On Wednesday, Sept. 29 a message was sent out to the HMS community regarding the school's comprehensive response to recent acts of bullying. Because this issue is relevant to all schools, it is being shared with all HSD families.
Hello. It certainly looks like autumn is here. As we enter the sixth week of the school year (Yes. We checked!), we wanted to circle back with HSD families regarding recent incidents at HMS and to make families aware of some next steps.
A number of community members attended Monday’s Board meeting to share perspectives on a recent student-to-student bullying incident that occurred at our middle school. As part of our normal procedures, and for a variety of confidentiality reasons, we do not share information about student discipline with those who are not involved in the incident. However, we felt it was important to take this opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings by sharing limited information.
First, we want our families to know that we take any and all incidents involving harassment, bullying, and intimidation very seriously. In this instance, HMS staff promptly investigated the bullying incident and took appropriate action based on the findings of the investigation, including disciplinary action. This situation has prompted some students to exercise their right to free speech, which has included the display of flags.
Second, we want our students to know that they deserve a safe learning environment and that their voice matters. Students have been encouraged to share any concerns or reports of bullying with any HMS staff member. We will follow up on every issue. Situations involving bullying will trigger an array of responses ranging from restorative justice conversations, to discipline, to suspension. Hate speech, physical acts of violence, or repeated behaviors that distract students from learning will not be tolerated.
While we cannot share specifics related to individual incidents, we want to share the values that Hockinson School District works to promote across our schools. One of the top priorities in the HSD Strategic Plan is to “provide a safe, welcoming, and positive learning environment that supports high academic and behavior expectations for all.” Cultivating this kind of school environment requires teamwork and maintaining it means continued attention and purposeful efforts. Recently, these efforts have taken the form of: School-wide announcements, HomeBase lessons, individual student conversations, group brainstorming sessions, and the involvement of our student leaders. All of these responses have focused on the themes of kindness, inclusion, and problem solving.
Finally, the issues we are facing at HMS are not unique to Hockinson. Schools across the state and nation are all working through processes to appropriately explore some of the social issues that are presenting themselves on campuses. This is new territory for K-12 schools and we want to be as thoughtful as possible in our approach with opportunities for parent engagement. We look forward to working with students and families to explore acceptable avenues for student freedom of expression in schools that are consistent with our policies, legal parameters, and goals for student learning. We will share more information with families about this in the future.
Coming up, the HSD will be sharing resources and reminders with our families as part of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Meanwhile, HMS will continue to strengthen its school community by responding to student needs through HomeBase lessons, recognizing positive student behaviors and achievements, and looking for new opportunities that will help us create a school where every student and staff member feels valued and safe. Mrs. Gannon will be providing updates on these school-wide efforts in HMS parent newsletters.
As mentioned above, creating and maintaining a positive school culture is a team effort. We thank you for helping to demonstrate the values of kindness and inclusivity throughout our school community. We will hold ourselves to the same standard. Thank you for your care for our school and our students and for your support of our commitments to student learning and safety.