I talk a great deal about student voice and how impactful it is to education and student empowerment.
But there are times when student voice has an even more important role for our students.
Yesterday, in Italy, Texas, there was a school shooting. A male student allegedly approached a female student he liked and for some reason, shot her. She was injured but survived, the suspect was arrested. (according to CBS News- www.cbsnews.com/news/italy-high-school-shooting-in-texas-today-2018-01-22-live-updates/)
But that is not the whole story.
A student at the school posted on her Facebook page (my home town is near Italy and often competed against them, friends from my hometown posted the student's comments) that this young man had numerous instances of violence and dangerous behavior reported- yet there was nothing done, no discipline applied. Students who reported, according to this person, were given a politically correct response and nothing more.
As an educator, I know there are laws to follow, and I also know there is definitely more than one side to the story. I know students can be prone to exaggeration, and in this case may be doing just that. For all I know, Italy officials did everything right, and this shooting just happened.
But reading the words of this student's account, I was struck by this statement in the student's post:
"The result of this had many parents upset and many made the point “do we just wait until someone gets shot before something is done” today the worst possible thing happened. He ended up doing the worst."
Whether or not the administration at the school had taken action prior to this or not is not the point. The point is, students and parents felt they did not, and were now sharing those views publicly.
Their perspective is their reality.
As teachers and and educators, if we have students or parents with concerns, and they feel they are not being heard, we have a responsibility to help them understand our actions. Obviously, this is withing the limits of our FERPA laws of confidentiality- but if students do not feel heard or safe, we need to find a way to alleviate these concerns.
So, today, I am asking myself these questions:
* Do I really listen to the students' concerns AND make efforts to address them?
* Am I creating a culture of security and trust in my classroom, or one that has students lacking confidence in my words that I care about them?
* What perspectives do my students have about my concern for their well-being?
* Have I been consistent in listening to and taking action on student reports of bullying, harassment, depression, abuse, or dangerous behavior?
And perhaps the biggest question:
* If I were a student, would I trust me to be sensitive and proactive in addressing my concerns and fears as a student?
Today, let us listen to our students' voices and work with them to make our schools a safer and more encouraging place.
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.