Event in Connecticut
Dear Island Park Community, Monday, December 17, 2012I, like you, have had the weekend to ponder and wrestle with the tragedy that befell the families, educators and children of Newtown, Connecticut. And like you, I am left with many more questions than answers. I remain heartbroken, sad, angry and in a state of disbelief. Why? How many times must we grieve the loss of innocent children and school staff?
I am also numb from the plethora of theories, rationales, causes, targets of blame, and simple panaceas that have been proffered, preached and politicized throughout the weekend. I wish the solution to our nation’s all too frequent encounters with senseless violence could be as simple as regulating weapons or tackling mental illness or strengthening broken families or cleaning up the entertainment business or banning violent video games or fostering faith or building more secure schools, movie theatres, college campuses, coffee shops, and shopping malls. A complex solution is needed to address a very complicated challenge.
Just as there is no easy solution to violence, we know that there is no simple or 100 percent effective way to secure public schools. Public schools are indeed public. They must provide reasonable access, movement, and regress to those that work, attend, volunteer, provide resources, and attend celebrations, performances and all other joyful events. Because they are public they are porous. Attendees move from room to room, parking lot to foyer, hallway to lunchroom, classroom to playground, and walkway to bus.
We do everything we can to practice and put into place safety and security procedures that effectively protect and safeguard our students, staff and visitors. But schools are not airport concourses, courthouses or prisons where metal detectors, pat-downs and restrictions on movement dampen rather than build community. Similarly, a school setting overflowing with guards, officers and monitors only advances scrutiny and suspicion instead of the safety or serenity our children deserve.
I always welcome conversations regarding safety and security. We can always tighten our already tight procedures. We can all be more vigilant when on campus. We can all work just a little harder to follow current safety directives. Always ask: Am I checking in at the office? Am I driving slowly? Am I avoiding no parking zones? Am I writing teachers notes alerting them to changes in afterschool plans? Does the office have my new phone number, email address or updated list of those who can pick up my child in the event of an emergency?
Our students are entitled to come to school every day feeling happy, healthy and safe. They are also entitled to come to a school where adult safety conversations and other behind-the-scene security issues remain as invisible as possible. Thank you so much for helping to create a reassuring school climate.
Let us continue to strengthen our bonds as a learning community. Let us, in every way possible, communicate to our students our confidence in their ability to excel and flourish. Let us, through our love, do everything possible to maintain and grow a school community where children dance lightly on their feet, dream big dreams and exude eternal optimism.