Accountability in the Henrico County School System

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October 31, 2017

 


Dr. Patrick C. Kinlaw,

Beverly L. Cocke,

Roscoe D. Cooper III,

Michelle F. “Micky” Ogburn,

Lisa A. Marshall,

John W. Montgomery Jr.,

Andy Jenks,

Dr. Beth Teigen,

Nyah Hamlett,

Al Ciarochi,

Chris Sorenson,

Dr. Donna Eagle,

Thomas McAuley,

 

 

 

I am a member of Families (and concerned citizens) Advocating for Communication and Equity in Schools (F.A.C.E.S), an apolitical group of parents and concerned citizens in Henrico County who have joined together to help foster and facilitate justice and equality on behalf of our children in the school setting. Our initial concern is to address the events of Friday, October 13 in the Boys Locker Room at Short Pump Middle School. In researching this event, we were deeply concerned to learn of a longstanding history of bullying, racism and other discriminatory acts being ignored or dealt with inconsistently by administration. This is unacceptable for our children.

 


Social-emotional development and resiliency as well as bullying prevention strategies made available in one area of the county should be implemented consistently across the county. Specific programs and objectives vary based on identified disciplinary needs in each school. Broad goals of learning to exhibit respectful behaviors to all students and to consistently demonstrate respect for students based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and physical and mental differences are appropriate in all schools.  We request the appointment of a committee to review what programs are already in place, determine what is and is not working and then research and select appropriate programs for schools. This committee should be an external body comprised of professionals and members of the community to avoid any bias.   We would also like an evidenced based program to assist in the rehabilitation of offenders.  Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address this need.  

 


We make the following requests on behalf of all Henrico County Public Schools parents, guardians, and other caregivers in the event our children are identified as requiring intervention by an administrator or school counselor: 

 


-“In loco parentis” is not used as a way to exclude parents from the intervention process when dealing with instances of bullying, racism and other discriminatory acts

-Fully acknowledge social/emotional developmental levels of students involved in these acts of aggression and their need to speak of the events in a safe, respectful environment 

-At the earliest opportunity, train faculty on best practices in class meetings and in implementing class meetings aimed at addressing instances of bullying, racism and other discriminatory acts.

-Conduct class meetings with administrative guidance following these acts that impact the entire student body so that the full student body is provided with the opportunity to process their thoughts and feelings about the events in the context of a safe school environment

-Contact parent/guardian before or the day their child speaks with the administrator or counselor about an instances of bullying, racism or other discriminatory act.

-Invite parent/guardian to attend the meeting

-Make a recording of the meeting immediately available to parent/guardian if they cannot attend the meeting.

-Inform targets and/or witnesses of the protocols that will be followed to promote a sense of safety and security following bullying, racism or other discriminatory  events. These processes may include but will not be limited to counseling, role-playing, buddy-system and/or altered route and early dismissal when changing classes

-Conduct one or more post-event counseling sessions to inform perpetrators of violence of the range of consequences of their actions.

-The code of conduct must be followed and implemented consistently in all school settings.

 


Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address these needs.  

 


As a community we understand that a minor child’s confidentiality and anonymity must be protected.  When a minor child victimizes another minor child we do believe that the victim deserves to feel safe and protected.  By not sharing crucial information with our children about consequences or giving them any idea of how they will be protected in the future, you, Henrico County Public Schools, are setting up an environment where it is not possible to focus on their education.  This is not acceptable.  We request that any child who is a victim/witness/ perpetrator should be told they can talk to a counselor or their parents if they have questions or want to talk about it, instead of being told not to speak of the event. As the perpetrators of violence and discrimination might not understand the ramifications of their behaviors, counseling of some type should be mandatory.  Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address this need.  

 


We believe that when a crime has been committed against a child or a group of children that the community should be notified.  We do not need to know the name.  We do not need to know the specifics.  We ask to be notified out of respect for the partnership we are supposed to have in rearing and educating our children.  We recognize that the guidance counselors of the school cannot meet the emotional needs of each student, nor should they, but that our children do need emotional support that comes from families. We request that parents, teachers, and students receive notification regarding serious behavior incidents (Catagory Level 3: Dangerous Objects and Firearms, 5: Assault/Fighting/Threats, 12: Sexual Harrassment/Inappropriate Sexual Behavior, 15: Bullying/Harrassment) within 24 hours of the incident being reported to administration.   Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address this need.  

                                                                                                                                  

After countless stories have been shared by parents as well as children in the county of the apparent mishandling of bullying, racism and other discriminatory acts  and dominance behaviors, we are not satisfied that our school system’s “zero tolerance for bullying” is working effectively.  We request that a special task force be created to look into the inability to create an emotionally safe environment and to examine the current protocols for handling these situations.   In addition, we also request that an ongoing volunteer committee should be created to oversee future investigations into instances of bullying, racism and other discriminatory acts.  This committee would be responsible for follow up with students to ensure that they are satisfied with the outcomes, including students who report through “Silence Hurts”.  This group would also be responsible for compiling data about trends within each school to allow leaders to more effectively offer assistance for school specific problems. Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address these needs.  

 


In schools, our athletes are often seen as leaders by their peers.  When our athletes are allowed to continue to play sports after racist, bullying and other discriminatory behaviors, we believe the student body gets the message that the school tolerates and/or condones these unacceptable behaviors.  As such, we request that when an athlete verbally commits an act of racial or other discrimination or bullies another student, he or she should be placed on suspension from the team.  If another violation occurs within the same season, he or she should be kicked off the team or any extracurricular activities.  If the first violation is physical in nature, the athlete would be removed from the team immediately and forfeit his or her ability to be a member of a school team throughout his or her middle school or high school career and any other extracurricular activities.  We would like the consequence of any retaliatory discrimination or bullying on the victims or reporter of discrimination or bullying to have significant impact that could lead to expulsion from the school.  Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address this need.  

 


As adults in the lives of children we are responsible for being role models to all of our youth.  It is impossible for us to properly role model equality of gender and race when so many of the school’s leaders are Caucasian.  To ensure that every child has an adult to look up to that they can personally identify with we want diversity in race, gender, and physical ability.  This needs to be a priority in our community to ensure that Henrico County is a true leader in the public-school system.  We request that the Henrico County School Board commit to addressing this disparity.  Within 30 days, we would like to know how you plan to address this need.  

 


As a group we have let you know our concerns.  We want to be assured that we are working together by having the mission statement of Henrico County Public Schools to reflect your commitment to equality and emotional safety in the school setting.  At the beginning and end of each semester a conversation should be had with the student body to reassert the importance of acceptance and inclusion, teaching empathy, and again going over Rachel’s Challenge.  The community would benefit from having sensitivity training for parents and teaching parents how to stay involved with their children face to face as well as through social media.  We respectfully request that you let us know how you plan to respond to our concerns within 30 days from today, on November 30, 2017.

 

 

 

Sincerely,

 


Families Advocating for Communication and Equity in Schools (F.A.C.E.S)

 



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