Putting Students and Schools First:

Proposed Budget for the 2018-19 School Year

This time of year brings with it one of the best things about being superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, as well as one of the job’s most difficult tasks.

Right now, the air is filled with excitement and anticipation as graduation ceremonies and summer break are just a couple of weeks away. However, this is also the time of year that we must finalize the year- long process and hard work of crafting a budget for the next school year. This is all anchored in the Board-approved guidance and budget revenue and expenditure parameters developed at the beginning of the school year.

This FY2019 budget is built on the following parameters:

Resource Parameters:

  1. The District will implement the expenditure parameters using the current millage rate or the Board’s Guiding Principles for Revenue Consideration to support the mission and vision.
  2. The District will continue to identify grant generating opportunities, assess the required millage rate, and/or seek additional business, philanthropic and community partnerships in an effort to support the ongoing transformation of APS.
  3. The District will maintain a fund balance between 7.5% and the statutory limit of 15% projected.
  4. The District will analyze and explore all funding sources including grants and special revenue to maximize resources and supplement the general fund.
  5. The District, with support and collaboration from other stakeholders, will continue to identify and encourage grant generating opportunities, especially through our Partnerships Office.
  6. The District will identify and sunset ineffective programs to redirect human resources and funding where possible.

Expenditure Parameters:

  1. The District will allocate resources pursuant to the District’s definition of equity.
  2. The District will continue investing in the Turnaround Strategy, providing additional support and interventions for schools that have been chronically struggling on the state accountability metric (in support of the District’s mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and the vision of being a high-performing school District).
  3. The District will recruit, develop, retain, and promote high-quality staff by investing in a robust talent strategy that includes a multi-year compensation model, pipeline development work, professional development, and coaching and career pathways (in support of the Talent component in the District’s Strategic Plan).
  4. The District will continue implementing its charter system operating model and core components of signature programming, cluster and flexibility funds, investments in a College and Career Academy, and a community engagement strategy (in support of the District’s mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and the vision of engaged families).
  5. The District will fund pension obligations in accordance with State statute and actuarial standards.
  6. In support of the charter system model, the District will modify the current school allotment plan to increase transparency, equity, innovation, and autonomy with accountability so that Principals and local GoTeams can make decisions aligned with their specific needs with a focus on:
    • Investments in Pre-K through 3rd grade to ensure all students are reading by the end of 3rd grade.
    • Whole-child development, including positive behavior supports, arts and athletics. leadership development.
    • Access to quality Early Childhood Education.

Seventy three (73) percent of our budget is derived from local tax revenue. It is incumbent upon us to be responsible stewards of those tax dollars as we remain committed to our mission of ensuring that every student graduates ready for college and career. In order for us to fulfill that mission, it is vital that we continue to focus on putting our students and our schools first in every decision we make.

Budget Photo

On Monday, May 7th, the Atlanta Board of Education tentatively adopted our proposed General Fund Budget for the 2018-2019 school year. And, just as we have done in the past, we work with the Board in Budget Commission meetings and we involve the community in our budget process through the Budget and Finance Advisory Committee (BFAC), public hearings and regional community meetings throughout the nearly year-long process, culminating in May and early June.

Our last Budget Commission meeting is Thursday, May 17th from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the Mays Conference Room of our district office at 130 Trinity Avenue, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303

Here is the schedule for Regional Community Meetings (all 6-7 p.m.):

  • Grady High School (929 Charles Allen Drive, NE), Thursday, May 10
  • Bunche Middle School (1925 Niskey Lake Road, SW), Monday, May 14
  • Brown Middle School (765 Peeples Street, SW), Thursday, May 17
  • Garden Hills Elementary School (285 Sheridan Drive, NE), Monday, May 21

Here is the schedule for the Public Hearing:

  • APS Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL – 130 Trinity Avenue, SW), Monday, June 4, 6 p.m.

Changes to the proposed budget may be made before the Board votes to adopt a final budget at its meeting on June 4, 2018.

We are committed to being open and transparent with you, so I want to bring you up to speed on where things stand, provide details about what’s in the proposed budget and share the impact we expect it will have across the district if approved. The tentative FY2019 General Fund Budget is about $815 million, roughly $38 million more than our current budget.

Even with many budget constraints and challenges that require us to balance several competing priorities, this budget still distributes more funds out to the school sites. Some constraints include an additional $16 million in mandatory costs related to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), $1.6 million towards unfunded pension, bringing the total investment in this effort to $55 million, and additional investments in healthcare benefits.

Our central office continues to work with schools to balance the Principals capacity with the operational management of certain initiatives.  For FY2019, $9 million was decentralized, shifting the authority and decision making for $5 million in textbooks and $4 million in substitutes to the individual schools.

The FY2019 budget invests an additional $250,000 towards completing the refresh of all high school weight rooms, and another $250,000 towards the continued support of the cultural experience program and continues investments in both social and emotional learning and positive behavioral interventions and supports at previous year levels. The FY2019 budget continues investments and adds $350,000 towards funding the district Pre-K teachers on the APS salary scale, bringing the total supplement for this effort to $1.3 million

As I have stated before, we have also found ways to slim down our costs, including about $4 million in reductions from our Central Office budgets. Over the past four years, we have reduced our central office expenditures by more than $25 million and more than 100 fulltime positions.

Because of that, we have been able to create more investments in our proposed spending plan. This includes:

  • $10.7 million in our long-term, over-arching Turnaround Strategy to improve our lowest-performing schools, including supplemental and critical support and partnerships with educational organizations with expertise in turnaround strategies.
  • $11.1 million for signature programming such as STEM, International Baccalaureate and College and Career Prep, up $1 million from the previous year.
  • Well over $40 million for whole-child development programs and initiatives like athletics, arts, social and emotional learning, foreign languages, physical education and more.
  • $12 million for a compensation strategy that represents a shift away from across-the-board percentage increases and makes strategic investments in remaining pay parity issues.
    • The plan includes both a step increase AND a 1% salary increase for all eligible instructional and non-instructional employees, plus increased supplemental duty stipends for teachers and market adjustments for specific positions, like bus drivers, LPN nurses and HVAC technicians. For the first time in years, pay rates for hourly employees are being increased as well.
    • To continue to right-size our budget and be able to make these pay increases, cell phone stipends and bereavement leave pay will be eliminated, and annual duty salaries are being reduced from 254 days to 252 days.
    • $800,000 in continued support for our leadership development initiative; offering training, support and leadership development for our Teacher Leaders, Aspiring AP and Principal programs and new School Business Managers.

We right size our district every year to manage against available resources and our priorities for increased savings, efficiency, and redirection to programs and schools.

So, this proposed budget also includes a staff reduction plan that would remove 299 positions (269 school-based, 30 in central office) and create another 133 positions (121 school-based, 12 in central office) to better meet the needs of our students. These reductions fall within three primary categories:

  • Downsizing of central office to ensure that we maximize the resources provided directly to schools
  • Phased transition of schools to turnaround partners as part of our larger turnaround strategy, or
  • Support for individual needs or programming of schools, including master schedules, course requests, and cluster plans.

Once the budget is approved, we will continue to implement the Student Success Funding model that moves us closer towards ensuring a more equitable and stable distribution of funds and allows Principals and GoTeams to allocate funds in a way that better meets the specific needs of their students. This keeps us on the path to becoming a more efficient, quality-driven school district.

Budget TeamI want to send a shout out to our Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Bracken, and the rest of our Budget Department for all of the work they’ve done to manage our budget effectively and to help us build a strong budget for the future. A special thanks to Nancy Meister, Chair of the Budget Commission, and Budget Commission members Michelle Olympiadis, and Byron Amos. Also, thank you to the members of the Budget Finance Advisory Committee. I also want to encourage you to participate with us in this process by attending the public regional community meetings.

Help us stay true to our mission of remaining focused on our core value of putting students and schools first. We are on a Journey of Transformation together, and each year I feel we are getting closer and closer to our destination.

#APSbudget
#StudentsAndSchools1st

Let’s Celebrate Our Teachers!

During National Teacher Appreciation Week

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate our dynamic teachers from across the district! 

I really cannot say enough about the importance of our teachers who serve on the front line in our classrooms every school day, educating and preparing our children for a bright future. Teachers provide our students with inspiration and motivation and their work and impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom. After a child’s parents, no one is more instrumental in their development than a teacher.

2017 APS TOTY at Springdale Park ES

Throughout the week, we plan to shower our teachers with gifts (hand delivery to schools) and surprise giveaways (some directly from me). Some of those gifts will include a free Chick-fil-A on May 8 as well free admission into one of the most popular and iconic cultural attractions in Atlanta.

Thanks to the generosity of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, APS teachers will receive complimentary Museum Admission on Saturday, May 19, 2018 Museum admission includes access to all indoor exhibits as well as 75 acres of outdoor adventures in WildWoods and Fernbank Forest. Additionally, guests of educators will receive a $3 discount off of museum tickets. Even more, both educators and their guests can add a Giant Screen Movie to their museum ticket for only $5. 

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Again, we thank our teachers for all that they do for APS, our community, but, most of all, our students. I truly hope you enjoy your museum visit and enjoy your week! Also, if you’d like to share your National Teacher Appreciation Week celebrations with me on social media, please use the hashtag #ThankATeacher and tag @CarstarphenMJ and @apsupdate!

Join me in sharing the love and giving big hugs to our Champions for Children!!!!!

Below are our 2018 STAR teachers and students.

2018_STAR_Teachers-DESC

 

 

 

2017 NAEP Shows Gains in 3 of 4 Areas

But More Work To Do

Welcome back! As we all get back into our normal school schedules and activities, assessment results for the “Nation’s Report Card” were released. In short, there is some encouraging news about our student performance in reading and math in 4th and 8th grades.

The results of the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released by the U.S. Department of Education show that Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is maintaining steady overall growth. When compared to the 2015 NAEP results, the average scale score and percent of students scoring proficient and above increased in 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade reading.

It is a positive trend and can be viewed as an indication that the investments we’re making in the early grades (PreK-3), particularly in our literacy initiatives, are having a positive impact on student performance. We know that effective and high-quality early learning experiences have been shown in repeated studies to have long-lasting impacts on our students.

APS participates in the NAEP assessment as a part of a special assessment group of 27 school districts in large metropolitan areas, called a TUDA (Trial Urban District Assessment). By participating in NAEP as the only TUDA district in Georgia, APS can receive district-level aggregated scores which are comparable to other TUDA districts, to the state of Georgia, and to public schools in large cities. (NOTE: Results are not reported for individual students or schools. Additional information about NAEP and APS’ district-level snapshots can be found here: 4th grade reading; 4th grade math; 8th grade reading; 8th grade math.)

We are proud to be the only district participating in TUDA in Georgia, and although NAEP is focused on key performance data across 4th and 8th grades, we continue to focus more broadly on the whole child — understanding the impacts of socio-economics on student performance — to ensure that all of our students, and especially our African-American and Hispanic students, are performing well on these assessments.

As some of you know, NAEP is the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. Every two years, NAEP samples students in 4th and 8th grade and assesses them in reading and math. Other subjects (science and writing) vary from year to year. In 2017, 1,300 APS students participated in NAEP.

As part of determining student performance, achievement levels are broken down into four categories:

  • Below Basic
  • Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at grade.
  • Proficient represents solid academic performance for each grade assessed. Students reaching this level have demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytic skills appropriate to the subject matter.
  • Advanced represents superior performance.

(NOTE: These achievement levels DO NOT represent proficiency as defined by the Georgia Milestones Assessments.)

In this chart below, you can see the percentage of students scoring proficient and above increased by four percentage points in 4th grade math and reading, and by three percentage points in 8th grade reading. The numbers dipped slightly in 8th grade math, going from 21% to 19%.

chart 1

This next chart (below) shows that in terms of scale scores on the 2017 NAEP, APS nearly closed the gap with public schools in large cities nationwide in 4th grade math and was higher than large cities in 4th grade reading.

chart 2

Although the overall results are encouraging, we must continue to focus on closing the achievement gap that exists between our White students and their African-American and Hispanic peers. This table (below) shows that achievement gap in our school district through the lens of the 2017 NAEP average scale score by race or ethnicity. The performance gaps are not different from previous years and are similar to those seen on the Georgia Milestones.

chart 3

 NAEP is one indicator of how our 4th grade and 8th grade students perform at a certain point in time in comparison to their national and statewide peers. We will continue to use these scores, our Georgia Milestone, and other assessments to ensure we not only know how our students are performing, but that we put strategies in place to continue to improve student performance.

We’re on a journey; we know we still have a ways to go, but APS is moving forward! I am very proud of the work that our teachers and administrators are doing to improve the academic achievement levels of our students.

#MovingForward #NAEP2017

#MLK50Forward

First Flames of Freedom in APS

building

When the David T. Howard Building opened in 1924, it was a grammar school for African American students. It was, perhaps, at this school that the flame that burned inside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., urging him to seek social justice and freedom for all people, was first lit.

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, it is only fitting that Atlanta Public Schools is breathing new life into a legacy building and transforming it into a new middle school in Atlanta Public Schools.

As I reflect on the 50th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Dr. King, I feel a profound sense of sadness, sad that he was taken away from his family at the young age of 39, and sad that the world lost a compassionate and impactful leader. But I take solace in knowing that we’ll never lose the impact of Dr. King’s legacy and the indelible mark he made on the history of this country and the world.

As the school district of Dr. King, Atlanta Public Schools takes very seriously our role to not only educate our students about the importance of the Civil Rights Movement, but to empower our students to use their voice and engage in our country’s democratic process. Our students learn about Dr. King’s legacy throughout the school year in lessons, activities, and events. From kindergarten through high school and through our Social Studies, U.S. History, and Language Arts curricula, our students explore not only the figures of the Civil Rights Movement, but they also look at the social, political, and cultural factors that contributed to the movement.

In his words:

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

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This is the essence of one of our top initiatives, Social Emotional Learning (SEL), which is helping our students to better understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. As we prepare our students for success in college and career, SEL is teaching the skills that Dr. King embodied.

The resurrection of the Howard Building and campus will pay homage to Dr. King’s legacy, and to that of the many trailblazers and trendsetters who attended Howard after it became Atlanta’s second high school for African American students in 1948 (Washington was the first). The school produced outstanding graduates like Maynard H. Jackson (Atlanta’s first African-American mayor), NBA Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Mildred McDaniel Singleton (the only woman from the United States to win a gold medal in the 1956 Olympic Games) – for starters! It also produced business executive and advisor to President Bill Clinton, Vernon Jordan, and Herman Russell, a ground-breaking entrepreneur, architect and real estate developer.

howard-bldg-pics-2Pictured above is an architect’s rending of the newly reconstructed Howard building when completed.

Howard High School closed its doors in 1976. Since then, the building has been used as a satellite office space and even as a storage facility. Meanwhile, the flow of more and more individuals and families moving back into the city of Atlanta, particularly in the burgeoning Old Fourth Ward, has presented both a challenge and an opportunity for APS: provide much-needed relief to the overcrowding issue at Inman Middle School while preserving one of our school system’s most iconic structures – the Howard Building.

Our solution blends the best of both worlds. We are renovating the Howard Building and campus and converting it into a new home for Inman Middle School in the Grady High School Cluster. In addition, we are doing so while respecting the tradition and legacy of the Howard campus, as well as the natural aesthetic beauty of the neighborhood. The Atlanta Board of Education has agreed to make this wonderful dream become a reality by investing $52 million of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds – $47 million from the SPLOST most recently approved in May 2016, $5 million from the 2011 SPLOST – into the rebuilding of this iconic school.

howard-bldg-pics-4Pictured above is an architect’s rending of the newly reconstructed Howard building when completed.

Our Facilities team has worked with award-winning architecture, design and planning firm Stevens & Wilkinson, as well as with Lord Aeck Sargent, a national leader in historic preservation and arts/culture projects, on the re-birth of Howard. These firms are well known for their expertise in landscape architecture and urban design and planning.

The Howard campus is roughly seven acres and sits right in the middle of the Old Fourth Ward community. Due to the age of the property, extensive amounts of re-grading and site work are needed in order to bring the school site into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. This ensures student safety and accommodates the new educational buildings and circulation routes for cars, buses and delivery vehicles of various sizes.

Part of respecting the legacy of the school is to preserve the past and remove barriers for the future. While the key features of the building that Dr. King would remember will stay in place, we will also be adding new state-of-the-art classrooms and common spaces. Some of the innovative features include:

  • A network of bio-retention cells across the site to help filter surface runoff and reduce demand on city infrastructure.
  • Safe pedestrian and bicycle routes to/from the school from both the Belt Line Eastside Trail and Freedom Parkway Trail as well as a substantial amount of bicycle parking on-site.
  • New sidewalks and pedestrian walkways are required to be constructed at certain slopes.
  • Added parking spaces for staff and for visitors, so as not to take up spaces on the street in front of residential homes.

We are extremely proud of the plans and are excited about the opportunity to knit the Howard School site back into the neighborhood of the Old Fourth Ward and back into the future transformation of Atlanta Public Schools. I think Dr. King would be proud, too.

When we open the building in the fall of 2020 as the new middle school for the Grady Cluster, we want the campus to be a forward-thinking education center that embraces its history and enhances the community, especially honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King.

“Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

#MLK50Forward

(Spring) Break Through Barriers

It’s Friday! But, not only that, it’s the Friday before Spring Break!

I hope you are all looking forward to your much-deserved time off next week for Spring Break with friends and family. Some of you may be traveling, while others may be booking themselves a stay-cation (I am…at least for part of it!) to re-energize in preparation for the rest of the school year. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have fun and be sure to take care of yourself! I’m so appreciative of everything you do each day to make sure our district stronger for children.

image1I want to share some fantastic news with you. Earlier this week, every single classroom project request on DonorsChoose.org was funded by Ripple, a San Francisco-based technology company! They donated $29 million to support school programs around the country breaking through financial barriers for investments directly to the classroom. Many APS teachers participate in this awesome opportunity! The New York Times covered our amazing gift (and my tweet)! https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/us/donors-choose-donation-ripple.html

What that means for APS is that every single one of our school projects were immediately funded. That’s 260 individual projects, supporting 177 teachers. When combined, our projects are receiving over $282,000 to support classroom efforts. Since our new partnership began with DonorsChoose three years ago, they have invested $4 million into our classrooms for teacher projects.

DZZjlhnV4AAZBg6Wowza! We couldn’t be more thankful to Ripple and to DonorsChoose.org for the #BestSchoolDay ever! I have to give a shout out to our APS Partnerships team, especially Rachel Sprecher, for their work with DonorsChoose.

If your teacher or school has never used DonorsChoose.org here’s how you can break a barrier for learning! It’s really simple:

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  1. Come up with a project idea that you think will bring your classroom to new heights. The more it’s able to boost how your classroom is bringing our transformation strategy to life, the better!
  2. Sign up for an account at donorschoose.org/teachers if you don’t already have one.
  3. Submit your request — the whole process shouldn’t take more than 25 minutes. When your project is funded, DonorsChoose.org ships the supplies directly to your classroom.

How easy is that to be a champion for kids!

Finally, while you are on Spring Break, I hope you will take a moment to remember the man who was greatest giver, barrier breaker and “donor” of love and freedom on Wednesday, April 4th . It is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life and death are being commemorated under the theme MLK50 – Where do We Go from Here. As the school district of Dr. King and as a district that continues to celebrate his life and legacy throughout the year, APS is proud to join civil rights groups, schools and other organizations across the country and around the world to show our appreciation for choices he made in the fight for social justice. We’re proud that all of our students, from kindergarten through high school, have a rich legacy to draw from and they are engaged, both inside and outside the classroom, in learning about the Civil Rights Movement and about exercising their civic rights in the world around them.

I will be posting a special blog commemorating #MLK50 on April 4th, and I encourage you to engage in the many activities and events at our schools and in the community in the coming days and weeks and to learn more about #MLK50 on the National Civil Rights Museum’s website at mlk50.civilrightsmuseum.org/.

Be safe, have fun and see you on Monday, April 9th!

#BestSchoolDay

#SpringBreakthroughBarriers

#MLK50

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Your Vote Makes a Difference! GO Teams Elections Going on Now for 2018-2020 Term

Email Header (for School)-01It’s hard to believe, but we have been operating as a Charter System for nearly two years! Throughout this transition, we’ve seen greater transparency and increased engagement. A major factor in these improvements is the work of our GO Teams. Each school in our district has a nine-member governance team that works collaboratively with the school principal to develop a strategic plan, approve an operating budget and offer input on personnel decisions. These teams are charged with seeking out new and innovative ways to ensure every student is afforded the tools and support necessary for success.

The best part of operating as a charter system is that each GO Team can really look at the needs of the students it serves. Not the district as a whole, but the needs of an individual school community. In June, the first two-year term will expire, leaving more than 400 seats available on GO Teams all over the district. That’s at least five positions at each school.

Now, it’s your turn! The GO Teams in place now have done an incredible job in their first term. More than 400 new and returning candidates need your votes!

So, here’s what we need…parents/guardians and instructional staff, you can vote for your peers from your computer or mobile device at aps.everyonecounts.com now through March 26. We also have community member seats open. Anyone interested in those positions can register online at www.apsstrongschools.com. Candidates for these seats are nominated by the principal and approved by the team.

GO Teams give our parents, educators and community members a real voice … It’s a genuine opportunity to positively impact the future of your Atlanta Public Schools. You can be the voice our students need. STRONG SCHOOLS START WITH YOU!

 

Don’t Repost Threats! Consequences of Posting and Sharing Threats on Social Media

As we prepare for National School Walkout Day, it is important for our stakeholders to understand the consequences of posting (and reposting or sharing) threats on social media – even if you didn’t originally create it.

Since Friday, February 23, Atlanta Public Schools and other metro area school districts have seen a spike in threats of violence against our schools made on social media. Many believe that these threats are occurring in the wake of the tragic school shooting earlier this month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida for a host of reasons.

The safety and security of our students and staff is our top priority. We take every threat very seriously and we investigate each one in coordination with the Atlanta Police Department Homeland Security Unit, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigations Joint Terrorism Task Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our APS Police Department, social media platform companies, and others.

The posting or reposting of threats of violence against schools on social media is against federal and state law and these actions may be punishable with jail time, fines or both.

Simply put, it is a crime to post and transmit information related to terroristic acts. Specifically, the law (O.C.G.A. 16-11-37.1) states:

“Dissemination of information relating to terroristic acts – It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly to furnish or disseminate through a computer or computer network any picture, photograph, drawing, or similar visual representation or verbal description of any information designed to encourage, solicit, or otherwise promote terroristic acts as defined in Code Section 16-11-37. Any person convicted for violation of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature; provided, however, that if such act is in violation of paragraph (1) of subsection (d) of Code Section 16-11-37, the person convicted shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than ten years or by a fine not to exceed $100,000.00 or both.”

While we believe the felony upgrade may not applicable to the recent social media threats against school districts under Georgia law, punishment for the misdemeanor is a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment of one to 10 years. Even though our APS Police Department may sometimes prefer to file juvenile charges in lieu of the court taking additional action, all of the prosecutorial discretion actually rests with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Posting threats against schools on social media is a federal matter and we are not able to remove it from their jurisdiction.

It is critically important for parents to have a conversation with their children about the seriousness of posting or sharing these threats through social media and review the potential consequences which will start with a suspension from APS and go from there.

As a result of our vigorous investigations into this matter, I am relieved to tell you that APS has identified some students involved in these actions. Appropriate disciplinary measures are being considered and then implemented. We will continue to investigate the threats to find all the original sources, but be forewarned that sharing also has consequence. It breaks my heart to see our young children making bad choices, especially given the severity of the consequences and legal actions that may be levied.

Parents and caregivers must get involved and be vigilant about what their children are posting or reposting on social media. A moment of immaturity for our students can result in significant, long-lasting penalties that may stay on their record for as long as the law deems appropriate.

According to a 2017 study conducted by the Associated Press-National Opinion Research Center for Public Affairs Research found that Instagram and Snapchat have surpassed Facebook as the most popular social media platforms among teens ages 13-17: 76% prefer Instagram, while 75% prefer Snapchat, followed by Facebook (66%) and Twitter (47%).

Social Media Post Chart (2018)

In a Washington Post story published in January 2018, teens talk candidly about what they wish their parents knew about social media. Here’s a highlight of what teens interviewed said:

  • “When you take away one device at night, you might not realize how many devices we still have with us.”
  • “Many of us have a fake Instagram account.”
  • “If we are passionate or angry about something, we take it to social media.”

In addition, according to the latest Common Sense Media Census on Media Use by Tweens and Teens, not all parents know what happens on their children’s social media platforms. Here’s the percent of teens who say their parents know about what they do on social media:

  • 32% say a lot
  • 32% say some
  • 27% say only a little
  • 9% say nothing
  • 5% not sure

While there are great benefits to our young people using technology to express themselves, there are just as many pitfalls. In terms of our responsibility as adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says it best on their website:

“Ultimately, social media becomes a tool or risk for teen’s health based on how they use it, which is in turn shaped by the guidance they get from caring adults.”

HHS also provides a number of resources to help parents set boundaries for their children on social media use. Click here to learn more.

As caring adults, it’s our collective responsibility to guide our young people and intervene before it’s too late. Please talk to your children and reiterate that there are severe disciplinary and legal consequences for posting or reposting threats of violence against schools on social media. School safety is everyone’s business, and I ask for your continued help in making our schools safe.

If you have any information about these threats, please call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477. Tips can be reported anonymously. Also, we appreciate the fact many of our students tried to warn us about the threats, however, they did so by reposting the threats. Remember, reposting is illegal, too!

In addition to contacting Crime Stoppers, you can report any threats of violence against schools that you see on social media by direct messaging us through our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media channels at @apsupdate and/or email the Atlanta Public Schools Safety and Security Department at apspolice@atlanta.k12.ga.us. Please don’t share or repost threats on your account which will continue to circulate the threat and expose you or your child to serious consequences.

Be safe!