Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Our new principal reacts to school safety

Today parents and teachers received the monthly Principal's Perspective, a newsletter sent out that details things going on in the high school community. This particular missive addressed the recent school shootings, including yesterday's tragedy in Pennsylvania. As I mentioned in my last post, our principal seems to agree that some schools are going overboard trying to heighten awareness of stranger danger, scaring children and interrupting the already too short school day with scare tactics. I thought, since I had already expressed my opinion, that you all might like to see what this principal had to say on the matter:

"As the principal of XXXX High School, I can assure you we do not take this question lightly. We have a Crisis Team that routinely reviews our safety procedures, discusses drills and contingency plans, and is prepared to respond if an intruder comes into our building. I trust you understand that it is unwise to share specific plans for fear it would be used improperly, but hopefully you will feel reassured that our Police Liaison Officer, School Social Worker, Housemasters, Guidance Counselors, Assistant Principals, teachers and central office administrators are all represented on this committee. We are reasonably confident that we are safe in our schools and are trained to respond should an emergency arise.

It is important, however, that this is truly a community effort. Parents, teachers, and students are the most important source of information regarding school safety. If you hear of a student who is being bullied, repeatedly teased or harassed, or of a student who is known to be bullying others, please call us and let us know. The guidance counselors and housemasters will follow-up on these tips and we can then gauge an appropriate response. Parents see and hear important information about their child and their child's friends and this can be very helpful to us. If there is a sudden change in behavior, friends, dress or someone is feeling depressed and/or angry about school, please alert someone at school and we can use our resources to help the child and, hopefully, continue to avoid violence at school.

All school employees are also asked to address unknown students and adults in the hallways. This is why I request all parents to check-in at the front office to receive a visitor's pass. This helps us to identify who is in our building.

I also feel that overreaction is not a useful response. This is not the time to think about locking all of our doors and placing security gates, cameras, etc. around the school. Often more security has a reverse effect on the school climate making students feel less safe, rather than more. I will continue to share my belief that our school climate is created through every interaction with every person, everyday. A safe and positive, harassment-free school is our best tool against school violence and two-way communication between home and school is second.

Please realize that every effort is being made to protect your child while at school and our Crisis Team will continue to monitor our environment. In addition, many areas of the school are not supervised after the school day. If your child is in a supervised activity or sport, they are under the guidance of an adult. If your child is just "hanging around" with friends in school after the school day ends, this is neither approved, nor welcomed. With everyone's cooperation, we can we continue to keep xxxx a safe school."

This is a new principal who just started here, and so is pretty much an unknown quantity. But so far, I'm really impressed. In his monthly newsletters he addresses teaching styles that are very instructive, as well as the updates on what is going on in the school. I'm thankful that after so much time with one particular middle school principal that was a complete and total moron, this high school principal is professional, and communicative. Plus, the fact that he doesn't believe in overreaction and that school should remain a safe, but pleasant environment is impressive. I also appreciate that he addressed bullying, a topic so many administrators tend to blow off as being irrelevant in their schools. I assure you, bullying happens even in the best of schools, and I'd much rather bullying be confronted and acted upon than ignored.
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