There is an interesting story in today’s
Globe and Mail about a gun incident. Apparently last Friday a student brought a 9 mm gun, with ammunition, to Johnson Heights Secondary School in Surrey, B.C. Warned by a former student that there could be trouble, a school official intercepted the student, took him to the office where a search uncovered his weapon. The police were then called. Parents are upset that a letter wasn’t sent home until the following Wednesday after a media report about the incident on Tuesday. While the school dealt effectively with the gun threat, I can’t help but think that there were some very definite reasons for the delay in communication with the parents.
Over the past several years, schools, and the administrators who run them, have become increasingly political in their concern about the ‘optics’ of situations. In all likelihood, there were meetings at high board levels concerning how best to convey this information to the public, all in the quest to convince everyone that the school is safe. This is one of the reasons that many boards have corporate communications officers. What people might find surprising is that this kind of embargo on timely information often extends to the teaching staff itself. I remember a few years back, the staff's help was enlisted to identify the handwriting of a note that contained both a bomb threat and a threat against the school’s principal. With staff assistance, the culprit was apprehended, but at the following staff meeting, we were not allowed to know anything about the perpetrator. We did not want to know his name, only what measures had been taken after he had been caught, but the principal told us that due to ‘privacy concerns,’ he couldn’t tell us anything.
Not to be trusted with information essential to the safety of the school is not only dangerous, but it is also very demoralizing, reminding teachers once again that in the great scheme of things educational, we occupy a very lowly position.