Friday, December 03, 2021

Where is the Action?

 It appears that Ballard High School has turmoil within its halls. 

Does that make them different from any other American public high school? Probably not. 

What I am hearing from students and teachers is that both groups are scared and anxious and exhausted. 

What I am hearing from students is that they see no real change on the horizon from the district or the Board. This is NOT the first time there have been issues around perceived racism from high school assignments. It will say that one report says that the father in the LA assignment issue stated that he called the teacher 14 times. 

There was an issue probably seven years ago around an assignment to read Brave New World and when a Native American student expressed worry and discomfort, there wasn't much sympathy. The Board actually had a hearing but sided with the teacher. Maybe this Board should go back and read a transcript of that hearing to see what not to do. 

What I am hearing is that students need to feel more secure NOW about issues around sexual harassment and assault. Waiting for a Taskforce report in spring 2022 seems very much "a wait-and-see" attitude. 

Here's a missive sent yesterday from the interim BHS principal:

Good afternoon Ballard High Families,

I’d like to introduce you to Polo DeCano, a member of the central office Behavioral Health and Restorative Practices/Justice Teams, who is joining our support team at Ballard High School. 

Polo works for our district’s Coordinated School Health program, and is independent of my supervision. His work will be to support our school response to students’ and community members’ requests for added structures around equity and advocacy.

 In his role he will serve as Student Equity Advocate with direct access for our BHS students and families. As a first step, his role at Ballard will be to connect and engage with various groups to listen to perspectives and recommendations that pertain to the culture and climate of the school, with a specific focus around race and equity.

Polo and I have had initial meetings and will continue to do so in an ongoing way to best ensure students’ needs are met and wellness is at the center of everyone’s experiences at Ballard. As Student Equity Advocate, he will be working with the administrative team and Ballard staff to bring matters needing attention and address ways to use restorative practices if harm has resulted. 

Please join me in welcoming Polo to this new role. You may expect to hear directly from him as he develops his schedule to connect and engage with student and family/community groups.

Thank you for your commitment to the Ballard High School community and to our continued efforts to move forward and grow.
Sincerely, Dr. Joseph Williams III Acting Principal Ballard High School

Coordinated School Health program. 

How this directly addresses what current issues are front and center is unclear. 


Supporter said...

Thanks for your blog, Melissa.

You continue to be the best source of education reporting in town. I look forward to learning more about the new governance model that is being proposed.

Anonymous said...

How is this supposed to address the sexual assault issues?


Anonymous said...

I am perplexed. I am also not sure how this addresses the current situation? Is this man supposed to address the sexual assault issues students are in tears and protesting about with the district? Is the man trained how to address victims mental health and trauma? That does not seem to be his role. Is the media still mostly ignoring these students in their coverage?


Anonymous said...

Response from my student" but how SPS handles sexual assault is the big issue! Plus can we please get some more counselors please! Everyone I know has been having big mental health issues!!".

I am also wondering where the budget to hire this person is coming from. The high school is among the least funded by the district per pupil due to it's tier status. Classes are already enormous, many well beyond contractual limit. Classes were cut and condensed this past year. Ballard has had multiple Covid outbreaks. Students are unable to be properly distanced.


Anonymous said...

Apologize for multiple posts, but this appointment does seem misaligned to the big issues front and center? I just read the description of the Behavioral Health Services under Coordinated School Health Program. I suggest reading the description for yourselves in Melissa's link. Behavioral Health Services was designed as a strategy for long term discipline reform, to reduce out of school suspensions for elementary grade students. To address school climate and provide alternative options and interventions and supports for students with behavioral needs.


Outsider said...

What action do they, or you honestly expect in regard to sexual assault or harassment that takes place off campus? Schools can somewhat regulate student behavior on campus (go to any classroom and you will see what I mean by "somewhat") but it's wildly unrealistic to expect schools to control students everywhere, 24/7.

There is so much vague talk about students wanting to "feel" safe, but what does that mean in terms of action or policy that a high school can actually do in a legal and practical way?

Anonymous said...

Ballard High school is not unique in it's challenges, and a disconnect in priorities. Sharing an article about a growing disconnect between school board priorities, and actually addressing schools most pressing concerns. It's a really good one hope you can access. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/us/central-bucks-school-board-politics-pennsylvania.html

a parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider and Perplexed, as I have stated, sexual assault off campus is very tricky and the district could get into legal trouble if they refuse entry to a student who stands accused. That said, if a student is arrested, I think they could send the student to Interagency which has the staff training for this kind of issue.

I do not understand how the one student was able to violate his no-contact order and that the school didn't immediately call the court and report that the student had done so. That said, it would be hard to make sure the students didn't pass each other in the hall.

I am sad to report that I listened to the audio of the Student Services, Curriculum&Instruction committee of Oct 12th. In it, Director Leslie Harris sharply questioned Fred Podesta about the slowness of a new policy on student safety because it was stated it would not be able to be enacted until September 2022. He did not seem to like being challenged and said there was just a lot going on.

I'm sure the Ballard students, indeed all the high school students, will appreciate the "all deliberate speed" rate that SPS is taking with this issue.