Safe & Healthy Academic Environments

Yvonne Butler is a believer. She believes in the power of good nutrition to help students learn. She believes in the power of eating right to cut down on discipline problems. And she believes that getting kids to change their tastes to actually want to eat healthier food in school is a challenge, but worth the effort in the long run. Butler should know: She created the first sugar-free school in the country at Browns Mill Elementary and Magnet School in Georgia, just outside Atlanta.

Huntington, W.Va., has more pizza parlors than gyms. That’s one reason the town—which sits in the fourth fattest state, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—was labeled the unhealthiest city in America by the CDC and drew the attention of British chef Jamie Oliver.

America’s first lady, Michelle Obama, has an ambitious goal—to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. Her initiative, “Let’s Move!,” builds on promising approaches to provide states, schools, families and communities proven tools to help kids be more active, eat better and get healthy.

The National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs provide millions of meals every day to the nation's disadvantaged children. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is trying to close loopholes that still allow unhealthy food onto school plates.

In the wake of campus violence, such as the mass killings at Virginia Tech in 2007, universities are grappling with how to identify students with mental illness and treat them. Doing so can also involve students' privacy rights.

The statistics are startling. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese high school students has nearly tripled in the past three years. Thirty-two percent of children diagnosed with diabetes in one study had type 2 diabetes—the type normally  associated with obese adults. Obesity among children, once a rarity, has become an epidemic in this country. Fortunately, schools across the country are responding to this health crisis. Many innovative programs are taking place at the local or school district level, but all too often those programs operate in a vacuum and are not publicized, even in neighboring counties.

One-third of teens become pregnant before age 20. One-fourth of young women acquire a sexually transmitted infection by age 19, making them more susceptible to HIV infection.  This 4-page brief describes successful state health and education policies as well as successful targeted youth education activities that can prevent these conditions.

African-American women are hardest hit by HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, and many are unaware of their infections. The highest teen birth rates occur among Hispanics.  This 12-page brief examines the causes and impact of these disparities, and describes evidence-based policy solutions that states have implemented.

Sexual health education has taken on a whole new venue. Public health programs are offering teens the ability to ask  questions anonymously and get personalized answers through text messaging services and web sites.

Suggested State Legislation: This draft Act prohibits school districts and charter schools from collecting a pupil’s biometric information without written permission from the pupil’s parent. The Act requires each school to provide written notice to the parents or guardians of pupils stating their intent to collect biometric information 30 days prior to the collection. It stipulates that the written notice must contain a statement informing the parent or guardian that they must give written permission before the school can collect biometric information from the pupil.