HWRSD Superintendent’s Thoughts on School Safety, February 16, 2018

This post was reblogged from: https://hwschoolssuper.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/thoughts-on-school-safety-february-16-2018/

As I’m sure you are, I am saddened and frustrated by the tragic events in Parkland, Florida on February 14th.  This was the 8th school shooting resulting in at least one death in the seven weeks of 2018.  These events have become all too commonplace in our society.  Hopefully, our leaders in Washington will finally say “enough is enough” and enact legislation that enhances our safety through better control over gun ownership and expanded services to identify and help for those who are mentally ill.

The safety and security of the 1700 students and 300 staff members of the HWRSD is always our top priority. I’ve received several emails with questions around our school safety plans. While I cannot go into the specifics of our current plans so that someone with ill intent uses them against us, I can say that we have sufficient school safety protocols in place. We regularly review these plans with our local police and fire departments, train our staff in these protocols, and hold drills with both staff and students. After the drills are complete, we debrief and use what we’ve learned to improve upon our plans.

We’re constantly looking at how we can be more effective at school security. This week, the School Committee passed the authorization to borrow nearly $2.6 million for “Safety, Accessibility, and Critical Infrastructure” Capital Projects. If Hamilton and Wenham Town Meetings approve this authorization, the District will be able to improve our school security through adding exterior security cameras, and improved keyless entry systems. Last spring, the School Committee hosted a presentation from the Hamilton and Wenham Police Departments on the A.L.I.C.E. protocol, which is one of many approaches to responding to crisis events in schools. The A.L.I.C.E. protocol offers more extensive and structured training materials and a common language with local law enforcement around crisis response. We’re currently in the process of evaluating this protocol to see how it would fit with what we’re already doing in terms of crisis response.

I understand that children will have questions regarding the issue of school safety and you may not feel you have sufficient responses to your child’s questions.  Here is a list of suggestions for speaking with children about school violence from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) (2006):

Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers

High profile acts of violence, particularly in schools, can confuse and frighten children who may feel in danger or worry that their friends or loved-ones are at risk. They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. Parents and school personnel can help children feel safe by establishing a sense of normalcy and security and talking with them about their fears.

  1. Reassure children that they are safe. Emphasize that schools are very safe. Validate their feelings. Explain that all feelings are okay when a tragedy occurs. Let children talk about their feelings, help put them into perspective, and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.
  2. Make time to talk. Let their questions be your guide as to how much information to provide. Be patient. Children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
  3. Keep your explanations developmentally appropriate:
  • Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
  • Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.
  • Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs.
  1.  Review safety procedures. This should include procedures and safeguards at school and at home. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
  2.  Observe children’s emotional state. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional if you are at all concerned.
  3.  Limit television viewing of these events. Limit television viewing and be aware if the television is on in common areas. Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be mindful of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, even teenagers, and limit their exposure to vengeful, hateful, and angry comments that might be misunderstood.
  4.  Maintain a normal routine. Keeping to a regular schedule can be reassuring and promote physical health. Ensure that children get plenty of sleep, regular meals, and exercise. Encourage them to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities but don’t push them if they seem overwhelmed.

Suggested Points to Emphasize When Talking to Children

  • Schools are safe places. School staff work with parents and public safety providers (local police and fire departments, emergency responders, hospitals, etc.) to keep you safe.
  • The school building is safe because … (cite specific school procedures).
  • We all play a role in the school safety. Be observant and let an adult know if you see or hear something that makes you feel uncomfortable, nervous or frightened.
  • There is a difference between reporting, tattling or gossiping. You can provide important information that may prevent harm either directly or anonymously by telling a trusted adult what you know or hear.
  • Don’t dwell on the worst possibilities. Although there is no absolute guarantee that something bad will never happen, it is important to understand the difference between the possibility of something happening and the probability that it will affect our school.
  • Senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand. Doing things that you enjoy, sticking to your normal routine, and being with friends and family help make us feel better and keep us from worrying about the event.
  • Sometimes people do bad things that hurt others. They may be unable to handle their anger, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or suffering from mental illness. Adults (parents, teachers, police officers, doctors, faith leaders) work very hard to get those people help and keep them from hurting others. It is important for all of us to know how to get help if we feel really upset or angry and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
  • Stay away from guns and other weapons. Tell an adult if you know someone has a gun. Access to guns is one of the leading risk factors for deadly violence.
  • Violence is never a solution to personal problems. Students can be part of the positive solution by participating in anti-violence programs at school, learning conflict mediation skills, and seeking help from an adult if they or a peer is struggling with anger, depression, or other emotions they cannot control.

NASP has additional information for parents and educators on school safety, violence prevention, children’s trauma reactions, and crisis response at www.nasponline.org. ©2006, National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway #402, Bethesda, MD 20814

I hope that this is the last time I will have to write a letter like this.


Mike Harvey



HWRHS Students Participate in MIT Model UN Conference

The HWRHS Model UN club participated in the MIT Model UN conference this past weekend. All students performed exceptionally well and were outstanding representatives of HWRSD.  Two students were formally recognized in their committees and earned awards for their research, public speaking, and diplomatic skills. 

 Congratulations to Cam Lake who earned the Best Delegate award as a delegate from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) on the Disarmament and International Security Committee.

Another shout out to Lily Ting who earned an Honorable Mention award for her work as a delegate from Brazil on the Economic and Social Council.  

HWRHS Students receive awards in the 2018 Boston Globe Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

The Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School Visual Arts and English Departments are proud to announce that our students have received three gold keys, two silver keys and five honorable mentions in the 2018 Boston Globe Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Established in 1923, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards are the longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens in the United States.  Gold Key works will automatically advance to national judging and will be considered for national awards. National Medalists will be announced on March 13, 2018.

 Visual Arts: Annabel Howley was awarded two gold keys and an honorable mention.  Nora Sullivan-Horner received a gold key.  Thomas Lattanzi, Cadyn Sawyer and Helen Peppler were awarded honorable mentions.

English: Raquel Souza was awarded a gold key for a critical essay.  Luce Brandt was awarded a silver key for a personal essay/memoir. Notably, Nora Sullivan-Horner was also awarded a silver key for a personal essay/memoir in addition to her win in visual arts.

Congratulations to all winners!

To see the student artwork please visit: hwfinearts.blogspot.com

Submitted by Ms. Losee

HWRHS Updated State Tournament Information for all teams

Announcement:  State Tournament Information (as of 11/5/17)

HW Boy’s Soccer defeated Mystic Valley in Malden yesterday, 1-0.  The Generals will travel to Austin Prep. School to face the Cougars on Monday, November 6th at 4:00 PM in the Quarterfinal Round of the MIAA Division IV North State Tournament.  Austin Prep. is located at 101 Willow Street in Reading.  Tickets will be sold for admission to the Boy’s Soccer game, $7 for Adults and $5 for Students and Seniors.  

HW Volleyball have advanced to the Division II North Quarterfinals of the MIAA State Tournament on Monday, November 6th at 6:30 PM at HWRHS.  They will host the Cougars of Arlington Catholic.  There is no admission cost for this game. The 6:30 start time is a change from the time that was posted earlier this weekend.

HW Football defeated Arlington Catholic, 51-18 in the Semi-Final Round of the MIAA Football Playoffs yesterday. The Generals advance and will host #2 Spartans of Stoneham on Saturday, November 11th at 1:00 PM in the Division VI North Championship at HWRHS.  Tickets go on sale at 11:30 the day of the game.  More details for the Football Game will be posted to this site as they become available.

As each of these games are MIAA Tournament contests, those rules are in effect for these games…No Signs, Body Paint or Noise Makers will be allowed.

HW Boy’s & Girl’s Cross Country Teams will compete in the Divisional Championships on Saturday, November 11th at Wrentham Development Center, located at 131 Emerald Street in Wrentham, MA.  The Boy’s race begins at 1:15 while the Girl’s race begins at 2:45 PM. 

HWRHS Athletics Tournament Information

Congratulations to HW Girl’s Cross Country on their victory at the CAL Championships this past Saturday.

HW Volleyball will host Tewksbury HS in the 1st Round of the MIAA Division II North State Tournament at 6:00 PM at HWRHS. There is no admission cost for this game. 

HW Football defeated Salem, 31-10 in the Quarterfinal Round of the MIAA Football Playoffs this past weekend. The Generals advance and will host #5 Arlington Catholic on Saturday, November 4th at 2:00 PM in the Division VI North Semi-Finals at HWRHS.

Tickets go on sale at 12:30 the day of the game and are $7 for Adults and $5 for Students and Seniors.  MIAA, Military and valid Media passes will be honored.  CAL/NEC passes cannot be taken for this game.

MIAA Tournament rules are in effect for these games…No Signs, Body Paint or Noise Makers will be allowed.

HW Boy’s Soccer will travel to Mystic Valley to face the Eagles in the 1st Round of the MIAA Division IV North State Tournament on Saturday, November 4th at 2:30 PM.  The field is located at 576 Eastern Avenue in Malden, MA.

HW Boy’s & Girl’s Cross Country will compete in the Divisional Championships on Saturday, November 11th at Wrentham Development Centers.  The time of the event is TBD.