I, along with many other members of our community, recently listened to almost eight hours of responses to the questions our School Board posed to the three superintendent candidates. In all that time, there was not one question asked about school safety. We have had multiple incidents of guns in our schools this year, most recently the incident at Thunder Mountain High School. The Empire Editorial on May 28, 2014, clearly articulated a number of concerns that need to be addressed relative to the District’s current “lock down” and attendant safety procedures. Not one question about what their districts had in place to make their schools safer from outside/inside weapons threats and how we could benefit from their experience.
Not one question about how they had handled hazing/personal bullying/cyber bullying in their schools and how that might translate into how he/she would make our schools safer for our students. The fact that the Juneau Empire reported and presumably the high school and district administration referred to the recent incident at JDHS as a senior “prank” is telling. Many of the students at the school were aware of who was involved. They were also aware that there was/would be no real consequences for their actions. If such an egregious breech of civil behavior, no to mention public health is not dealt with assertively, how does any student expect to be safe?
Not one question about what he/she believed constituted a safe learning environment for all of our children. Research has clearly demonstrated that when people feel afraid, even a little afraid, our bodies automatically pump adrenaline into our systems. Adrenaline essentially shuts off our access to the parts of our brain we use to learn new information or recall and reflect on things we have already learned. School safety/student safety directly impacts student learning.
Now that we have selected a new superintendent, I hope that somebody will mention to him that safe schools and safe learning environments for our children are a high priority here in Juneau. We sincerely hope he will listen to parents, law enforcement professionals and others in the school community that know this has been and continues to be area of serious concern.
• Deedie Sorensen is a retired teacher who has lived in Juneau for more than 30 years.