On Thursday evening assistant superintendent Dusek and I attended a community meeting at Homer High School that was called in response to a horrific incident that occurred at an off-campus party. Because students were present at the party, the school by association was involved. As is always the case with this sort of incident where boundaries of authority are blurred, there was a lot of tension and frustration with what took place. The attending students expressed frustration that some in the community were unfairly making broad generalizations about them. Others pointed to a lackadaisical response by the school. Some claimed that the community owns what took place, that everyone in Homer is responsible for dealing with this.
On the drive home I replayed what had taken place and questioned what the district can do better to avoid this sort of event. On the one hand, we are doing what we are supposed to be doing with regard to molding positive young men and women. We offer curriculum that is designed to help students make good choices, our teachers are trained to provide a safe and secure learning environment, and most importantly, my sense is that our teachers and principals do a good job of creating positive relationships with their students. This critical adult role that teachers and principals play in the lives of students cannot be taken for granted. But on the other hand, I don’t feel that the school can dust off its hands and say that what took place only belongs to the community. For after all, the school is a part of the community. We can do a better job of melding our efforts with the community’s efforts. We can create more opportunities for our students that have application beyond the school. We can do more to make it safe for students to share their concerns about what is happening beyond the school’s campus. The good news is that Homer is a progressive community that has the capacity to affect change at a deeper level than what the school can offer. The bad news is that the reasons for the poor behavior at the party are many and in the broader spectrum, beyond Homer. The simple response to this incident is to blame the parents or school or both. The better response is for the community and school to continue to work together to ensure that the boundaries for our students do not so easily blur.