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Getting the Principal to Respond

Family Safety Expert Advice from Gavin de Becker

Q: My son is in sixth grade and there's a boy in his class who has major problems! He's not the only problem though; my other problem is the principal, who won't hold any of the kids accountable for their behavior.

The boy has been physically and verbally abusive to several kids. Two years ago, he beat another boy's head against a wall, resulting in a concussion. This past year he stalked yet another boy for months, calling him names and threatening him. He eventually threatened to get a gun and kill the boy he'd been stalking.

The victim told a policeman who works part-time for the school, and the boy got only a three-day in-school suspension. When this boy's mother was called, she wasn't surprised; she reported that he threatens her all the time. This boy is supposed to take medication daily, but he throws it away. This boy also makes racist remarks. The other parents that I've talked to are afraid the principal won't do anything and they don't want to get involved.

I'm scared to send my son back to school because this kid already picks on my son, and has made reference to getting a gun. Please help.

A: Your email to me has most of the text you'll need for the letter I propose you send to the Principal and the Superintendent of your school:

"To Whom it May Concern: I want to formally bring to your attention several matters which have an impact on my son's safety and well-being, as well as the safety and well-being of other students and staff at the school. [INSERT YOUR TEXT]. My family and community recognize that schools face special challenges these days and we want to be certain our expectations are reasonable. If we're off base on any of these items, please let us know:

  • We expect the safety of students to be a priority.
  • We expect our child to be allowed to contact us at any time he feels the need.
  • We expect the school to inform us of anything that might have an impact on his safety or well-being.
  • We expect the school to comply with the policies of the District.
  • We expect the school to follow all available supplemental screening practices set forth in the Department of Justice Guidelines for the Screening of Persons Working With Children.
  • We expect the school to be a weapons-free environment.
  • While we authorize you to make decisions on our behalf about educational matters, we do not authorize you to make unilateral decisions on our behalf about life-and-death matters.
  • We are relying upon you or your designates to notify us of any threats to commit violent acts at the school. Even if our son is not specifically named, since he could be in the environment of targeted individuals, we want to be informed so we can evaluate the risks. We request that a safety committee of parents be formed, and that the committee be notified of all threats to commit violent acts.

We know that you face bureaucratic, political, and budgetary challenges, but we are relying upon you to take immediate steps toward ensuring a safe environment while our son is at school. Just as we hold you to your duty as principal, so do we ask you to hold us to ours as parents. On this point, please advise us of ways you feel we can help in this matter.

Sincerely yours..."

More on: Expert Advice

Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading U.S. expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.

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