Editor’s Note: Principal Tracey sent this message to the families of John Glenn Middle School students on Friday, March 9, 2018
By Kevin T. Tracey
Principal, John Glenn Middle School
Please excuse the delayed response to the events in Parkland, FL as we worked to generate a district response. And, across all schools, continue to reassure our efforts to keep all of our kids safe and secure. On a personal level, there are few events or issues that hit home as much as those which impact children and schools. With each one, there is always need to pause and reflect, have conversations around our efforts in line with security; but also, strengthen our ongoing work to know all of our children, their social-emotional needs, our partnership with families, internal and external supports and so on. I am confident that the John Glenn Middle School is in a good place on all of these fronts; however, tragedies, such as the one which occurred on Valentines’ Day, remind us all of the need to keep this work at the forefront in the best interest of ensuring our children’s safety.
There has been much national and local conversation on how to respond — the proposed student walkout on the 14th is only one way. As a former social studies teacher and strong advocate for promoting students’ voices on any civic issue, I am positively struck with the degree in which it appears to have received national attention. I sincerely hope that we all, and I imagine we have, take a moment out of our busy day to reflect on the reason why the walkout was proposed by the surviving students. Whether their movement was derived out of an effort to commemorate those lost or an effort to advocate politically, I applaud their speaking and taking action as I would any child who expresses heartfelt emotion after a loss, or feels so strongly about an issue that they are driven to take civic action.
As a public school, it is imperative that we stay true to our values and the intent of keeping all children safe — not only physically secure but safe in a learning environment which honors all views on any issue and welcomes open discourse. In turn, we may not endorse or promote any action which may be viewed as taking a side on a political issue no matter how strongly we may agree or disagree. Whether or not the original intent of the walkout was to simply commemorate those lost, the action has been morphed and manipulated by all sides to argue political issues on a national and local scale. We would be untruthful to ourselves if this was ignored and brushed aside.
With this understanding of what I believe is our ethical responsibility as a public school and in keeping with what we feel is age-appropriate, we will be business as usual on the 14th, keeping our focus on teaching and learning. Our teachers will continue teaching and our students are expected to stay in their classrooms. Of course, we have an internal contingency plan to enact if some students choose to walk out. This plan includes support from the Bedford police department as well as staff, to ensure the students’ safety.
Over the course of the past weeks, members of our student chain reaction committee have been discussing ways in which they wish to commemorate the tragedy; including, but not limited to a 17-balloon release and all students and staff wearing ribbons on the 14th. They have requested that I hold a moment of silence and also clearly explain to our school community that the ribbons if one chooses to wear them, and any student action has a sole intention to honor and support the grieving Stoneman Douglas school community.
I hope you all weathered the storm without incident.