Monday, October 11, 2010

School Violence Rumors - An Email to Parents

Earlier this weekend, maybe last week, I received this email as a parent from a large urban school district in San Antonio, Texas. Do you think this response took the right tact?

Dear Parent/Guardian,

Recently, you may have seen or heard reports about two tragic student suicides in a neighboring school district.
It has been our experience that such attention to these incidents can create a great deal of discussion among students.

This may even motivate a troubled student to act out through violence or suicide.

We have begun to receive reports of discussions among some of our students about these incidents and the activities associated with the tragic situations. While we have no strong evidence that any similar actions are planned by our students, we are taking the reports seriously. We know that you entrust your child’s safety and education to the district, so we believe it is time to be proactive. Safe campuses require a strong partnership of parents, students and educators.

We are providing some suggested ways we can work together:

·         Talk frequently with your child about what he/she is hearing and seeing at school.
·         Seek information from school staff if you have questions. 
·         If you see a problem, our campuses have many resources for help.  Student Teacher Assistance Network  
      counselors and school counselors are available to you and your student. Campus administrators and teachers
      are also there to help. 
·         Encourage your student to report any suspicious activity to a trusted adult at school or to you. Anonymous
      reports can be made 24 hours a day to our [removed]
·         Community resources can help you and your student if needed.  Contact any of the following for help:
o   The Center for Healthcare Services Crisis Referral 24–hour Hotline at 223-7233. Their Web site is
o   Clarity Child Guidance Center at 616-0300. Their Web site is and has a section with warning signs for children in crisis.
o   National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) at 734-3349. NAMI is a self-help, support and referral organization for information regarding mental illness. Its San Antonio Web site is
o   Family Services Association at 299-2400.  They provide individual and family counseling.
o   Jewish Family and Children's Services at 302-6920.  They provide counseling and other services for individuals and families of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds.

These are just a few of the resources available to you and your family. These recent tragedies should be a wake up call to all of us – educators, parents, and community members. Our best defense is having everyone work together to provide the quality, safe environment that our children deserve.
Some how, this email did little to assuage my concerns (if I should have had any). What was missing? I'm not sure...maybe a more personal response? Does an email really get to the heart of it? Providing a list of mental health providers also sends a message, right? If your kid is having a problem, take action and get help from someone else.

I'm not sure, really, what my reaction to this email is. If my child(ren) are OK, this letter is a throwaway. If there is a problem, a real one, I'm not sure it does little more than push the responsibility, the liability back onto me as the parent...and if that's the point, then what need of the letter except to remind me?

Don't misunderstand, I'm not criticizing. I'm just trying to understand what my reaction to this email is. It's ambivalent...that's the word I'm looking for.

Should all school districts be sending home letters/emails like this? If so, are they? If not, why not?

What's your reaction? Positive, negative, neutral?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a suicidal person, I'd say it takes the right tack [see]

What are they supposed to say? They're concerned, try listening to your kids, let us know if we can help, and get other help and more information at this sites. Let's work together to prevent more suicides.

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude