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E.L. Schools Superintendent answers bullying charges

Date: 11/30/2009

A recent letter to the editor described "bullying" at one of our elementary schools and mentioned disagreements between adults outside of the school setting. As is always the case, the school district cannot violate confidentiality regarding a situation with a particular student or family, and we will not do so.

However, we can certainly correct the facts regarding the commitment by the Longmeadow Public Schools to maintain a safe, secure and orderly learning environment for children.

All six of our schools have programs and procedures in place to improve the health, safety and wellness of their students. We have policy and strict discipline codes to guide our responses to any incidents that threaten the safety and well-being of children. As is appropriate, when consequences are implemented, they are kept confidential and are not discussed with members outside of the particular student's family.

In a letter sent this week to the parents of Wolf Swamp Elementary School children, Ms. Kimberly Stillwell, principal, communicated the following information:

"During my first year at Wolf Swamp School, strengthening our school climate and tightening behavioral expectations and consequences for all students became my highest priority. The best way to do this was to put into place a variety of preventative measures as well as respond to events as they arose. During the past year we have undertaken many steps to address school climate and student safety. Examples include:

purchased recess equipment (Frisbees, hula hoops, scoops/balls, etc.) to provide children with more non-competitive options during recess

held monthly assemblies with all grade levels last year to build community and discuss issues such as safety and respect

held two school wide assemblies paid for by the PTO on bullying led by social worker/magician Jim Vagias

collected data on the time of day in which behavioral incidents were occurring in order to target interventions and staff support to those times of day

provided direction to recess staff on where to position themselves during recess so they could more effectively monitor students and assist or intervene with students

invited the district violence prevention specialist from the high school to come and work with our third graders last year using the Second Step program

purchased Second Step kits for each grade level; Second Step is a violence prevention/social skills program that teaches children problem solving and empathy

sent our school adjustment counselor for training in Second Step so that she can train our staff

currently training grades one, two in Second Step, school wide implementation to follow

posted school wide rules throughout the building

asked the PE teachers to review rules for competitive games played at recess

asked the school adjustment counselor to intervene with students who were having difficulty playing competitive games together at recess

applied for and received a grant to train all K - two teachers in Responsive Classroom, an approach that research has shown reduces behavioral problems in schools (happening later in the year)

recently purchased resource books on non-competitive group games and have begun seeking volunteers to lead these games during recess."

As Superintendent of the Longmeadow Public Schools, I am committed to ensuring the safety and wellness of all of our students. I have observed and approved many of the activities and actions described above. I have been extremely impressed with the warm, caring environment at Wolf Swamp Road School and with the coordinated efforts of professional and support staff to develop school-wide rules and procedures that encourage respectful behaviors, social skills and kindness. I also know that violations of such expected behavior are responded to with appropriate consequences.

Further, I have been delighted with the overwhelming praise from staff, parents and community members for Principal Stillwell and her leadership. We are fortunate to have an outstanding administrative team in Longmeadow and school staff who daily show their caring for children.

E. Jahn Hart


Longmeadow Schools