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Mom Worried About School Safety
Q: A girl in my son's fifth-grade class brought a knife to school because someone had been making fun of her. The principal made a recommendation for expulsion. However, there was an appeal made by the family and now the girl is back at school. Our superintendent and school board can give me no reason why a child is ever excused from expulsion. They will only say there were extenuating circumstances. No one was hurt BUT I wonder about the safety of all children in our township which until this time I believed to have zero tolerance. Should I keep pursuing this?
A: Though I am not alarmed by the school's decision, it's clear you are not satisfied with the response you've gotten. Accordingly, I'd suggest a letter to the school. Hopefully, their reply will lessen your concern. Here's a draft I put together that you can use or amend as you see fit.
Our son is attending your school this year. We 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 son 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 School District;
- We expect the school to follow all available ''supplemental screening practices'' set forth in the DOJ 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 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.
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 you develop a safer school. Knowing that you face bureaucratic, political, and budgetary challenges, there is surely something we can do to help.
We're confident that if your office and our family work together, our son will have the best possible school experience. At the same time, we want to assist you in furthering the well-being of all the students.
Sincerely, (your names)
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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.