How PTA Leaders are Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth

Across the nation, states are seeing a dramatic rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment, and particularly anti-transgender legislation. LGBTQ+ youth need PTAs to help protect their rights and stand up to bigotry. As we celebrate PRIDE month, here are stories of PTA leaders who are using their influence to support and celebrate LGBTQ+ youth.  

Celebration & Allyship in Round Rock, Texas 

As students at Canyon Vista Middle School returned to school following the COVID-19 school closures, teachers noticed an increase in acts of bias including the use of slurs against LGBTQ+ students. To address this increasingly hostile environment and to help LGBTQ+ students feel supported, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) club set out to host their first annual pride parade in 2021. PTA president Aidan Larson got involved, partnering with teachers and GSA sponsors, including Paige Crain, to create safer spaces for LGBTQ+ students in their school.  

Their activism wasn’t free of pushback. Historically, the environment had been hostile, with educators opposing the use of rainbow safe space stickers in their school. Paige and the other sponsors didn’t let that stop them. With the PTA working hand in hand with Paige and the GSA, they marched forward with their plans to host the celebration. 

The 2021 Pride parade was a success, engaging folks from across the school district and a variety of exhibitors. The team had recruited a variety of partners including the Texas Freedom Network, Out Youth, and a local church who came to distribute pride flags. While families from around the district showed up, there was not universal support. 

To ensure the 2022 Pride parade could take place without issue, the PTA again partnered with the GSA. Aidan also met with the school principal to show support for the GSA’s ideas for Pride week.  

When a neighboring middle school PTA promoted Canyon Vista’s Pride parade, not only did executive board members voice their opposition, several resigned due to their discomfort. The PTA president stood her ground, understanding the importance of supporting LGBTQ+ youth. She even managed to find a silver lining to the situation. “It was a lot of pushback,” she shared, “but I think the important part is [that] it made room for people to see that this is what PTA is, and finally, maybe a place that we can be a part of — not a high school girls club.” 

Listening to LGBTQ+ Youth in Lynbrook, New York 

So often students are talked at, by parents, teachers, and coaches, and we forget how important it is for us to take time to listen. Ivy Reilly serves on the Lynbrook High School PTA and received a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) grant from National PTA’s Center for Family Engagement in 2022. She also worked to ensure LGBTQ+ youth thrive by offering them an opportunity to share challenges, barriers and concerns of being identified as part of the community. Ivy decided to focus on the LGBTQ+ community after noticing that many students transitioned during the COVID-19 quarantine. She wanted to make sure that LGBTQ+ students and transgender students in particular, were being supported by the PTA. 

Ivy coordinated with the school administration and the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) advisor to speak with GSA members. She approached the first conversation with a learning mindset. She knew she didn’t have all the answers and that she might not phrase everything correctly, but she didn’t let the desire for perfection stop her. Instead, she saw engaging students as a learning opportunity. “My job is to learn from you so I can help you,” she told them.  

Most of the conversations revolved around ordinary teen issues from extracurricular activities to homework, highlighting the commonalities LGBTQ+ students share with the wider student population. But occasionally more serious issues arose, including a child worrying about if their parent was embarrassed of them because of the way they look, and another student worried about their family sending them to conversion therapy. 

These conversations have motivated Ivy to work on getting LGBTQ+ resources added to the district’s website. She informed the principal about some of the needs that arose from these conversations. She’s also hoping to bring Challenge Day to the Lynbrook community to help build bridges of understanding at the high school. She shared that she remains dedicated to using the PTA platform to support LGBTQ+ youth. “Our goal is to take care of the kids,” she said. “Maybe we’ll get to the parents later, when they’re ready, but the kids need our support now.” 

What can you do? 

If these PTA leaders have inspired you to start advocating for LGBTQ+ youth, there are lots of things you can do to get started! Explore this map to find LGBTQ+ community centers near you, and consider partnering with them on programs, services or events. You can also connect with your school’s GSA. If your school doesn’t have one yet, help create one!  

For more ideas and inspiration, visit www.pta.org/LGBTQ for more resources, including an LGBTQ+ glossary and our podcast episode featuring leaders from the Human Rights Campaign.  

Welcome to Thrive

Thrive. The PTA Learning Community

Greetings PTA Members,

Welcome to Thrive: The PTA Volunteer Learning Community!

Thrive! is PTA’s new online learning community for volunteers. Thrive brings PTA leadership development to you. Through Thrive’s engaging, short courses, you can take training at your own time and place—even from football practice, a dance studio or a soccer field.

I’m so excited about the potential that Thrive brings to National PTA. Leadership development has been a priority for PTA for many years. But our reach has been limited. Throughout this pandemic, we have learned that online is working for our members. Our impact has been expanding, with more people coming to meetings and trainings. So just think of how many future leaders we will be able to reach through this new online community of learners!

What is Thrive?

Thrive is Engaging: Thrive engages every volunteer in their own time and place. Because you can stop a course and start back in your own time, Thrive makes leadership development fit into your life when and how you need it to. Your leadership development thrives in your life!

Thrive is Empowering: Thrive empowers all volunteers to advocate for all children. Volunteers gain new knowledge and skills that help their local and state PTAs operate at peak level. Thrive’s accessible content means every volunteer has access to the most up-to-date, high-quality information about best practices and techniques for helping all children achieve their potential.

Thrive is for you: No matter where you are in your leadership journey, as a lifelong learner there is something in Thrive for you!

Remember, it’s the quality and power of individual actions that can make the difference. The more we learn, the louder our collective voices will become to create change for all children and young people.

Ready to get started? Our help page contains instructions for signing up and taking courses.

Anna King, National PTA President

6 Tips for Keeping Children Safe From COVID This Summer

By We Can Do This, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Public Education Campaign

We’re headed into summer, but we’re not out of the woods with COVID. Cases are going up all over the country, and COVID can make children very sick.

Since the pandemic began, over 100,000 children have been hospitalized with COVID and over 1,500 have died. Over 8,200 children with COVID have also had multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, and brain. And as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID are experiencing long COVID, where they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Here are six tips to follow to keep children safe from COVID this summer.

1. Get vaccinated against COVID as soon as possible

Vaccination is the best thing children can do to protect themselves from the dangers of COVID.

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS-C and long COVID.

Right now, everyone ages 5 and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.

2. Stay up to date with COVID vaccines

To stay up to date with their COVID vaccines, children ages 5–17 need to get two initial vaccine doses at least 21 days apart, followed by a booster shot 5 months after their second dose. A booster shot is an extra dose that helps keep up your protection from the vaccines.

Children are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose and immediately after their booster.

3. Wear a mask

Children are just as likely as adults to get and spread COVID.  

To maximize protection from highly contagious variants and prevent possibly spreading COVID to others, both vaccinated and unvaccinated children ages 2 and older should properly wear a well-fitting mask inside public places when the risk COVID poses to their community is high.

For everyone’s safety, CDC recommends that everyone ages 2 and older wear a mask on public transportation and while in airports and stations.

4. Avoid close contact, crowds, and poorly ventilated spaces

Because of how COVID spreads, children should try to avoid close contact with people who are or might be sick, including within their household, by staying at least 6 feet away.

Children who aren’t up to date with their COVID vaccines should stay at least 6 feet away from other people when inside public places and avoid crowded places and indoor spaces that don’t have fresh air from the outdoors—especially if they’re at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID.

5. Wash hands often

Handwashing removes germs from one’s hands. It helps prevent getting infections and spreading infectious diseases to others.   

Children should wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. If they don’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

6. Test to prevent spreading COVID to others

Getting tested is the only way to know for sure whether you’re infected with COVID and reduce your chances of spreading the virus to others.

If a child tests positive, that means they’re infected with COVID. They should isolate, and you should tell everyone they’ve recently had close contact with, to avoid spreading the virus to others.

The Achievery, Created by AT&T

Connecting students to a new world of digital learning

Student learning at The Achievery

AT&T launched a free digital learning platform that aims to make online learning more entertaining, inspiring, and accessible. The Achievery, created by AT&T, is a growing online library of learning activities for students in grades K-12 to use wherever they are – at home, in the community, or in the classroom. Lesson plans are paired with engaging videos featuring popular Warner Bros. Discovery characters (think: Wonder Woman, Craig of the Creek) to help connect students to a new world of digital learning through stories that spark curiosity.  

AT&T developed The Achievery as part of a $2 billion, three-year Connected Learning Initiative created in 2021, to help bridge the digital divide in underserved communities through investments in broadband access, low-cost internet service, computers, and education and mentoring resources. The Achievery supports this initiative by providing access to high-quality online learning content at no cost.

Making online learning accessible… and fun

The Achievery was developed with feedback from parents and educators who suggested that lessons featuring popular entertainment media would be a great way to keep students engaged in digital learning, which most believe is here to stay. AT&T collaborated with Warner Bros. Discovery to feature clips from films, TV shows and animated series and then worked with leading education groups to develop activities that spark a sense of fun while helping students advance in important academic and social-emotional skills. (Every activity is linked to specific Common Core and CASEL standards.)

Families can use The Achievery to support distance learning, as a homework supplement, or as enrichment to keep kids’ minds active during school vacation and prevent summer learning loss. Activities are searchable by grade level, academic subject, and specific standards to help children and adults find the content that meets their interests and needs.

Learning Made Lively

Sample Activities from The Achievery

Make a Jumping Game

Students learn how to use block coding to design and create their own interactive online game—with their own unique characters, obstacles and rules.

  • Grades: 3-8
  • Academic focus: Language, Media & Technology
  • Social-emotional focus: Self awareness
  • Collaborator: Scratch

Your Story Matters

Students learn about the elements of a story and find inspiration for story ideas from your own life.

  • Grades: 3-5
  • Academic focus: Writing
  • Social-emotional focus: Self awareness
  • Collaborator: Young Storytellers

Parents take The Achievery for a test drive

To provide early feedback on the platform in action, National PTA recruited a diverse set of more than 250 parents to preview several learning modules from The Achievery with their kids. Parents then provided robust feedback through surveys and focus groups. The goal: Help AT&T understand how The Achievery’s content and site design can meet families’ at-home learning needs.

Overall impressions of the platform were positive. Most notably, parents expressed appreciation of the quality content, and that their children were captivated by the familiar characters. Parents said they were happy to see young, diverse, and relatable people featured in many videos as well—individuals who their children didn’t see as a traditional “teacher.”

AT&T Assistant VP of Corporate Social Responsibility Mylayna Albright says, “We’re grateful for our collaboration with National PTA and for their help gathering this comprehensive parent feedback. The Achievery is designed to provide quality educational content everywhere children learn, and we’re eager to make the platform an engaging, easy-to-use resource that families can count on to support their children’s advancement and love of learning.”

The Achievery is live!

PTA’s cohort of “early adopter” families showed a lot of enthusiasm and engagement in exploring The Achievery. Now, it’s your turn! We invite you to set up a free account and try out some activities with your kids.

Get started: theachievery.com

What Parents are saying about The Achievery

Toia Elliott, Indianapolis, Indiana

Toia Elliott tested The Achievery with her youngest child, a sixth-grader who she describes as a unique learner. “She likes to think of things on her own,” Toia says. Her daughter was especially drawn to the Scratch coding lesson which allowed her to unleash her creativity. In fact, she enjoyed the lesson so much that she’s continued using Scratch on her own.

Toia sees The Achievery as an especially helpful tool for “breakaway time” in the evening when her kids are ready to take their minds off of school.

“It doesn’t feel like you’re in school. You’re having fun, and you’re doing some entertaining activities. But she’s also clearly learning something, which is great.”

Michelle Grenell, Muskegon, Michigan

Michelle Grenell is homeschooling her two children who have special health needs. Before the pandemic, they’d tried using standardized homeschool curricula, but she says, “My kids weren’t thriving. I was stressed out. We weren’t learning anything.” Now, she aims to keep a variety of activities on hand so she can be flexible with her children, whose needs vary daily. So far, The Achievery has been a great fit. After a successful preview of the poetry hunt and another module on storytelling, they’ve begun using The Achievery as a part of their at-home learning diet.

What Michelle appreciates most about The Achievery is that it doesn’t feel like “school,” so her kids are happy to engage on days when learning feels like a struggle or she can’t supervise them as closely.

“So many times parents think: I’m not the best teacher right now, I’m not the best mom—especially post-pandemic—and you feel a little bit better [with a platform like The Achievery]… I felt like I was okay to have a migraine that day. Because they were still learning something.”

Nicole Alexander, West Linn, Oregon

Nicole Alexander’s seventh-grade daughter is very creative but remote learning during the pandemic was a big challenge. Now, that she’s back at school, things have improved, but her mother is still eager to find activities to make summers and evening screen time more productive. The combination of watching the video and physically holding a book, pencil and paper really worked.

Nicole is eager to start matching lessons from The Achievery with specific learning standards where her daughter needs support. She sees The Achievery as a way to bridge the gap between home and school.

“There’s a lot of catch up [when they bring home a school assignment], trying to figure out, are you helping your child in the right way? This would be far easier… You could just send them to The Achievery, look for the standard they were working on in class and find a related lesson.”

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Katie Bayerl is a contracted writer for National PTA, helping bring stories to life about sponsored PTA efforts and the impact of these efforts on families, schools, and communities. Katie has degrees in education from Brown, teaching from Tufts, and writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has worked as editor of a teen-generated magazine, led the communications efforts of a Boston nonprofit, and helped hundreds of writers and nonprofit leaders tell their stories.

National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service. No endorsement of AT&T or The Achievery is implied.

We Are Well Beyond Enough Is Enough

In less than three weeks we’ve had a mass shooting in a grocery store, a shooting at a church, shootings at three separate high school graduations, another horrific shooting at a school, and more gun violence in our communities. This past weekend in my home state of Oklahoma, 1 person was killed and 7 injured after a shooting at an outdoor festival in Taft, Okla.

Last week, 19 children and two adults killed in an elementary school—second, third and fourth graders. Our precious children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces and nephews.

And this was at least the 30th shooting at a K-12 school this year alone. Why?

There are no real words that can accurately convey the horror, anger, sadness and disgust I continue to feel, as gun violence continues to take innocents lives in our country.  

We have called for change repeatedly. We have prayed for change. It’s past time to make change to save lives.

In America, we teach our children that they’ve inherited life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but for far too long children have been taken from us because of inexplainable and senseless violence. Instead of confidently going to school and learning in a safe and peaceful classroom, these incidents have made us focus on safety measures and drills for active shooter situations. These incidents also have our children living in fear, wondering if a shooting like this could happen at their school. And parents and guardians are afraid to send their children to school, what should be a safe place and the best place for them to learn and thrive.

If we can’t protect our children from gun violence and keep them safe at school, how can we help them reach their full potential? And who will carry our nation into a brighter future?

There could not be a more urgent time for our elected officials to take action and for everyone to come together to be there for our nation’s students. We immediately need real solutions that will save lives and make our schools and communities safer for everyone.

PTA has been the conscience of our country on issues affecting children and youth for 125 years, and we will not go numb and we will never stop speaking loudly and demanding more for every child and young person across our country.

PTA will be heading to Capitol Hill June 15 to meet members of Congress in-person and advocate for youth safety and violence prevention and youth mental health. We urge everyone to join us.

We also ask everyone to use our VoterVoice system to send an urgent message to your members of Congress to insist they work across the aisle and pass sensible gun safety and violence prevention policies that ensure our children are protected from harm.

It’s time to recharge our efforts and actively engage in your local communities in creating safe and supportive schools for our kids. Host a school safety forum and have a conversation with your school principals about school safety policies and procedures.

Join us in showing support for gun violence prevention on Wear Orange Day, Friday, June 3, by wearing something orange, taking a picture of yourself in your orange and posting it on your social media accounts using the hashtags #Enough and #EndGunViolence.

And as we all deal with these heartbreaking events, we must also make sure to take care of ourselves and our families and talk to our children about what happened in Uvalde. It’s important that our children hear from us to help counteract fear they may feel and give them reassurance. Use these resources on mental health, grief and loss and use these tips for discussing difficult situations with children.

We’ve been thinking and praying. It’s time to replace thoughts and prayers with action, policy and change. Let’s do something to save lives and help our children and young people feel safe again. We will not rest until they are able to feel safe in our schools, and thrive to reach their full potential.

Helping Families Navigate Today’s COVID-19 Environment

National PTA hosted a virtual town hall May 18, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support families in navigating today’s COVID-19 environment. The event featured CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager Dr. Greta Massetti, White House Senior Policy Advisory Dr. Cameron Webb, American Academy of Pediatrics Spokesperson Dr. Ilan Shapiro, National PTA President Anna King and PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West. The town hall was moderated by Spectrum News National Health Correspondent and mom Erin Billups.

“At PTA, we remain committed to making sure that our students, families, schools and communities have what they need as the COVID-19 environment evolves,” said Anna King, National PTA president. “We’re continuing to provide communities–through virtual events like the town hall and in-person events like pop-up clinics–with important information, resources and professional expertise, especially as we move into the summer months.”

During the town hall, Dr. Massetti, Dr. Webb and Dr. Shapiro spoke about being parents themselves and how research and science can help inform parent and caregiver decision making around COVID-19 and vaccinating children. 

“The past two years have not been easy, but our parents, educators and children have shown remarkable innovation and resilience. The health of our children has been at the forefront of my mind, in my role at the CDC and as a parent. Research and science played a critical role in our guidance and recommendations, specifically around vaccines,” said Dr. Greta Massetti, CDC COVID-19 Response Principal Deputy Incident Manager.“Vaccines continue to play a leading role in our health strategy and enable students to return to in-person learning. By allowing children to learn in safe and healthy environments, vaccines not only protect children’s physical health but also their overall health.”

“I’ve been approaching the pandemic not only as a policy advisor to the White House but also as a parent,” said Dr. Cameron Webb, White House Senior Policy Advisor. “My number one goal is keeping my kids healthy and safe, and the first step in doing that was making sure that I was only engaging with data-based, truthful information. The data shows that the COVID-19 vaccine, specifically for children 5-11, is safe and works. Harnessing data and science and applying that to your decision-making process is key. It is our responsibility to not only protect ourselves, but also the more vulnerable members of our community.”

“In addition to my job as a pediatrician, I also have the job of father. I wanted to make sure that my kids are safe, happy and protected–and this was accomplished by getting them vaccinated,”said Dr. Ilan Shapiro, the medical director of health education and wellness at AltaMed Health Service and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.“Honest, fact-based conversations like this National PTA town hall provide parents and caregivers with the necessary information to make them comfortable in this changing landscape.”

Moderator Erin Billups also spoke with PTA leaders Christel Wesley and Sandra West about PTA’s ongoing efforts to keep children healthy and in school by building vaccination confidence in local communities.

“We wanted to make sure that we were providing reliable, science-based information to enable families to make the choice around vaccination that’s best for them. The next step was the proper dissemination of this information to communities of all shapes and sizes,”said Christel Wesley, vice president of Adams Elementary PTA in Norman, Okla. “Our pop-up clinic gave parents and caregivers a safe space to speak with a pediatrician, which is not something all families have routine access to.”

Sandra West, president of Miami Dade County Council of PTAs said, “Data became really important to us because it allowed us to prioritize the areas of need to concentrate on. Access to vaccination sites, even in a big city like Miami, was a challenge, and it forced us to come up with solutions. Our pop-up clinic was initially drive-through only and didn’t take into account how many residents don’t have access to a car. When we created a walk-up section, we were able to reach a whole new group of people who wanted to get vaccinated but didn’t previously have access.”

The impact of the pandemic, both physically and mentally, has been felt by families nationwide. Now, as most localities have lifted their mask and COVID-19 restrictions, many parents are now faced with a new set of decisions about how to best protect their children against the virus. A recording of the town hall can be watched on National PTA’s Facebook page.

4 Reasons You Should Vaccinate Your Child Against COVID-19

We Can Do This CDC Covid Vaccination

1. There’s no way to know if your child will get severely ill and even die from COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, one in six children under the age of 18 in the United States have been infected with COVID-19. Among those children, over 100,000 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died due to the virus.

COVID-19 can also cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs and brain. Nearly 8,000 children with COVID-19 have also had MIS-C; 66 of those children have died.

Doctors say children with certain health issues—such as asthma, diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease—have a greater chance of getting very sick from COVID-19.

But even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID-19. A study published in the medical journal Pediatrics found that almost half of children hospitalized with COVID-19 had no other health issues. News outlets repeatedly run reports like this one in The Florida Times-Union of children with no known health issues dying from COVID-19.

2. Even a mild case of COVID-19 can leave your child with long-lasting health problems

Estimates vary, but as many as one in four children who get COVID-19 can have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Common “Long COVID” symptoms in children include sleep problems, tiredness, headaches, trouble concentrating and joint and muscle pain.

Even kids in tip-top shape aren’t safe from the grip of long COVID. An article in STAT chronicled how one teenage gymnast went from training daily for hours to struggling to walk up a flight of stairs after contracting COVID-19.

3. Your child could spread COVID-19 to people who are in greater danger of severe illness

Children are just as likely as adults to get and spread COVID-19.  

If your child gets COVID-19, they could be putting other people at risk, especially if they live in a multigenerational household or interact with people with certain health issues.

Older adults and people of all ages—including children with health issues—are at the greatest risk of experiencing severe illness from COVID-19.  

4. It will be safer for your child to go to school and participate in sports and other group activities after vaccination

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID-19.

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS-C and long COVID-19.

If your child is up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID-19.

Right now, everyone ages five and older can get vaccinated. Find COVID-19 vaccines near you at Vaccines.gov.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccinating your child, talk to your child’s health care provider!

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We Can Do This is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 Public Education Campaign. Get more info and resources at WeCanDoThis.HHS.gov.

How PTAs Can Prioritize Student Safety and Privacy Online

Happy female teacher assisting school kids during an e-learning class at elementary school.

[Content warning: This article contains discussion of self-harm and suicide.]

Across the country, young people are experiencing a concerning increase in mental health challenges—so much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association have declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health. But in Neosho County, Mo., the number of students requiring hospitalization for mental health crises has dropped significantly and no student has died by suicide in three years.

Neosho County students face the same set of stressors as their peers. One key difference is that the district has invested in a robust suicide prevention plan—and it’s making a big impact. A core component of Neosho’s student support plan is GoGuardian Beacon, which helps schools identify online activity on school-managed devices and accounts that indicates a risk of suicide, self-harm or possible harm to others. Beacon notifies designated responders to quickly activate a school’s response plan and get students help.

“I find the Beacon alerts incredibly helpful, not only for active-planning situations, but also for the kids who are just reaching out and need a little bit of help,” says Neosho Director of School Counseling Tracy Clements. “It has saved the lives of so many kids and improved the quality of life for countless others.”

Student Safety vs Privacy: Can We Have Both?

While Clements, like many other educators, views online safety tools as an important component of their suicide prevention program, these technologies aren’t without controversy. Parents and educators want to protect young people from self-harm and other threats, but they also worry about student privacy—not wanting sensitive information about their children to land in the wrong hands or be used inappropriately.

Micki Young, a parent and PTA volunteer in Grove City, Ohio, wants strong security set up on her children’s computers. “Especially with the rise in depression and suicides, if my kids were to type in something that was potentially triggering, I would expect them to be approached in a way that was appropriate for the situation,” she says. “I have no concerns with it being monitored. It’s your school computer.”

Nicole Perretta, a PTA leader in New York and mother of four, describes herself as a fan of online monitoring and, in particular, is concerned by the real-life impacts of online bullying. “We do a lot of talking about how to be accepting, but that barrier of a screen really does empower some people to say the nastiest things,” she says. “I think that if we could just pay attention to our kids’ mental health as it relates to what they’re doing online, we would be in a better position to head off some of that negativity that follows them throughout the day.”

That said, Perretta is generally cautious about sharing personal data online and wants her children’s school to involve parents in deciding what information is shared beyond school walls. “The school respects FERPA, but sometimes I’m like, I really would have preferred you have asked my permission to share that. I would just like to be able to police what goes out.”

Mary Sotomayor, another New York State PTA leader and mom of two, believes districts have a responsibility to monitor activity on school-issued devices. “If it’s a school-given laptop or computer, there should be no privacy,” she says, but as far as who sees the data, she says, “This should be a conversation between the guidance counselor and the parent. And it should end there.” She doesn’t think that schools or vendors should hold onto records. “All kids make mistakes. They’re children, they’re learning. If you’re going to hold something against me that the school found out about because of my computer when I was 12? Mmmm. That’s kind of scary.”

“There’s going to be some contention around this type of issue,” says Tennessee PTA President Dwight Hunter, “And there should be.” Tennessee PTA successfully advocated for a resolution on data privacy several years ago based on parental concerns about the data privacy policies of outside vendors. They are also supporting and encouraging families to communicate more with their children about online safety and mental health. “Having an open conversation is so key,” says Hunter.

Our Belief: It’s Not an Either/Or

National PTA believes that student safety and privacy don’t have to be in opposition. We support clear privacy and security policies that maintain the confidentiality of sensitive data that students and families share with schools and via online services. At the same time, we believe that technology can be a powerful tool in keeping students safe. The question we think every community should be asking is, “How can families and schools partner to ensure student safety and privacy at the same time?”

Parents can play a role in supporting online safety and privacy practices by speaking up about where school or community communication is lacking on these issues and by advocating for policies that protect both their children’s health and their data.

Does Your School Practice T.A.C.T.?

Teddy Hartman, Head of Privacy at GoGuardian, suggests we think about online safety the same way we think about safety at school. Parents can and should expect schools to keep children safe while in a classroom or on a field trip—that they will be in the company of vetted adults, aboard school buses that have passed inspection, etc. Hartman asks, “If we extend that thinking to the digital learning environment, what sort of expectations do parents have for the school?”

Hartman, a parent and a former educator himself, suggests that parents and PTA leaders start by focusing on four elements collectively known as T.A.C.T.

  • Transparency
    Make sure your school system publicly shares a list of all technology vendors, the data privacy protections each vendor (and the school) has in place, the specifics of when and on which devices the technology will be active, and how these technologies are being used to support student safety. (With GoGuardian Beacon, schools can activate the School Session Indicator, an additional layer of transparency that displays on any device being monitored.)
  • Access
    Schools must be careful in deciding who has access to sensitive student data, and parents have a right to ask who has authorization to view their child’s information at the school and through the vendor. One way to check on a vendor’s data practices is to see whether the vendor has signed into the Student Privacy Pledge or has been certified by a third-party like iKeepSafe.
  • Communication
    Schools should provide information on what parents can expect if their child’s online activity generates an alert. Schools and parents can also help one another by holding community dialogues about suicide and self-harm prevention and by sharing tools to support better mental health. The National PTA Healthy Minds program has resources and guidance for both families and PTA leaders.
  • Teamwork
    Technology is only one piece of student support. Schools should have clearly articulated protocols for how to handle a self-harm notification and a team of mental health professionals trained both on the software and how to respond to alerts.

Protecting students online doesn’t need to be a polarizing issue. Start a conversation with your principal about how your school is putting student safety and privacy into practice. We owe it to our children to take a thoughtful, nuanced approach to their privacy and safety—together.

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GoGuardian is a Proud National Sponsor of PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement is implied.

7 Expert Tips for Running a School Fundraiser

Running a school fundraiser may sound easy when you’re in the brainstorming stages, but you’ll likely encounter unexpected challenges along the way—especially if you’ve never run one before. Thankfully, fundraising for your school can be easy (and fun!) with the right team, planning and helpful resources, like those available from Booster. When you do it right, your school fundraiser can be a huge success that everyone remembers for years to come.

Use these seven expert tips to help you run a school fundraiser that will raise the funds you need and get the community involved. Whether you’re planning a small event or a major annual fundraiser, these tips will help you get the most out of your fundraising experience. 

Tip #1. Plan Ahead

First, give yourself plenty of time to plan. There are several reasons to do this. By starting early, you’ll have extra weeks or months to create and execute your plan, which will reduce your stress. Plus, the sooner you start your fundraiser, the more money you can raise for your school community. You can also coordinate back-to-back fundraisers so there’s no “lag time” between seasons.

At Booster, we recommend planning for fall fundraisers in the summertime, and spring fundraisers during winter break. Following this suggested schedule will allow you to ample time to plan, form your team, and get all of the pieces you need in place to launch your fundraiser for success.

Tip #2. Recruit Volunteers

When you’re thinking about how to run a school fundraiser, it may be tempting to do everything yourself, so you have complete control—but going it alone means you’ll also carry full responsibility for the workload. Instead, recruit volunteers from your school community. Talk to other parents, faculty and staff, and create a fundraising team to share the work. The more the merrier! 

Ideally, your volunteer team should include people with different skill sets. Is there someone on your team who can handle social media and emails? Do you have someone talking to local businesses? What about people who can help get kids involved? As you recruit volunteers for your fundraiser, consider making a list of “job roles” to fill. 

Tip #3. Set Goals and Expectations

As you and your team create your school fundraiser, think about your goals and expectations. Are you raising a specific amount of money for a school trip or new sports equipment? How much money do you hope to raise? If you only raise 50% of your goal, will that still be enough to help your school community with this endeavor?

Be clear about your goals and expectations from the very start. This is an important step in learning how to run a successful fundraiser. Remember, if you’re not sure how much you should be raising, talk to your school administration or seek free advice from fundraising experts like the team at Booster.

Tip #4. Have Fun and Get Creative!

There’s a reason you can’t spell fundraiser without FUN! You’ll have a more successful fundraiser if you’re enjoying yourself. Be creative and make it fun for you, your team and your community by using a theme, holiday or creative prizes to get people involved.

A fun, creative fundraiser will stand out from the crowd and encourage people to both make more donations and share the fundraiser, so their friends and family can participate too.

Tip #5. Keep Your Community in the Loop

You’re raising this money for a reason—so your school community should always understand what’s going on with their donations. Periodically update parents, teachers, staff and other community members about your progress. 

Give notice about the fundraising dates, send reminders, and create an email list, social media group or website where you can share updates as you get closer to your goal. Platforms like Booster make it easy to create an online component for your fundraiser, which makes it super easy to keep everyone in the loop.

Tip #6. Get the Whole Family Involved

As you plan how to run a fundraiser, why not encourage the whole family to get involved? Kids can participate by decorating cookies for a bake sale, creating arts and crafts to sell, holding a car wash, or putting on a talent show. 

With kids and families involved, more people will want to donate to your fundraiser. And bonus—this is a great way to reinforce what kids are learning in school, broaden their social skills and boost school spirit.

Tip #7. Use Technology

Nothing beats an old-fashioned fundraiser, but technology like email, social media and streaming videos are a great way to broaden the scope of your fundraiser. For example, if you’re having a school talent show, relatives and friends from out-of-state can join the fun via Zoom and make donations online.

Booster makes it easy to run school fundraisers online, with online software that’s customizable for all your fundraising needs. 

Remember—You’re Not in this Alone! 

Booster is here to help you create a successful fundraiser for your school community—big or small. Have questions? Ready to get started? Connect with us today to discover how fun it is to raise funds with Booster! 

Lisa Cardinal is the manager of brand marketing and marketing operations at Booster.

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National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service. No endorsement is implied.

School is Back in the Classroom, but Distance Learning is Here to Stay

Child,Boy,In,Headphones,Is,Using,A,Laptop,And,Study, Distance Learning

As a parent, I’m very familiar with how hard it can be to balance the demands of work and family in today’s busy and ever-changing world. Sometimes I find myself pining for the more predictable chaos we enjoyed before the pandemic. Regardless of our individual circumstances, the disruption and unpredictability of the last two years have presented even greater challenges—especially for our kids.

Education is among the most fundamental childhood experiences for determining a lifetime of success. That’s why it concerns me that even now, as classrooms reopen, effectively half of U.S. students report less motivation and lower morale than before the pandemic, according to a recent study by EdWeek Research Center.

That fact alone is disturbing enough. But consider that recent research also shows 60% of socioeconomically disadvantaged students may have received low-quality remote learning—or none at all—during the pandemic, which could extend their learning loss another seven months beyond their peers. 

Millions of disengaged students facing a serious learning gap is a crisis we need to address.

Supportive Solutions

The broadband connections that were our lifeline during the pandemic accelerated the development of learning options for many of our students. And the reliance upon remote learning is here to stay—whether it be for health emergencies, natural disasters, homework or pure convenience.

However, as most parents know very well at this point, those remote learning options need innovations to be more effective. A 2021 survey conducted by Morning Consult found that parents and teachers believe that one of U.S. students’ biggest frustrations with online learning is the need for more exciting and entertaining content.

In fact, nearly 80% of both parents and teachers think that their kids or students would be more interested in learning tools that include popular entertainment.

As we look to overcome the pandemic’s persistent negative impacts and reignite students’ joy for learning, we can’t overlook the learning that continues to take place at home, powered by an internet connection. And to create the student outcomes that lead to greater long-term economic opportunity, all families need affordable access to the internet and the digital tools that promote safe, effective and engaging learning.  

Addressing Community Needs

The Achievery, Created by AT&T

The reality is that too many students continue to lack the broadband-enabled resources required for successful learning. More than 30% of the U.S. population has not signed up for fixed broadband, even though it’s available in their area, according to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and Pew Research finds eight in 10 non-broadband users are not interested in subscribing to home internet. 

We know students can’t do homework on smartphones. That’s why the AT&T Connected Learning Initiative is working to help ensure all students and families have affordable access to the connectivity and devices needed to learn.

Today, AT&T is taking these efforts further with the launch of The Achievery, a free digital learning platform designed in partnership with WarnerMedia, to make online learning more entertaining, engaging and inspiring for K-12 students everywhere they learn—at home, in the community and in the classroom.  

Developed with feedback from educators, parents and National PTA, in collaboration with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, The Achievery offers a fun and enriching experience, appropriate for a student’s age and grade level. It incorporates the rigor of national academic standards with some of the most well-loved WarnerMedia films, TV shows and animated series, including Wonder Woman, Craig of Creek and Aquaman.

In addition to top talent and certified learning, students will find STEM as well as social and emotional learning content on The Achievery, created by renowned groups such as Khan Academy, Scratch and Young Storytellers. And we’re just getting started—more content covering more subjects is coming soon.

The Path Forward

I believe experiences such as those available on The Achievery and through the AT&T Connected Learning Initiative are critical as we look to erase the disparities that have—for far too long—held communities back. Home broadband connections are now essential for learning and preparing today’s kids to succeed in our increasingly connected world.

That’s why, as I encourage you to create a free account on The Achievery. I also ask you to use this time to engage with fellow parents and educators in your community about the need for better access to distance-learning resources. Thankfully schools have reopened, but we must not lose sight of the need for engaging experiences that meet the needs of today’s students, wherever they are learning.

Charlene F. Lake is the Chief Sustainability Officer, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, ESG AT&T Foundation Chair, AT&T Services, Inc. Charlene Lake is responsible for leading AT&T’s social innovation, environmental, philanthropic and civic engagement endeavors, driving stakeholder impact measures on behalf of the corporation, leading ESG accountabilities, and coordinating signature initiatives that connect social needs with business objectives.