Letters | A Message to Parents from Pasadena Unified Superintendent Brian McDonald

Published : Friday, March 2, 2018 | 1:50 PM

I’m inspired by our students every day and am proud of the young adults they are becoming: critical and creative thinkers deeply connected to the world around them, capable of communicating their values with clarity. Their voices matter and our district is committed to guiding them so that they are well-prepared to be effective and positive leaders of tomorrow.

In the wake of the school tragedy in Parkland, Florida, and the calls for students and educators to participate in school walkouts, we would like to address the issue of campus safety and keep you informed about the way our schools are preparing for the national demonstrations planned for March 14, March 24, and April 20, 2018.

Positive School Climates
Our schools are dedicated to maintaining positive school climates that promote student learning and foster a culture of safety where the needs of the whole child are supported. Teachers, administrators, and staff are trained to detect the early signs of a child in crisis and provide early interventions through our district’s organized network of resources and professional services. Teachers, staff, parents, and students can refer students for help with mental health, attendance, and other issues by completing the form at gopusd.com/services or by contacting the PUSD’s Child Welfare, Attendance & Safety at 626.396.3609.

School Safety Measures
Schools have safety and emergency plans that are updated annually and have reviewed them in light of recent events; students and staff practice emergency drills throughout the year. We have strong partnerships with local law enforcement agencies to keep our campuses safe, and are in close contact with them to ensure the safety of our students and staff. School principals participated in active shooter training conducted by the Pasadena Police Department last fall; another session will be conducted by the Altadena Sheriff’s this spring. Our district is working closely with Pasadena, Altadena, and Sierra Madre police/sheriff departments to further strengthen campus safety. We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep students and staff safe.

National Walkouts
Students have a powerful voice in this critically important national dialogue. Pasadena Unified Board Policy 5145.2 states that “we respect students’ rights to express ideas and opinions, take stands on issues, and support causes.” It is our duty as educators to take this time to listen and recognize students’ concerns about keeping our school communities safe and to guide them on how they can be civically engaged in safe and constructive ways.

We encourage students to remain on campus where our teaching and support staff members are working to empower young people to think about difficult issues, make connections between others and themselves, and contribute to our democracy. The best places for students to voice their concerns is in secure forums on campus where everyone’s opinion is respected.

Additional staff will be assigned to schools to provide supervision and support, and schools are taking the following steps:

• Elementary schools will have age-appropriate discussions focusing on maintaining a caring school community, the importance of speaking up when they see something that worries them, and school safety procedures.
• Middle and high schools are working with student leaders to develop alternatives to walkouts so that students can voice their concerns about this important national issue, discuss campus safety measures already in place, and understand how to access mental health and support services. Some schools are in the process of designating space on campus for students to hold their demonstrations so that everyone stays in school where they can be supervised by school staff.

If students choose to walk out of school, we will work with them and local law enforcement to identify safe routes and spaces. The real impact of student walkouts is lost classroom time. Normal attendance rules will apply to students who choose to leave school.

What Parents Can Do:

Parents are important partners in keeping schools safe and we are grateful for the way parents have embraced and supported our schools during these difficult times. The PTA Council of PUSD is organizing “Arms Around Our School” events on March 9 to demonstrate their commitment to keeping students and schools safe. We ask that parents encourage children to tell a trusted adult on campus if they see something that worries them or if they feel overwhelmed by recent events. We also ask that parents continue to monitor their children’s social media activity so that dialogue is kept positive and constructive. Some resources that may be helpful are:

• Talking to Children About Violence (National Association of School Psychologists)
• Parent Concerns: Social Media (Common Sense Media)

Thank you for partnering with us to keep our students and staff safe.


Brian McDonald








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