Inside the Supt's Office
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Inside the Supt's Office

March 2018

Nearly three weeks later, our hearts continue to grieve for the Parkland, Florida, community and the families who lost loved ones in the tragic school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The shooting there and a general increase in threats of school violence have impacted people throughout our country. While we have policies in place to keep our students as safe as possible, many people are wondering what else can be done. Across the nation and here in Minneapolis, students have been especially active in speaking out on this issue, and they have organized a number of activities in response.
 
What’s become clear is these tragedies occur too often, and something has to change. There are no easy answers, but it is time for our country and our school community to have real conversations about how to move forward to protect our students, teachers, and school-based staff. It’s been profound to see those conversations being led by students, supported by our teachers, principals, and countless others.

Walk-outs Scheduled Across the Country

A National School Walkout is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14. It calls for students to walk out of school for 17 minutes — one minute for each person killed in Parkland. We are aware of two additional walk-outs planned for March 7 and April 20, as well as a March for Our Lives on March 24 in Washington, D.C., that will likely have a local presence.
 
MPS respects students’ First Amendment right to peacefully assemble and will not discipline students for the act of protesting as long as the protest remains peaceful. Our normal walkout protocol regarding students returning to school and afterschool activities continues to apply when students leave their school grounds/campuses. MPS staff who choose to participate in a walkout or protest during the school day will need to follow the contractual language regarding absences and leaves. Contact your Human Resources consultant if you need specific instructions. If families inquire about MPS policies, please refer them to the link above, or to our Safety and Security webpages.
 
As in the past, MPS staff have reached out to the Minneapolis Police Department, Metro Transit Police and the Mayor’s office to help protect our students during any organized student demonstration. We also encourage principals to work closely with student leaders at our high schools to gain their perspective.
 
That said, I want to reiterate that one of our priorities in MPS is social and emotional learning (SEL), which is composed of five competencies: self-awareness; self-management; responsible decision-making; relationship skills; and social awareness. Given our current reality, the need to support our students, staff and families through an SEL lens is heightened. Data shows people strong in these competencies understand and promote non-violent problem resolution.
 
As a school district that wants to support its students, staff and community on March 14 and beyond, we recognize the significance of current events in our classrooms and regularly incorporate them into our teaching practices. This creates a space supported by SEL for students to process current events and make meaning within tragedies such as what recently occurred in Florida. This also provides a way for staff to exercise their desire to engage with their students, while acknowledging that multiple perspectives exist on this and all current issues.

Within the next week, teachers will receive resources and sample lesson plans to help incorporate into the classroom events taking place on March 14. Additionally, Chief Thomas will host a GoTo Meeting to allow discussions with all principals about how they are leading their schools through this issue. 
 
For any walkout or protest, please immediately contact Marketing and Communications if and when media or elected officials contact your school.

Safety in our Schools

Creating safe and welcoming schools is our top priority. Staff play a critical role in supporting school safety. Please help us ensure that our safety practices are followed. Those include:
 

  • Building doors locked during school hours. Visitors must be buzzed in by front-office staff and then sign in and wear a visitor badge while in the building.
  • Regular emergency drills. Students, teachers, and staff are required to participate in emergency drills, including: lockdown procedures, fire/evacuation and tornado drills.
  • Site emergency plans developed and monitored. Submitted annually by each site’s administrator, these plans are to help school staff respond efficiently and effectively to school emergencies. 
  • Trained staff. MPS offers training opportunities and workshops for building administrators and staff covering a variety of areas: gang awareness, personal safety, personal property protection, how and when to call 911, verbal de-escalation and lockdown procedures.
  • Partnerships with School Resource Officers (SROs). The MPS SROs work jointly with administrators, families, students, and the surrounding community to identify mutual problems, intervene in the early stages of delinquency, and make presentations to classes and the community on topics related to law enforcement and safety.  
  • Threat Assessments. Threats of targeted violence usually involve both issues of security and mental health, and therefore are evaluated by a comprehensive and multidisciplinary team.
  • Speak Up Minneapolis.  This anonymous tip-line (1-866-SPEAKUP) allows youth to make reports regarding safety in our schools and surrounding community.

 
This is a challenging time for school communities across the country. Please make sure you reach out should you have concerns or questions about school safety, or if you need additional resources to support students, families and colleagues.  I encourage you to model the type of behavior we expect from our students. Be patient and ask for help when you need it. Thank you for all you do.
 
-Ed Graff