Since becoming superintendent over two months ago, I have spent a lot of time listening and learning about our district’s initiatives, strengths, and challenges. An observation that I heard frequently is the frustration and helplessness that families often feel when their child is confronted with some form of harassment, intimidation, and/or bullying (HIB).
As a student who was harassed and intimidated, I understand and share any family’s concern and confusion about how to put an immediate end to the unacceptable behavior and the suffering of their child. Frankly, this issue affects all our students because such behavior creates an environment where learning is adversely impacted.
The number of formal reported incidents in our district has not increased recently. However, as an education community, we should collectively take the opportunity to call ourselves to action. Recently, our school leaders and central office leaders participated in related professional development and reflection that focused on enhancing their understanding of our District’s HIB related policies and procedures. Additionally, they engaged in individual and team reflections related to HIB related incidents and experiences. Each school leadership team examined their current practices, prevention efforts, and plans. School teams committed to an immediate action they could take back to their school community in order to accelerate a plan of action.
You will hear directly from your school leader about the specific actions that are appropriate and effective for your individual school. For example, some schools will create opportunities for its staff to reflect openly on current or past incidents to identify key learnings and adjust practices. Some will form focus groups or listening sessions with students, parents, guardians, and the community. Some will set aside additional time to provide more staff training in culturally responsive, restorative, and/or social emotional learning practices. Each school will have a unique plan based on its current context and work in the areas of harassment, intimidation, and bullying.
As educators and leaders, we understand that prevention, intervention, and recovery are necessary steps to create a culture of respect, promote safety, and support an optimal learning environment for all students. In each situation, we need to support students and families in repairing and restoring relationships and following-up as necessary with all parties. District officials are taking proactive and definitive steps in a continuous effort to protect our students, create a culture of respect, and correct anti-social behaviors. That work takes time as we implement effective strategies through comprehensive training of our teachers, administrators, and staff.
While we continue to focus on these long term changes, we remain committed to protect students who are harassed, intimidated, or bullied by taking immediate steps to intervene. This call to accelerated action is a demonstration of our collective commitment to create a community where ALL students are respected, welcomed, empowered and supported.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. As we progress as an education community, I plan to keep you updated on other important issues such as narrowing our achievement gap, education equity, inclusion, and strategic alignment.
Dr. Ivan Duran