DOWNTOWN – St. Louis Public Schools is nearly two weeks tardy in turning in a plan to district parents and stakeholders regarding their voiced concerns, questions and suggestions on school safety.
Superintendent Kelvin Adams and the board of education held a Special Work Session on Community Safety on Sept. 5 in the auditorium of Vashon High School. The due date for a follow-up plan of action was Sept. 13.
The session came in the wake of a high number of shooting deaths of children, some of whom attended schools in the district.
The session, a little pointed and confrontational at times, drew a cross section of the public.
There were parents complaining of school bullying, and teachers complaining of a lack of understanding and unnecessary expenditures.
Community groups and the city’s circuit attorney asked for more leeway. A couple of people called for curriculum changes.
An ER surgeon pleaded for more holistic education. One woman left in drop-the-microphone fashion after giving a history of the plight of African-Americans and connecting it to current oppressive issues plaguing students.
A reformed murder convict, even, warned of the dangers of prison and begged to help keep students from going there.
The superintendent and the board had their homework cut out for them.
“It was really a lot of stuff to go through,” said Lori O. Willis, who was acting in the absence of Meredith Pierce, director of communications for SLPS.
“I really think they’re still going in discussions and meeting with individuals who are interested in partnering, and I believe they are still in the fact-finding phase,” Willis explained.
To the superintendent’s and board’s credit, already posted is videotape of questions, concerns and suggestions from the public on the SLPS.org website. There is a FAQ page.
One attendee said that coaches had known of a brewing fight that went down in August during a Public High League Jamboree at Soldan International Studies High School. The fight is said to have led to the killing of 8-year-old SLPS student Jurnee Thompson. Two teenagers and one adult were injured.
Responding to that claim, a post of the school’s website asserted: “Neither the district administration nor local law enforcement were alerted in advance to potential issues at the Jamboree. Everything went according to plan during the match-ups.”
In conclusion, the district said: “Our first alerts came from rumblings among students at the game, and were responded to by immediately launching orderly exits from the stadium while the last games were being played.”
Referring to the violence, someone suggested that the district proceed as if every child either knew one of the victims or knew someone who knew them and that the entire district was traumatized.
To that the district website posted:
- We agree and would even extend it further to not only include students but also staff. We are looking at ways we can better support everyone who is a part of the SLPS community.
- To date, 45 schools have participated in a trauma-informed learning collaborative through partnership with Alive and Well Communities, Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis and Shut it Down.
- We have a District-level trauma team, focused on creating and implementing policies and procedures to support the District’s mission to become trauma-informed.
- In November and April of each year, SLPS hosts trauma workshops for parents/guardians and interested adults. The SLPS November Trauma Workshop is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 23, 8:30 a.m. to noon, 801 N. 11th Street. Please contact your school’s Social Worker or Family and Community Specialist (FCS) to RSVP. There are childcare services available, a warm breakfast buffet, fresh produce to take home and door prizes. The event includes a series of breakout sessions. If you have attended in the past, remember you are welcome to come again. There is always something new offered.