One big problem with how Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are spending a small share of their fortune

 

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Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are becoming bigger donors.
Invision and AP/Evan Agostini

Ted Lechterman, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, recently announced a plan to spend US$2 billion of their $164 billion fortune on homeless shelters and preschools.

Since Jeff Bezos has taken flack for giving away far less of his money than some other billionaires, such as Bill Gates, the announcement may look like a sign that this tech titan is becoming more generous. The announcement also responds to criticism of the $1 billion per year that Bezos already spends on Blue Origin, his space travel experiment.

But as a political theorist who studies the ethics of philanthropy, I think Bezos’s charitable turn raises grave concerns about the pervasive power of business moguls.

Disturbing trend

The Bezos family’s philanthropy is following an unsettling pattern in terms of its timing. Amazon’s market value had recently topped $1 trillion, raising more questions than ever around Amazon’s overwhelming size and power.

This wasn’t the first time that Bezos effectively redirected attention from Amazon’s immense clout with a big announcement about philanthropy. When news broke in 2017 that Amazon was acquiring Whole Foods, raising new concerns about the company’s retail domination, Bezos made a dramatic public appeal through Twitter for advice on how to focus his giving.

The timing may have been coincidental both times, but the suspicion that philanthropy distracts the public from questionable conduct or economic injustice is a familiar worry. Since the days of robber barons like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, social critics have charged that philanthropy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

This cynical view holds that magnificent acts of generosity are nothing more than cunning attempts to consolidate power. Like dictators who use “bread and circuses” to pacify the masses, the super-rich give away chunks of their fortunes to shield themselves from public scrutiny and defuse calls for eliminating tax breaks or raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

Demonstrators protested against Amazon and Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, shortly before he announced plans to make $2 billion in charitable donations.
AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Good intentions are not enough

Today, political theorists who study philanthropy – like Emma Saunders-Hastings and Rob Reich – tend to think the problem is more complicated. They accept that many philanthropists are sincere in their desire to help others, and the solutions donors develop are sometimes remarkably innovative.

But they also contend that noble intentions and strategic thinking aren’t enough to make philanthropy legitimate. And my own research reaches a similar verdict.

That’s because massive donations can perpetuate inequality and threaten democracy in several ways.

Dramatic acts of charity by the ultra-wealthy may reduce pressure on governments to tackle poverty and inequality comprehensively. Depending on private benefactors for access to basic necessities can reinforce social hierarchies. And when the elite spend their own money on essential public services like housing the homeless and education for low-income children, it lets the rich mold social policy to their own preferences or even whims.

In other words, even if Bezos has great ideas, no one elected him or hired him to house the homeless and educate kids before they enter kindergarten. Great wealth is not a qualification for all jobs.

Tax privilege

The tax deductibility of the donations made by the richest Americans can exacerbate these concerns because it effectively subsidizes their giving. Some scholars argue that the point of tax incentives is to encourage donations for things the government can’t or shouldn’t support directly – like maintaining a church property.

Observers, including MarketWatch reporter Kari Paul and Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, have noted that if people like Bezos and the businesses they lead were to stop fighting for low tax rates, democratically elected officials would have more money to spend tackling big problems like homelessness and other urgent priorities.

By making tax-deductible donations, they argue, Bezos is effectively diverting tax dollars to fuel his private judgments about public policy.

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Questions about accountability and generosity

My research indicates that using tax deductions to supply essential public services, such as education and housing assistance, may be a misuse of this privilege because it has the potential to undermine democratic control.

Members of the public have a vital interest in being able to oversee the provision of goods and services that support their most basic needs. This kind of accountability is possible only when these needs are served by democratic governments, not rich benefactors operating in their place.

And Bezos’s behavior as a businessman has raised other questions about his generosity and respect for democracy. When Amazon’s hometown of Seattle proposed to tackle runaway housing costs with a tax on the city’s largest employers, Amazon resisted. The city backed off after the company threatened to scale down its Seattle operations if the bill passed.

It may seem odd that someone who opposed a tax intended to help cover housing costs for his low-income neighbors would want to spend part of his fortune on housing. But to me it makes sense, because in my view, Jeff Bezos’s beef isn’t with his duties to help the least fortunate, but with the limits on economic power that democracy requires.The Conversation

Ted Lechterman, Postdoctoral Fellow, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Immigrant detention in the US: 4 essential reads

Father and son reunited after being detained in Texas. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Father and son reunited after being detained in Texas. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Danielle Douez, The Conversation

More children are being held in immigrant detention centers in the U.S. than ever previously recorded, according to The New York Times.

The number of immigrant children in detention has risen to about 12,800, the Times reports, a significant increase from 2,400 in 2017. Here are 4 stories from our archive that will help readers understand some central issues around immigrant detention:

1. Legal challenges

Since President Donald Trump took office, there have been numerous legal challenges to his administration’s policies on immigration, including on immigrant and child detention. In July, a federal court ruled that detention centers could no longer give drugs to treat psychiatric symptoms to children without the consent of a parent or guardian.

Immigration scholar Kevin Johnson writes about several cases in U.S. history that set legal precedents in disputes over detaining immigrants and protecting their rights. For example, a class action lawsuit filed by immigrants in detention in the 1980s argued that moving detainees away from major urban areas deprived them of a right to counsel. The court agreed and ruled in their favor.

Johnson writes: “The long history of detention has an equally long history of legal challenges. These are likely to continue in the Trump administration, which has made detention a cornerstone of its immigration enforcement plan.”

2. Standards for children and families

One case, in particular, stands out as more relevant to today’s debate about detaining children and families. The Flores case was filed in 1985 and led to what’s known as the “Flores settlement.” This contract between the government and the plaintiffs set standards for holding children and families in detention, which courts continue to use today.

An unaccompanied children program shelter in Brownsville, Texas. Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Handout via REUTERS
An unaccompanied children program shelter in Brownsville, Texas. Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services/Handout via REUTERS

For example, the agreement says that the government must release immigrant children after 20 days of detention.

In a separate analysis, Johnson explains the case and why it has had such a lasting impact.

3. Who’s to blame?

Critics have blamed the Trump administration for the inhumane detention of immigrant children. However, public policy professor Susan M. Sterett argues that the contractors who provide the detention facilities are also to blame for suffering children.

Although government contracting is not new, the contracts themselves rarely garner attention from the public. There are many reasons why the government uses contracting services. In this case, it is likely because the contractors can act more quickly than the government to provide housing for detained children, Sterett writes.

“[The government] hands nonprofit groups, for-profit businesses and local governments US$1 billion a year or more to house nearly 12,000 children. This money is dispensed through government contracts that do not always gain much public attention,” Sterett writes.

4. Echoes from the past

This episode in U.S. history is not unique. In the 1990s, thousands of Haitians fleeing violence started the journey toward the U.S. to seek safety. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton responded by authorizing their capture and indefinite detention at a military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Scholar A. Naomi Paik writes about conditions on the base: “Under the stress of imprisonment with no end in sight, some refugees fell into despair. The most dire cases purposely hurt themselves or attempted suicide. Children also endured the camp conditions that nearly broke grown adults.”

As information emerges about conditions in today’s detention centers, the parallels to the past may be instructive.

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Danielle Douez, Associate Editor, Politics + Society, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Race of mass shooters influences how the media cover their crimes, new study shows

 

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If a news report mentions a shooter’s tough childhood, chances are he’s white.
ASAG Studio

Laura Frizzell, The Ohio State University; Sadé L. Lindsay, The Ohio State University, and Scott Duxbury, The Ohio State University

On Jan. 24, 2014, police found Josh Boren, a 34-year-old man and former police officer, dead in his home next to the bodies of his wife and their three children. The shots were fired execution-style on Boren’s kneeling victims, before he turned the gun on himself.

On Aug. 8, 2015, 48-year-old David Ray Conley shot and killed his son, former girlfriend and six other children and adults at his former girlfriend’s home. Like Boren, Conley executed the victims at point-blank range.

Both men had histories of domestic violence and criminal behavior. Yet despite the obvious similarities in these two cases and perpetrators, the media, in each case, took a different approach.

When describing Boren, the media focused on his good character and excellent parenting, going as far to call Boren a big “teddy bear” despite a prolonged history of domestic violence. They attributed his crime to “snapping” under the significant stress of his wife’s recent divorce filing.

In Conley’s case, media reports made little attempt to include any redeeming aspects of his personality. Instead, they focused exclusively on Conley’s history of domestic violence and prior drug possession charges. If you were to read articles about Conley, you would likely infer his crime stemmed from his inherently dangerous and controlling personality.

What might explain the differences in media coverage? Could it have something to do with the shooter’s race?

Boren, it turns out, was white; Conley was black.

In a recent study, we explored whether the race of mass shooters influences how the media depict their crime, their motivations and their lives.

We found that the discrepancies in the media coverage of Boren’s and Conley’s crimes were indicative of a broader phenomenon.

Explaining the crime, portraying the criminal

For the study, we randomly selected 433 online and print news articles covering 219 mass shootings from 2013 to 2015. While definitions of a mass shooting can vary, we adhered to the one most commonly used in empirical research: an event in which four or more people are shot, excluding the shooter.

Next, we created a unique data set based on information provided in the articles. We coded each article for a variety of variables associated with the crime and the shooter, including setting of the shooting, number and gender of victims killed and injured and age of the shooter.

After analyzing the data, we found that the shooter’s race could strongly predict whether the media framed him as mentally ill. (Less than 1 percent of the crimes had a female perpetrator.)

In all, about 33 percent of the articles in our study describing the crimes of a white shooter made a mention of mental illness. On the other hand, 26 percent of articles describing a Latino shooter and only two percent of articles describing a black shooter mentioned mental illness.

In fact – holding all aspects of the crime equal – white shooters were nearly 95 percent more likely to have their crimes attributed to mental illness than black shooters. Latino shooters were 92 percent more likely than black shooters to have mental illness mentioned as a factor.

An empathy gap

Furthermore, those articles that did describe a white shooter as mentally ill would often suggest that the shooter had been a generally good person who was a victim of society. The shooting, in other words, was out of character.

For example, in one case, a shooter in a rural trailer park set up a rifle in some bushes and began firing at the family trailer, with his wife, father-in-law and two young children inside. When the police arrived, he turned the rifle on them, hitting two officers before they gunned him down.

Yet subsequent news coverage noted his generally quiet demeanor and his willingness to help family and friends. The man who committed these crimes, one article noted, “wasn’t the same person who loved back-porch cookouts.”

However, such narratives – even within articles that mentioned mental illness – were less common when the shooter was black or Latino.

The graph below includes all news articles in our sample that framed a shooting as stemming from mental illness.

The chart shows the proportion of thematic narratives by race within the mental illness subsample.

Nearly 80 percent of articles that described white shooters as mentally ill also described them as a victim of society and circumstance – a tough childhood, a failed relationship or financial struggles.

However only one article that described a black shooter as mentally ill did the same. Furthermore, no article in our sample offered testimony to black shooters’ good character, suggested that the shooter was from a good environment or that the shooting was out of character. Across the board, roughly the same pattern played out with perpetrators who were Latino.

Why does this matter?

Media coverage actively shapes how we perceive reality.

It seems as if media outlets tend to cast the violent acts of white criminals as unfortunate anomalies of circumstance and illness. For black shooters (and, to a lesser extent, Latino shooters) media outlets render their crimes with a brush of inherent criminality.

The ConversationThis isn’t to say that crimes shouldn’t be fully examined and that personal hardships and society don’t play a role. But if the circumstances of one group’s crimes are being explained in an empathetic way, and another group’s crimes aren’t given the same level of care and attention, we wonder whether this can insidiously influence how we perceive huge swaths of the population – criminal or not.

Laura Frizzell, PhD Student in Sociology, The Ohio State University; Sadé L. Lindsay, PhD Student in Sociology, The Ohio State University, and Scott Duxbury, PhD Student in Sociology, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

About 12.7 percent of Americans lived be

file-20180718-142435-1v01jtjAbout 12.7 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line in 2016. StanislauV/shutterstock.com
Robert L. Fischer, Case Western Reserve University
On July 12, President Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers concluded that America’s long-running war on poverty “is largely over and a success.”
I am a researcher who has studied poverty for nearly 20 years in Cleveland, a city with one of the country’s highest rates of poverty. While the council’s conclusion makes for a dramatic headline, it simply does not align with the reality of poverty in the U.S. today.

What is poverty?
The U.S. federal poverty line is set annually by the federal government, based on algorithms developed in the 1960s and adjusted for inflation.
In 2018, the federal poverty line for a family of four in the contiguous U.S. is $25,100. It’s somewhat higher in Hawaii ($28,870) and Alaska ($31,380).
However, the technical weaknesses of the federal poverty line are well known to researchers and those who work with populations in poverty. This measure considers only earned income, ignoring the costs of living for different family types, receipt of public benefits, as well as the value of assets, such as a home or car, held by families.
Most references to poverty refer to either the poverty rate or the number of people in poverty. The poverty rate is essentially the percentage of all people or a subcategory who have income below the poverty line. This allows researchers to compare over time even as the U.S. population increases. For example, 12.7 percent of the U.S. population was in poverty in 2016. The rate has hovered around 12 to 15 percent since 1980.
Other discussions reference the raw number of people in poverty. In 2016, 40.6 million people lived in poverty, up from approximately 25 million in 1980. The number of people in poverty gives a sense of the scale of the concern and helps to inform the design of relevant policies.
Both of these indicators fluctuate with the economy. For example, the poverty population grew by 10 million during the 2007 to 2009 recession, equating to an increase of approximately 4 percent in the rate.
The rates of poverty over time by age show that, while poverty among seniors has declined, child poverty and poverty among adults have changed little over the last 40 years. Today, the poverty rate among children is nearly double the rate experienced by seniors.

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The July report by the Council of Economic Advisers uses an alternate way of measuring poverty, based on households’ consumption of goods, to conclude that poverty has dramatically declined. Though this method may be useful for underpinning an argument for broader work requirements for the poor, the much more favorable picture it paints simply does not reconcile with the observed reality in the U.S. today.

Deserving versus undeserving poor
Political discussions about poverty often include underlying assumptions about whether those living in poverty are responsible for their own circumstances.
One perspective identifies certain categories of poor as more deserving of assistance because they are victims of circumstance. These include children, widows, the disabled and workers who have lost a job. Other individuals who are perceived to have made bad choices – such as school dropouts, people with criminal backgrounds or drug users – may be less likely to receive sympathetic treatment in these discussions. The path to poverty is important, but likely shows that most individuals suffered earlier circumstances that contributed to the outcome.
Among the working-age poor in the U.S. (ages 18 to 64), approximately 35 percent are not eligible to work, meaning they are disabled, a student or retired. Among the poor who are eligible to work, fully 63 percent do so.
Earlier this year, lawmakers in the House proposed new work requirements for recipients of SNAP and Medicaid. But this ignores the reality that a large number of the poor who are eligible for benefits are children and would not be expected to work. Sixty-three percent of adults who are eligible for benefits can work and already do. The issue here is more so that these individuals cannot secure and retain full-time employment of a wage sufficient to lift their family from poverty.

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A culture of poverty?
The circumstances of poverty limit the odds that someone can escape poverty. Individuals living in poverty or belonging to families in poverty often work but still have limited resources – in regard to employment, housing, health care, education and child care, just to name a few domains.
If a family is surrounded by other households also struggling with poverty, this further exacerbates their circumstances. It’s akin to being a weak swimmer in a pool surrounded by other weak swimmers. The potential for assistance and benefit from those around you further limits your chances of success.

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Even the basic reality of family structure feeds into the consideration of poverty. Twenty-seven percent of female-headed households with no other adult live in poverty, dramatically higher than the 5 percent poverty rate of married couple families.
Poverty exists in all areas of the country, but the population living in high-poverty neighborhoods has increased over time. Following the Great Recession, some 14 million people lived in extremely poor neighborhoods, more than twice as many as had done so in 2000. Some areas saw some dramatic growth in their poor populations living in high-poverty areas.

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📷Given the complexity of poverty as a civic issue, decision makers should understand the full range of evidence about the circumstances of the poor. This is especially important before undertaking a major change to the social safety net such as broad-based work requirements for those receiving non-cash assistance.
Robert L. Fischer, Co-Director of the Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development, Case Western Reserve University
This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

‘Two societies, one black, one white’ – the Kerner Commission’s prophetic warnings

 

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National Guardsmen move into Detroit’s riot-torn area, July 23, 1967.
AP

Donald Nieman, Binghamton University, State University of New York

On July 23, 1967, Detroit exploded in rioting. Five days later, 43 were dead, 7,200 had been arrested and US$22 million worth of property had been destroyed.

It was just the latest in a string of more than 100 disturbances that shook American cities during “the long, hot summers” of the mid-1960s.

Before the embers cooled, President Lyndon Johnson appointed the National Commission on Civil Disorders to investigate. The panel became known popularly as the Kerner Commission, after its co-chair Otto Kerner, the Democratic governor of Illinois.

Johnson announces the establishment of the Kerner Commission in 1967.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 29, 1968, the commission issued its report. As a historian of civil rights in the U.S., I’m struck by how the power of institutional racism so trenchantly revealed by the report constrains efforts to advance racial equity 50 years later.

Taproot of violence: White racism

As the report masterfully described, these “racial disorders” were really urban uprisings. They were sparked by poverty, unemployment, discrimination in housing and education, police brutality and a sense of powerlessness among inner city residents.

The taproot, however, was white racism, which the commission found “responsible for the explosive mixture which has been accumulating in our cities since the end of World War II.”

The situation was dire. According to the report, “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white — separate and unequal.”

To avert this catastrophe, the commission demanded “a commitment to national action on an unprecedented scale.”

Riots erupted in New York’s Harlem neighborhood in July 1974, after a white police officer shot a black teenager.
AP

It recommended creation of public-sector jobs, construction of low- and moderate-income housing, urban school desegregation, expanded early childhood education, welfare benefits at least equal to the poverty level and legislation to end housing discrimination.

Recognizing the role of the police in sparking violence, commissioners urged development of “innovative programs to insure widespread community support for law enforcement” and the hiring of more black police. They also demanded that police cease using massive force in the form of “automatic rifles, machine guns, and tanks.”

The report seized public attention. Covered widely in the press, it was issued as a paperback by Bantam books and sold 740,000 copies within two weeks of its release. Its chilling “two societies” phrase became part of the national vocabulary.

Harsh words, but little action

Impact was another matter.

President Johnson, confronting budget deficits, rising inflation, defeat in Vietnam and growing criticism from the right and left, offered tepid support. And his successor, Richard Nixon, rode to victory promising to restore law and order, not to support an ambitious civil rights agenda.

During the ensuing 50 years, retrospectives on the report surfaced on anniversaries and in the aftermath of highly publicized urban uprisings in Los Angeles, Ferguson, Baltimore and Staten Island.

Its effect on policy, however, has been modest. It helped spur passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which aimed to end the residential segregation of American neighborhoods. Coupled with additional legislation passed in the 1970s and 1980s and the growth of the black middle class, the act has facilitated modest gains in residential integration.

Demonstrators across the street from the Ferguson, Missouri, police department in March 2015.
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

There are now far more African-American police officers than in 1968, but this is due more to litigation and political gains by African-Americans in major cities than the report’s influence. White officers still make up a disproportionate share of police, especially in inner suburbs like Ferguson, Missouri, where the recent movement of black families into the city has changed the racial demographic.

Other recommendations obtained even less traction. Welfare has become less generous, thanks to the welfare reform adopted in 1995 under President Bill Clinton, and police are as much of a flash point as they were in the 1960s, exacting a terrible toll on urban and suburban black communities.

Why the lack of action?

Five decades of uneven economic growth and federal budget deficits bred resistance to expensive new programs. In addition, the commission’s recommendations on law enforcement relied on action by state and local government, which were often reluctant to act.

But racism is the most important factor.

Has racism diminished?

Polls reveal a decline in racist sentiments among whites since the 1960s.

Nevertheless, a 2012 AP poll found that 56 percent of non-Hispanic whites held explicit or implicit anti-black attitudes. Other recent polls have revealed that a majority of whites believe that whites work harder than blacks and that the country talks too much about race.

Persistent racism has been exploited by many Republicans – Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump to name a few – to woo working-class white Northerners and turn the South red.

Republican resurgence after 1968 – Democrats have controlled both Congress and the White House for only for only six of the past 50 years – has created partisan gridlock on civil rights, killing serious consideration of the commission’s bold recommendations.

Sadly, the report’s fundamental insight remains as relevant today as 50 years ago.

“What white Americans have never fully understood but what the Negro can never forget – is that white society is deeply implicated in the ghetto,” the report asserted.

“White institutions created it, white institutions maintain it, and white society condones it.”

The ConversationI’m encouraged by how Black Lives Matter has once again shattered the nation’s complacency about race. The movement reminds Americans that we have not overcome and that institutional racism remains an intractable barrier to equity. It has shattered illusions that the U.S. has become a post-racial society and challenged the nation to grapple with the ugly realities the Kerner Commission laid bare.

Donald Nieman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Binghamton University, State University of New York

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Schools shouldn’t wait for red flags to address student mental health needs

 

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Students who need mental health services rarely receive them.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Nathaniel von der Embse, University of South Florida

One out of every 4 or 5. That’s how many students will display a significant mental health problem over the course of their lifetime.

Such students can be identified early with considerable accuracy if educators are given the right training and tools. Unfortunately, most schools rely on reactive methods, like office discipline referrals, to figure out which students need behavioral and mental health services.

Research shows this approach of waiting until students act out in school is inefficient and leads to as many as 80 percent of those with mental health needs to fall through the cracks.

Such concerns have heightened in the wake of the Parkland high school massacre. News reports indicate the alleged shooter exhibited a number of troubling behaviors, raising questions about his mental health status and whether more could have been done to help him sooner.

To address the issue of students falling through the cracks, more schools should adopt proactive, universal screening tools.

Universal screening typically occurs three times throughout the school year: fall, winter and spring. Screeners are brief assessments that take no more than a few minutes to complete. They include approximately 20 questions and are given to each student in the elementary classroom. These tools ask students to indicate things such as “I lose my temper” or whether they are “adaptable to change.” The questions are purposefully broad and are meant to identify students who may be at risk for either internal problem behaviors, such as anxiety or depression, or external problem behaviors, such as aggression toward others. The screenings are scored and used to prioritize which students need intervention.

Screeners are typically administered without parental consent if they are embedded into the general school curriculum.

Research shows that screening tools can help educators identify students with mental health needs with far greater accuracy and speed, rather than waiting for a severe problem behavior, such as a school fight.

I developed one such tool – the Social, Academic and Emotional Behavior Risk Screener, or SAEBRS – with the help of several grants, including $1.4 million from the Institute for Educational Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education.

If society is serious about preventing severe mental and behavioral health problems, it must take a critical look at the current state of mental health supports in the nation’s schools. Doing so will bring the value of screening tools into sharper focus.

School mental health stretched thin

First, let’s consider the service provider side of the equation. The National Association of School Psychologists recommends a ratio of 1 school psychologist for every 500-700 students. However, the reality is that states on average have ratios of nearly twice that amount. Simply put, schools rarely have the staff necessary for comprehensive mental health services.

Second, only a small number of students who need mental health services will receive intervention in a timely manner. Due to the amount of time that teachers spend with students, teachers are the critical link to identify which students need help and to refer students to school psychologists, counselors and social workers. The question is: Do teachers know what to look for?

Silent issues overlooked

Consider a typical elementary classroom with 30 students. Approximately 6 students, on average, will have a critical mental and behavioral health problem such as anxiety or aggression, yet less than half will receive timely intervention. Who are those students? Typically those that exhibit more outward types of problems, such as aggression, problems paying attention and disruptive behavior.

Students with harder-to-see issues, such as withdrawal, anxiety and social isolation often get overlooked and rarely receive essential services. Teachers often lack the training or tools necessary to know which students may need help, beyond those that are disruptive to instruction.

These screenings are not part of the process for comprehensive special education evaluations, so the concerns about schools having to offer special education services as a result of the screening do not come into play.

While screening tools can help identify troubled students sooner, it is important not to oversell the usefulness of these tools. To be clear, there are no research-validated tools that can reliably identify which students may commit violent acts.

Toward universal screening

Currently, less than 15 percent of schools engage in some form of behavioral or mental health screening. However, more schools are adopting universal screening.

The ConversationAs the developer of a screening tool, I have seen rapid adoption of the tool over the last four years from two elementary schools in rural North Carolina to hundreds of schools across 28 states. As schools consider how best to meet the behavioral and mental health needs of their students, screening can provide crucial information to guide the way.

Nathaniel von der Embse, Assistant Professor of School Psychology, University of South Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Caribbean residents see climate change as a severe threat but most in US don’t — here’s why

 

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People in the U.S. and the Caribbean share vulnerability to climate change-related disasters, but only in the Caribbean is the public truly worried. Why?
US Navy, CC BY-SA

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, Vanderbilt University and Claire Q. Evans, Vanderbilt University

During the 2017 Atlantic basin hurricane season, six major storms – all of which were Category 3 or higher – produced devastating human, material and financial devastation across the southern United States and the Caribbean.

Last year’s above-average storm activity was foreseeable. Hurricane intensity ticked up in 2016 and scientists have predicted this trend will hold as global temperatures continue to rise.

Though people in the U.S. and the Caribbean share this increasing vulnerability to hurricanes, they hold very different opinions about the severity of climate change. According to results from the latest Vanderbilt University AmericasBarometer survey, a strong majority of Caribbean residents perceive climate change as a “very serious” problem. In contrast, just 44 percent of the U.S. public does.

Why the difference of opinion? Our research identifies two key factors: politics and risk perception.

Climate change is a partisan issue in the US

The AmericasBarometer is a biennial survey conducted by Vanderbilt University’s Latin American Public Opinion Project. The latest round was conducted between 2016 and 2017 in 29 countries across the Americas.

The 10 Caribbean countries surveyed include Haiti, Dominica and Barbuda, all hit hard by hurricanes in recent years. The survey found that between 56 percent and 79 percent of respondents in the Caribbean believe that climate change is a very serious problem for their country.

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Things look different in the United States, where the AmericasBarometer survey affirms prior research demonstrating that climate change is a partisan issue. More than three-quarters of individuals on the liberal side of the political spectrum reported that climate change is a very serious problem.

Less than 20 percent of those with conservative leanings expressed the same degree of concern.

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This pattern holds even when we control for age, education, income, gender and perceptions of disaster risk.

In the Caribbean, political leanings are far less consequential to people’s views of climate change. The AmericasBarometer survey asked respondents in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica to place themselves on a scale that runs from the political left to the right. We found no significant differences in opinions about climate change from people with different political views.

One explanation for why the Caribbean public demonstrates more of a consensus on climate change, then, is simply that the issue is not politicized in that region. People of all ideological bents agree that, in the Caribbean, climate change poses a very serious problem.

Just how dangerous is climate change?

People’s perceptions of their vulnerability to climate change-related dangers may also explain diverging views on the issue.

The AmericasBarometer asked respondents in both the Caribbean and the United States to assess the odds that they or a family member would be killed or seriously harmed by a natural disaster in the next 25 years.

In both places, those who feel most vulnerable to disasters more often report that climate change is a “very serious” problem. This relationship holds even when accounting for age, education, wealth, urban residence and gender.

Overall, though, in the U.S. people feel less exposed to hurricanes and other disasters than their Caribbean counterparts. In fact, most members of the U.S. public believe that personal harm from a future disaster is either “not likely at all” or “unlikely.”

Most people in the Caribbean, on the other hand, say it is “somewhat likely” or “very likely.”

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These notable differences may be due to geography. Because the Caribbean region is comprised of islands, a higher proportion of communities there are coastal. This, in turn, can increase the impact that storms have on residents.

Climate change and hurricanes

Some scientific consensus exists that climate change can be blamed , at least in part, for the hundreds of casualties and more than US$400 billion in damage that storms brought to the U.S. and the Caribbean in 2017.

Scientific models indicate that the Earth’s warming climate is likely to shape future storm activity in the Atlantic basin. Scientists are not sure, however, exactly how this will manifest itself in future hurricane seasons. Some researchers suggest that warmer temperatures increase storm probability. Others restrict the effects to storm intensity.

The ConversationThe 2018 hurricane season is just a few months away. Our research reveals that with politics removed and risk perceptions elevated, people in the Caribbean are bracing for whatever comes quite differently than their U.S. counterparts.

Elizabeth J. Zechmeister, Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and Director of LAPOP, Vanderbilt University and Claire Q. Evans, Doctoral Student, Political Science, Vanderbilt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.