Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

Creating Safe Schools

Posted on: October 28, 2010

© Holly Kuchera |

The Federal Government and the US Department of Education has issued guidelines for educators to properly handle cases of bullying in schools.  I am proud of the work that we have done in the Northampton Public Schools around this issue.  On our NPS website, I addressed the work done by our staff in a letter to families.

Please see an excerpt:

I would like to announce the implementation of our new Bullying and Harassment Policy for the district which the School Committee voted to accept at our July 8th School Committee meeting. The policy was created under the direction of Karen Jarvis-Vance, Director of Health Services, Health Education and Safety, the administrative team and Northampton resident Randy Ross from The New England Equity Assistance Center (NEEAC), of The Education Alliance at Brown University. We are in the process of completing the training for the Northampton Public Schools staff on the policy, definitions of bullying and harassment, the new policy and on the procedures for reporting and investigation as outlined in the draft Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan. Our Administrators approached this process swiftly and with great care to follow guidelines presented by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and state laws. As Superintendent, I am very proud of what we created and consider it to be of such high caliber that it could be a template for other districts.

The plan is defined as follows:

ESE Model Plan – Developed in consultation with other state agencies, school representatives, and advocacy organizations that is modeled on the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force Framework

a blueprint for ways to create a whole school approach to safe school climates for ALL students with a focus on leadership, professional development, access to resources and services, academic and non-academic approaches, policies and procedures for reporting and responding to bullying, and collaboration with families

I am strongly committed to the students and families in our district to uphold the policy that has been created and implemented.  Our administrators and staff take this very seriously.  If you have any questions or concerns or feel that your child is a victim of bullying or harassment, I urge you to contact your building principal, counselor, Director of Health, Karen Jarvis-Vance or my office for assistance.

As parents, we need to be advocates for our children and provide them with the confidence and bravery to speak up for themselves and their peers without fear of retaliation.  We also need to open our minds in the event that they are to blame and support them to acknowledge their behavior and work to change it for the better.  Empathy.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Compassion.  These are some of the things that I would like my daughter to learn and teach others by example.

I have great hope for our district to learn from one another, accept diversity, have an awareness of the power of words, and an understanding that everyone has the right to be treated with respect and kindness.

Still I Rise by Maya Angelou (An excerpt)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

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