  
For 7-12 Schools  
Questions to Consider  
 
References
 
Appendix A

"Today's school administrators strive to balance student safety without compromising student creativity and supportive educational climates. Violence in Student Writing: A School Administrator’s Guide provides educators with legal and education frameworks for distinguishing students who are writing about violence from writing by violent students. Knowing the difference between the two can possibly save lives."

Kenneth S. Trump, President of National School Safety and Security Services and author of Proactive School Security and Emergency Preparedness Planning

“What is so special about this book (and the author!) is the comprehensive nature of the issue, the historical and legal perspectives, and the sensible recommendations the author provides to handle what can be a tenuous situation. The author presents the reader with the social, educational and legal aspects of the issue while at the same time providing strategies and procedures that the administrator can feel comfortable about developing and implementing that encourage the creativity in students as well as ensure the safety and trust in attending school.”

Susan N. Inamura, Principal (Retired)
Manoa Elementary School, Honolulu, HI

“This book provides an in depth look at the educators and school administrators responsibility to respond to student work samples that are threatening, abusive, and violent. The aim of the book is to provide an awareness of what is student violent writing, how the English teacher can promote creative writing with guides, and applications for immediate response using a systematic approach once a report has been made involving a violent student writing.
I highly recommend this book for all educators, parents, and professional scholars interested in Education in the 21 Century.”

Robin E. Ruiz, Teacher
Denison Middle School, Winter Haven, FL

“Timely and relevant in today’s educational climate. This book will encourage educators and administrators to remain aware, cautious, and empowered.”

Marilyn Steneken, Science Teacher
Sparta Middle School, Oak Ridge, NJ

“This exceptionally practical book addresses the pervasive issues that school staff members face today.”

Marian White-Hood, Director of Academics
Maya Angelou Public Charter Schools, Washington, DC

"Gretchen Oltman offers an important book on a subject that helps us understand the challenges of the past, those of the present, and (gulp!) those we cannot yet imagine. Increased emphasis on writing, combined with evolving trends in online media and bullying, make this a book we all need to keep handy. Here, Gretchen combines her wisdom as both a classroom teacher and a lawyer, offering us a guide we can trust as we all seek to navigate our way through the complex landscape of writing instruction."

Jim Burke, Author, The English Teacher's Companion

"Rarely do authors have the ability to bring the law alive by providing teachers and administrators with deep understanding of its practical application in their schools. This book is an insightful look into the power of school culture, instructional decision making, policy development, and student well-being through the lens of violent writing, both on and off campus. The writing is compelling, the scholarship is deft, and Oltman’s clear focus on the real work of schools makes this book a must read."

Susan G. Clark, President, Education Law Association and Professor, Educational Foundations and Leadership
University of Akron, Akron, OH

"I know first hand how destructive high schools can be in handling student writing that makes them uncomfortable. In some cases students with no record of violence have been suspended, and their reputations permanently altered, just because their English teacher was frightened by something they wrote. Oltman's book presents the case for much more intelligent policies. Teams of educators who have researched the issue and have spoken to the students should be making these decisions, she says. This is a sensible guide that should be required reading for all principals."

Jay Mathews, Education columnist
Washington Post
Key features
  • Using published court cases dealing with students' violent and/or disturbing writing, the book will interpret the law in an administrator-friendly way and show how to apply the legal principles to student discipline scenarios while still upholding educational goals.
  • Deals with violent writing both within the classroom and outside the classroom, including cyberbullying, texting, and Facebook writings.
  • Each chapter will include real-life scenarios from school administrators and teachers to help illustrate the problems. Actual student writing samples will also be used whenever feasible to obtain.
  • Shows how to shape a positive and safe school culture where students are less likely to commit school violence.
  • Gives administrators strategies on how to provide guidance to teachers across the content areas, including how to recognize potential syllabus problems and how to do threat assessments of student writing.

Sample Materials & Chapters

Preface

Chapter 1: The Aftermath of Columbine on Student Writing


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ISBN: 9781452203973
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