Welcome to the Superintendent's Corner. I plan to use this space at least monthly to communicate with parents, students and members of our PSUSD community on issues affecting our students and our District. I invite your input and comments on today's column or any future column, and, as always, we appreciate your support and partnership as we strive to do what's best for our nearly 23,000 students in the Palm Springs Unified School District.
In the current world of texting and social media, fewer and fewer people – especially our teenagers--are sharing their thoughts and experiences verbally. While there are certainly pluses to our students having outlets to express themselves without having to leave their comfort zones, communicating in this fashion also creates added challenges and disadvantages particularly for those of us who are focused on school safety. While, students may be more willing to communicate concerns on one level, on another, they may feel they are protected in anonymity, which creates its own set of issues. They may also assume that because they have read something online or on a social media platform, that others, including adults, must know what is going on as well. When it comes to safety, these online communications pose new and serious obstacles for school administrators as they try to ensure that our students are safe and protected from potential dangers.
You may have heard the expression “See something, say something,” and these words have never been more crucial than they are today. We do everything we can to teach our students from a young age that if they see or experience something that feels threatening or uncomfortable, they need to share that information with a trusted adult on their school campus as soon as possible in order to protect themselves and their peers from a potentially unsafe situation. The problem today is that when students see something, rather than say something, they post or text. Rather than students seeking out a trusted adult – a teacher, administrator, counselor, security officer or school resource officer – they might instead post something on social media or text their mom or dad. In years prior, if a student wanted to call a parent, he/she had to ask an adult on campus to use a phone. If the student appeared upset, the adult staff member could try and find out if something was wrong and would often discover something that had happened or was going to happen on campus. Now that students can call or text parents and friends without speaking to an adult on campus, students may feel they have connected with someone and the situation is taken care of, when, in fact, the person who has been notified is hours away Precious time is wasted handling an anxious situation in this manner, not to mention the rumor mill that spreads from posts or texts that may be taken out of context and don’t convey the appropriate emotions or urgency that goes along with a verbal report.
Whether it is experiencing or witnessing bullying, being approached by a stranger, an issue or conflict with a teacher, a friend or peer who seems to be struggling emotionally or exhibiting abnormal behavior or anything else that just doesn’t feel quite right, we ask our students to share the information with an adult staff member on their campus as soon as they become aware of the incident or behavior. If a student doesn’t feel comfortable sharing the information verbally, we do have a mechanism in place where they can make an anonymous report that alerts our administrators as soon as reports are made. The system is called Sprigeo and here is a direct link: https://app.sprigeo.com/. This link can be found on the homepage of our website at psusd.us under the “Parent” drop down.
Texting parents, other students or posting on social media is not the best way to handle a worrisome or threatening situation. In the interest of safety for all it is of the utmost importance that our students share their concerns promptly with an adult on campus or report on sprigeo.com. Our top priority is always the safety of our students and staff, and if we work together with our students, staff and community members we can be as responsive as possible to ensure the maintenance of the safety and welfare of our students.