San Mateo County’s “RESPECT! 24/7″ Partners With CC!


Guest post: This article was written by the San Mateo County Office of Education, which is hosting a CHARACTER COUNTS! Character Development Seminar, March 26-28 in Redwood City, California. The training is open to all — register here.

San Mateo County Office of Education launched its RESPECT! 24/7 anti-bullying and civility initiative after a San Mateo County Grand Jury report called on our school districts to update their anti-bullying policies to be more comprehensive and consistent. After engaging our districts in that work, we became acutely aware that ensuring the physical, mental and emotional health of every child is best achieved through the collective efforts of the entire community. In this spirit, the RESPECT! 24/7 initiative was launched as a countywide effort.

To date, our partners include Congresswoman Jackie Speier, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, Common Sense Media, the San Mateo County Library, the 17
th District PTA, Community Gatepath, StarVista and the San Mateo County Youth Commission, among others. Under the RESPECT! 24/7 umbrella, San Mateo County convenes professional development trainings for teachers and administrators and events for youth and community members.  For the past two years San Mateo County has observed October as RESPECT! 24/7 month. Our celebrations included sending more than 4,000 students to local movie theaters so they could view the documentary film Bully.

RESPECT! 24/7 has grown in its focus to address such issues as cyberbullying, digital citizenship, disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion, LGBTQ and gender identity, positive school climate, safe schools and communities, and youth mental health. We’re currently working to launch a RESPECT! 24/7 recognition program for PreK-6th grade students with a RESPECT! 24/7 Superheroes of the Month campaign.

RESPECT! 24/7 is also proud of our student-created logo, with its cape-clad superhero “R” poised to spring into action.

We recognize that CHARACTER COUNTS! is a natural fit with RESPECT! 24/7 — we share more than an exclamation point! We are excited to welcome the Josephson Institute and CHARACTER COUNTS! to Redwood City, March 26-28, and look forward to deepening student engagement around character education, social/emotional learning and growth mindset in San Mateo County.

Books to Help Young People Learn About Civil Rights and MLK Day

Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with books that help young people learn about the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s role in it.

Here are 11 books with links to reviews by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit youth advocacy group that recommends and reviews books, movies and more for teachers and parents.

Rosa Review Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni
I Have a Dream Review I Have a Dream, by Kadir Nelson
Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly Review Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, by Walter Dean Myers
The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 Review The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America Review Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
The Lions of Little Rock Review The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine
I Have a Dream Review I Have a Dream, by Martin Luther King
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Review Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
One Crazy Summer Review One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia
March: Book 1 Review March: Book 1, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice Review Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose

VIDEO: Cyberbullying Tips and Resources

This video from Common Sense Media includes a discussion on cyberbullying with Emily Bazelon, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. Also in the video: three websites for kids that teach lessons about kindness, plus a catchy song reminding young people to “pause and think” before posting anything online.

To book a CHARACTER COUNTS! in-service workshop at your school — on digital citizenship and cyber-safety or bullying or another issue that you’re dealing with — call 800-711-2670. Learn more about our workshops here.


Town Center in Reston, Virginia, Gives Over $5K to Local CC! Group


Congratulations to the CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition in Reston, Virginia, for raising a cool $5,697 as part of opening weekend sales at a local ice skating rink.

“We’re elated that Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion was able to raise such a large donation for us this year,” said Reston Association CEO Cate Fulkerson, who also serves as president of Reston  CHARACTER COUNTS! Coalition.

The Town Center donates 50 percent of the Ice Skating Pavilion’s opening weekend proceeds.

Fulkerson said that her organization will use the funds to support such projects as Ethics Day at a local high school, the Reston Kids Triathlon, the Cornerstones Best of Reston event, and other initiatives to support character-building among the youth of the community.

CHARACTER COUNTS! School Agendas: 2014-2015 editions now available

School-Agendas_346px-wideTeachers and parents love CHARACTER COUNTS! School Agendas. Why? Because the agendas offer such a variety of benefits and can be used in classroom activities, individually, and at home with parents.

They help students work on such life skills as organization and planning as they reinforce the Six Pillars of Character using 48 weekly discussion ideas. These include people of character profiles and motivational exercises. Teacher editions and full-color people of character posters are also available. 

The agendas, which are produced and distributed by our partner Alliance Publishing & Marketing Company, come in primary, elementary, middle, high school/college and teacher editions. Options include personalized covers, handbooks, vinyl pouches and wall charts. 

To order and get more information, please visit

The Kindness Clause

By Barbara Gruener

Today I’m thinking about something I heard 13 years ago when I attended a CHARACTER COUNTS! Character Development Seminar in Houston and was introduced to the Six Pillar framework. It went something like this:

Think about what you want people to say at your funeral, then live life backward.

It resonated with me because it captured the essence of what we used to ask ourselves in my family. It also reminded me of a challenge we gave our own children as we taught them that there is very little in life that is as important as being kind:

Would we want to be treated tomorrow the way we’ve treated people today?

Kindness Is the Real Global Warming

My intern Anna and I worked on this visual display together. After brainstorming titles that we could use with a winter theme — like “It’s Cool to Be Kind All Around the Globe” and “Kindness Makes the World Go Round — we settled on this global warming phrase. I put up the border and she did all of the artwork (heartwork is more like it). The lettering, the snow globe, the cultural integration depicting people from around the world — she drew and colored all of that. From her mind’s eye. Free hand. A gift of time and talent. At no charge. A kindness shown, many hearts warmed.


The year-end season of festivities — Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas — and the beginning of a new year are perfect for reflecting on all that is decent, good and kind. “Random acts of kindness” abound for good reason. To express gratitude. To celebrate. To keep traditions alive. To gather as a family. To reunite with friends. To complete another year.

We find more opportunities to focus on serving others as we honor the memory of Nelson Mandela and pause to pray for peace at the one-year mark of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Last year, shortly after that tragedy, I decorated a tree with kind things we could do as we looked for ways to recover, heal and restore hope.

Gruener-treeWhen we make character a verb, living our values with purpose and intentionally treating one another with kindness and compassion, then we’re more likely to find peace on earth. Not just around the holidays, but all year long. Because kindness knows no calendar.

A Few Kindness-Conspiracy Suggestions

*Write a thank-you note to your mail carrier or your child’s teacher.
*Sing or play an instrument at a retirement facility, nursing home or hospital.
*Send a care package to a soldier who won’t be home for the holidays.
*Give an inspirational song to someone special through iTunes or Amazon.
*Surprise someone far away with a Skype chat.
*Fill the candy bucket at your workplace.
*Share a secret family recipe. Or make a batch and share.
*Use a special talent (like artwork!) to help someone.
*Offer someone a ride to a doctor’s appointment or to the airport.

Want more? Have a look at the Collaborative Kindness and Caring Classrooms Pinterest pages.

Here’s to a new year that’s one-of-a-KIND!

The very kind Barbara Gruener is a counselor and character coach at Westwood-Bales Elementary School in Friendswood, Texas. Check out her blog, The Corner on Character.