Twice in the past two weeks an area high school has had the misfortune of making headlines for all the wrong reasons: a student of the school was murdered by a gang member late at night while riding a RideOn bus, and a stabbing incident in the school. In response to the latter, the principal made this announcement to the school during Morning Announcements:
Good morning Blair and excuse this interruption. This is Mr. Williams. As the Blair community, we dealt with violence in our community and yesterday we dealt with an act of violence in our school. Because of yesterday’s incident, our positive image and safe environment have been tarnished, threatened, diminished and questioned by many. Students and staff, I need your help in restoring the positive reputation of Blair and we need to do it now.
Yesterday’s incident began because of the type of disrespect some students have for each other. We will respect each other, respect learning and respect our building. This is my campaign to restore the image of a great institution that many students, staff and alumni have worked to develop over the past 80 years and I will not allow yesterday’s incident to ruin this image.
Respect each other: We will respect each other and refer to each other as our given name or family nickname. There are names that students are referring to each other that are grossly inappropriate. This will stop. When referring to a staff member you need to put a handle on the name. There is no more of the following: “Hey Rogers.” “Sup Lindsey?” Try saying: “Hey Mrs. Rogers,” “Sup, Mr. Lindsey?” or “How are you Mr. Williams?”
If you bump into someone accidently, say “excuse me,” “my bad,” something positive. There will be no “butting or cutting” in the cafeteria line. Some of my students wanted to display other artistic talents during Homecoming dance by doing more than dancing. Guess what? Everyone knows your names, and you can imagine that there are students and staff who don’t respect you based on your behavior.
Respect our teachers who work hard to equip you with the knowledge and skills to be successful after high school. Respect our staff — building service workers, cafeteria workers, media specialist and assistants. They are providing a service to you. We need to respect each other.
Respect Learning: There are some students who attend school for the drama, the action in the hallways, and the latest gossip. All of these students have not prioritized their learning. We completed the first marking period and a number of students have a grade point average that is less than a 2.0. I am instructing the assistant principals to begin removing these students who will not focus on learning and are not demonstrating the need to learn and receive a high school diploma. We had a senior last year who was enrolled in seven classes during the day, two night school classes and one Saturday school class and graduated with his class with a grade point average of 2.5. He overcame those obstacles.
No more sleeping in class. Put on those ID’s and wear them all day. I don’t want to see those cell phones and hats. Seek the plethora of support and resources available for you to be successful. My goal is to get 100% of our student body at 2.5 or better. By the way, I think this is a low goal; at home, all three of my children must maintain a 3.0 or better. If you are here for other things than learning, my goal is to remove you from Blair.
Last but not least: Respect this Building. Students, we do not have personal maid service or a nanny service in our building. The amount of trash left after lunch in the cafeteria, hallways, and restrooms is disgusting. Our building service workers are here to assist us in keeping the building running and clean. They are not your personal maid service and will not clean up after you. The graffiti on the walls/desks is becoming an issue. Do you want to attend a dirty school? I don’t and we won’t. If you have visited schools in our neighboring counties, you will see how fortunate we are to be in this multi-million dollar building. Yes, we have problems with no heat, no air, too much heat, and too much air in some places. However, there are some students in some school districts begging to have what we have at [school].
In summary and to clarify: Yesterday’s incident caused us to go into a Code Blue. We were able to control the situation and conduct an investigation because of teachers, security, our EFO, and administrators. If we had imminent danger in our building, we would have called for a Code Red. We did not have imminent danger to you.
Conducting the investigation and gathering the facts took a long time, but I want to assure you that we will have a safe environment for all at [school]. For those students who are doing the right thing, coming to school on time, working hard in class, volunteering your services, wearing your ID’s, maintaining honor roll status, working in a club or being on a team, band, or club, I thank you.
We will continue to think of ways to recognize you for your effective efforts and positive attitudes.
In summary, we will respect each other, respect leaning, and respect our building.
What do you think? Too blanket? Right on? Too harsh? BTW, Blair is home to MCPS’s vaunted math/science magnet and has regularly churned out Westinghouse/Intel winners. But it’s also a very large, very diverse school in a high poverty corner of the county.
(Update: His comment about sleeping in class seems to have touched a raw nerve with some parents and sparked a discussion on school start times. Most recently this has been a hot top across the river in Fairfax and something I’ve blogged about in the past.)