Taking School Safety Seriously
Around the country, fights, verbal attacks and threats of violence have been on the rise in high schools everywhere. Saint Paul is not immune to this, as many of you who work in our schools know firsthand. Stress and trauma from the community have a way of spilling over into schools, putting educators and school staff on the front lines to respond to and help the students in our care. The ongoing challenge of fully staffing schools has created additional responsibilities, stretching school staff at SPPS and other districts beyond their capacity.
I know you are doing everything you can to keep your students safe while also being mindful of your own safety and mental health needs. I have also heard from many of you that these challenges are overwhelming. Educating and supporting young people is incredibly hard work. It involves so much more time, effort and emotional energy than those who don’t work in education can begin to understand.
I have led schools through incredibly challenging times and have experienced many events that threatened our students, staff and community. Some of them are hard to talk about to this day. Gathering staff together after these events was my opportunity to share the facts, dispel misinformation, discuss immediate actions, and thank them for their tireless work in creating a positive school climate.
But I also know that, now more than ever, saying “thank you” is not enough. I want to share a few things we are doing now to better support you and our students’ safety:
- Principals are meeting with teachers and support staff to determine the best ways to engage students in developing solutions, including strategies to better support students during transition times throughout the school day.
- School administrators are meeting with students and their parents to better understand what is happening and what supports are needed to help prevent future incidents.
- We are asking parents to partner with us by talking to their children about expectations for positive, respectful behavior at school and in the community.
- I will be meeting with principals in small groups to hear both challenges and potential solutions to consider.
School safety is not your responsibility alone. School support liaisons and emergency management project coordinators assigned to each school are trained in crisis response, emergency management, safety planning, and have direct connections with community partners including police, fire and emergency responders. Please get to know them and use their services whenever you see or hear something that feels unsafe. Students, staff and parents can send an anonymous tip to SEM using the MySPPS app or on the website at spps.org/safety.
The past year and a half has been incredibly difficult for many, and the resulting trauma is affecting everyone in different ways. If your students have been emotionally impacted by events at school, please encourage them to seek assistance from your school counselors. Likewise, all SPPS staff have free resources available through the Sand Creek Employee Assistance Program and the Office of School Support. Please take care of yourselves and know that your administrators and colleagues are here to support you in whatever way we can.
Joe Gothard, Superintendent