Brattleboro Union High School Takes Action to Improve School Atmosphere | Local News


BRATTLEBORO – After a series of troubling incidents at Brattleboro Union High School, administrators have proposed immediate measures to improve the school environment, including adding staff and consulting with students on their needs.

“I think it’s no secret that the start of the school year was tough for sure,” Superintendent Mark Speno said at the school district board meeting on Tuesday. Windham Southeast. “So there was a lot of conflict, a lot of situations that led to the anxiety and we’re not straying from it. It’s up to us.”

Another student safety officer will be hired to join the school’s safety team after an increase in physical assaults was reported by Principal Steve Perrin, two threatening graffiti messages were scrawled in the bathrooms , a toilet was vandalized as part of a TikTok challenge and a handgun was seized. by the police from a car on campus. A school dean will also be added to the staff to help with discipline but also to focus on “conflict resolution and restorative practices,” Speno said.

The challenges of returning to teaching fully in person are felt throughout the district, but especially in high school, he said. High school students were on campus to learn in person about one day a week last week due to pandemic protocols.

On Wednesday, Speno and Perrin are scheduled to meet with the student council.

“We have to come to terms with what happened, what the first month was like, but then we have to identify how we are going to improve our culture and our school community,” Speno said. “Students want to be part of the solution.

Bi-weekly consultative meetings with staff and students will focus on school safety issues and identify solutions. Perrin anticipates that the meetings will take place at least until October and possibly until Thanksgiving.

“Although the circumstances are terrible and we’re really not happy with how we started the year,” he said, “I’m pretty happy with this process, and I really think it’s okay. drive permanent changes in how we use our number one counseling system and how we capture and amplify student voice. ”

Perrin said eight of the 13 incidents reported at the school where a student instigated, planned or started a fight involved freshmen.

“To me, it shows that we have to work with ninth graders and understand how this transition is going from a really tough experience in middle school to high school,” he said.

Some of the conflicts “simmered and boiled over during the summer now coming back to school,” Perrin said. He added that he was happy to report that “the conflict over the summer appears to be largely resolved”.

Perrin said student security guards help defuse tense situations and are in certain places when students change classes, go to lunch, arrive and leave school. The toilets are monitored to ensure that there are no more incidents of graffiti.

BUHS suspended its School Resources Officer program run by the Windham County Sheriff’s Office this year after activists feared it was having a negative effect and could be particularly harmful to students of color. In March, Perrin announced that the program would be evaluated.

A student safety officer and a school resources officer have “compatible pieces,” Sheriff Mark Anderson told the Reformer, “but have separate responsibilities and impacts.”

“The school has maintained a security staff for decades and that just increases that resource in light of the current circumstances,” he said. “This does not translate into the services provided by the School Resources Officer.”

Perrin said a school resources officer is employed by a local law enforcement agency and at BUHS the officer carried a handgun.

“A school safety officer is our employee,” he told the reformer. “They are not law enforcement officers and they do not carry weapons.

Anderson said he had not heard of the evaluation of the School Resource Officer program, but would be happy to discuss its return.

Closing the report on recent high school issues, Speno said students want to find fun activities to organize at school.

“Many students lamented that we didn’t have a homecoming dance because of COVID,” Perrin said, seeking to hear from students on “creative ways to have fun without violating the requirements of social distancing”.

School board president David Schoales and Speno noted that problems at BUHS are experienced nationally in middle and high schools. Tim Maciel, member of the board of directors, praised the plan presented by the directors.

Other business

An update from the Climate Crisis Working Group was postponed due to issues that needed to be added to the agenda, including the report on actions taken at the high school to improve safety. In August, the task force voted to bring a question to the school board in the hopes that the district would present it to voters along with the budget, but has yet to do so.

The proposed ballot would ask voters to make the climate crisis “the top priority” by becoming a carbon neutral district by January 1, 2025; immediately adopt a plant-based food system; dedicate one school day per month to a Climate Emergency Day where education focuses solely on climate change mitigation and life with its consequences; Immediately have one day per month for staff development on current climate emergency reporting, with an emphasis on how to present findings to students on climate emergency days and create action plans for the climate ; and make climate costs a higher priority than financial costs. A working group member who is not on the board further proposes that a “climate holiday” replace Thanksgiving and winter holidays, forcing families to forgo shopping and share their concerns about climate change. with each other.

The board of directors is looking for community members to join a committee to independently review the district budget prior to the annual meeting. Kristina Naylor of Dummerston, former chair of the board, was the first to volunteer.

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