Message to Parents

 

TO:              Northwest ISD Parents and Caregivers

FROM:         Ryder Warren, Superintendent of Schools

SUBJECT:   Superintendent’s Update

DATE:          April 18, 2018

We are sprinting toward the end of our school year at a record pace, and it is truly hard to fathom that our year has gone by so quickly. Please be very proud of our kids and our staff. It has been an outstanding school year because of their efforts.

I have an important subject to discuss in my article to you this week. It seems that many school districts, students, and parents/caregivers across the country are still grappling with the aftermath of the Florida school shooting. For Northwest ISD, this has initiated further discussions about school safety in order to best protect our students, staff, and anyone else on our 28 campuses.

Another challenge from this that school districts are facing all over the U.S. is planned student walkouts and protests that aim to bring to light student safety in our schools because of the school shootings. NISD is in the middle of this challenge right now, and I feel our parents and stakeholders need more information about the district's opinion about this subject and more information about our plans to deal with it.

On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, a student-led demonstration was held at Eaton High School. Students at Northwest High School and Byron Nelson High School also have plans to hold similar demonstrations in the next couple of weeks. In light of these events, let me share the district's stance.

First, school is not a democracy. We very proudly teach our children about American democracy, but children do not get to vote on how schools are run. They do not get a choice of which rules to follow, and the adults in the buildings must be in control of those campuses at all times to ensure a safe, productive learning environment.

Secondly, it is not the goal of this school district (nor of very many parents I have met over the last two years) to produce generations of robots, blindly being led through life. NISD will produce critical thinkers and young adults who can improvise and adapt to the challenges they will face in life, and they will be equipped to achieve their definition of personal success. Our true goal is to have all NISD graduates develop their own moral compass and develop a "voice" so they can lead in life, rather than be led by others without a sense of purpose and autonomy.

So the test for NISD, and our partners at home, is to achieve both. We must assure safety, and we must give children the right to use their voices to advocate for or against today's issues and future challenges. One without the other does not achieve the mission.

The necessity for our schools to work with students and use these actions as teachable moments came through loud and clear at Eaton High School this week. Out of more than 2,000 students at Eaton, about 100 students chose to take part in a demonstration, and they did so using varying points of view. Individual students spoke about school violence, about the importance of gun control, about the importance of protecting our Second Amendment rights, and about other various issues that are making the news these days.

For most of this activity, our students behaved themselves in manners that would make any of us proud; however, toward the end of the event, we had a handful of students who took it upon themselves to disrupt the conversation and the school environment. Most especially at our secondary campuses, most of us know working with teenagers is always a challenge, so we cannot ignore behaviors when those behaviors offer teachable moments. There are two things that are going to happen at Eaton over the next couple of weeks. First, the students who made the choice to behave badly will be disciplined. We had a few kids trying to silence the voices and opinions of fellow classmates, and we even had some racial insults hurled. That is never going to be NISD; so secondly, the campus leadership and staff are going to use this to further teach our students about respectful interaction, even in light of opposing viewpoints.

The Eaton demonstration brought to life the necessity of the district to stay in front of this conversation being held by our students. Again, I strongly feel student voice can never be ignored, but I also know walkouts and demonstrations, if left unmanaged and unsupervised, can go south in a hurry. We will be having these conversations with students at Byron Nelson and at Northwest over the coming days. I would absolutely recommend to parents and caregivers to reinforce these conversations at home. If your children want to participate, please discuss the right way to do it. If you and your children do not want to be part in this, explain to them that they can choose to ignore the activity, as the vast majority of students at Eaton did.

This is a confusing time for many of our children and maybe even for a lot of us. As I stated in my last article about school safety, seventeen children cannot lose their lives and it not have a chilling effect on all of us. We, as the adults in our children's lives, have to work together to guide them through this confusion. This school district has committed itself to be your partner to assure safety and to assure our children are ready to be successful when they leave us.

Thank you for your support, and thank you for your children. 


Ryder Warren, Superintendent of Schools
Northwest Independent School District