Superintendent issues letter to parents regarding national events
Friday, February 23, 2018
Dear Parents and Guardians,
In response to recent school shootings across the country, you may have heard that there is a national social media movement underway for students and staff to protest the most recent school violence. There are a few events scheduled over the next couple of months, including March 14th and April 20th, where organizers are asking students and teachers to walk out of the classroom for 17 minutes to recognize each of the lives lost in Florida. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and families of this senseless tragedy, however, while we believe students’ and parents’ voices can and should be heard on this issue, there are many ways to show our support without disrupting the learning environment.
We remain concerned about our children’s mental and physical safety. Elementary aged children are not equipped to fully process and understand such events and participation could possibly lead to an increased sense of fear and helplessness. Likewise, it would be impossible to supervise and adequately protect our students from potential harm. Our schools must remain safe and focused on learning. All Peoria Public Schools students and staff will remain in school. We will not be participating in the national protest events.
The American School Counselor Association recommends that parents and adults:
- Listen to children’s fears and concerns
- Limit exposure to television and social media
- Reassure children that the world is a good place, but there are people who do bad things
- Keep routines as normal and predictable as possible – this includes attending school
- Remind children that we have drills and procedures in place to keep them safe
If your child has voiced particular concern and seems troubled, please reach out to your child’s teacher and school support staff. You can also find more age appropriate resources for responding to violence and tragedy at https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/collections/teaching-content/resources-responding-violence-and-tragedy/
Over the last several years, we’ve taken many steps to make our schools a safer place for students and staff. I am most proud of the effort our entire staff. Our Social Emotional Learning and School Safety Departments both play big roles in continuing this work on a daily basis to build relationships with students, ask questions, be visible, refer students to resources and implement interventions when needed. We also have reporting structures in place at each building, along with a District-wide Tip Line (available on our website or by calling 309-606-4877 to report issues for investigation and celebrate successes. Finally, we also conduct crisis drills with students each school year so that they know what to do in case of an emergency. These are important proactive measures that we believe will help ensure the safety of our staff and students. We also have measures in place, including an emergency crisis plan at each building, and a grief counseling team, should they be needed to increase security and provide effective responses to crisis situations.
Together, we can provide a safe and supportive learning environment for all students and staff so that we can achieve our mission of ensuring that each student reaches his or her full academic and personal potential and is a well-balanced citizen. I appreciate your support and trust in our District.
Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat
Superintendent, Peoria Public Schools