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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A parent's letter to my superintendent's assistant

Good Morning everyone,

This is a letter I wrote to my superintendent's assistant.  I wrote it from a parent's perspective. I've not heard back from Ms. I.  It's been a while.

I think often of leadership;  what works for me.  Responsiveness--a quick "thanks," or "I'll get back to you," or "good job"--goes far.  Too often--in fact it is my normal experience--there is no response from my leadership. 

Here is the letter:

Ms. I,

I am inspired to write to you after reading this article:


Although I am a MDCPS employee, today I write as a parent; a parent who happens to have an employee's perspective.

It is absolutely true that students are better served when they are IN CLASS. Out door suspension serves a school, for a short time, by removing "the problem." The problem is that "the problem" returns....behind in his/her school work and even more vulnerable....and even more of "a problem," than before.

Indoor suspension, while a tad better (safer) for children, offers little more than a warehousing of children--and that, again, only temporarily removes them from classrooms, so that other children can learn without disruption.

All children deserve to learn in vibrant classrooms. The suspended children, however, are further stigmatized and even more hopeless upon their return....and even more prone to disruption. Thus, the cycle continues.

As a school counselor in 2007-2008, my principal at that time and I worked hard at assuring children had an alternative to outdoor suspension. Our high school led the district that year in offering the P A's Alternative to Suspension program to the students not only of our school, but also to students of both our feeder pattern middle school and of another high school as well. At that time I did not know how exceptional it was to work with such a progressive principal. I was fairly new to the district and just took for granted that all principals would support my efforts. That has, sadly, not always been my experience since having worked with him.

Many suspensions are for fighting and disrespect and defiance...and some--most really--of that comes from children feeling disrespected and getting their feelings hurt by other children's taunts-- "Oooooo, you're a PUSSY! FAGGOT! What're you going to do about it? Huh?"-- followed by other students' active encouragement of fighting: "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!," types of comments are routine.

Online of course--Instagram and its "tags", KiK and Facebook--gets really ugly.

Some children also feel their teachers' disrespect. Some experience sarcasm and ridicule. In fact, there are teachers who taunt their students.

I've also witnessed a principal routinely humiliating children.

In fact, our children, as our superintendent has said, are living in a "culture of disrespect."

So this: I truly believe that if we as a district have an effective and comprehensive bullying prevention program in place for all schools, that our schools' climates will all become places of kindness: places where bullying and disrespect are just not cool. That takes a lot of work in this "culture of disrespect." That takes a lot of commitment.

That kind of commitment has to start with Mr. C, our superintendent.

Mr. C, in my mind, must say something like this: "This is important to me. I will be the first trained in effective bullying prevention. I know it is a lot of work. I will assure all of my administrators are truly educated on the enormous commitment we must make to assure our schools are kind places where all feel safe. My schools' children and my schools' employees deserve nothing less. I will also assure that all of my schools' principals have the resources needed to make that happen."

And if Mr. C were to say and do that, I believe, it would truly be transformational.

I was selected, as an employee, to be interviewed by the Broad Prize Foundation. I believe I was selected due to my work in our district with bullying prevention. As I have told you in earlier communications, I am an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer and a Workplace Bullying Prevention trainer. I know bullying--and more importantly its prevention--on many levels: as an employee, as a target of a bullying administrator, and as a school counselor working hard at keeping children safe. But I am most interested in preventing bullying for my own two children. I know the only way to keep my children safe is to work hard at creating kind and respectful school environments for all children.

So often, we employees, are simply afraid to share our ideas with Mr. C as we might be reprimanded for violations of chain of command. As a parent, I have no such restrictions.

I invite you to take a look at my website,
http://www.apiecefullworld.com. There I share many resources in regards to bullying prevention, both for children and for adults.

Thanks a lot, Ms. I.! I would be honored to share my work and my ideas in regards to the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and the Alternative to Suspension Program. 

5:39 am edt          Comments

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Click here for my district's bullying and harassment policy. You will see I have made comments....