30 December 1999

Superintendent Yunk: Safety In Our Schools

By Dan Yunk, Superintendent of Schools Manhattan-Ogden USD 383

It is ironic to me as we prepare to celebrate what should be both a blessed and joyous time of year that I was asked to write
a contributing column about safety in our schools.

It seems that almost daily, some new "horror" story comes across the news line. Today as I write this I learned of a death
plot against the principal and six teachers in a Labette County, Kan., school. Closer to home, a bomb was brought to school
last week at Rock Creek. Earlier that week, a Topeka middle school student brought a hand gun to school and showed it to
fellow students following a Christmas program.

Our own high school west campus was put on alert December 17 because of a general threat penciled on a bathroom wall
that was discovered the day after a similar threat was found at a Lawrence High School. Colby schools were closed prior to
that when a taped threat was mailed to the police. Maize High School implemented a metal detector search around the same
time after rumors of a weapon surfaced.

As Mr. Braun so eloquently put it in his December 19 editorial, no school - public, private, urban, rural - can guarantee that
violence will not occur. In reality, schools probably never could guarantee total safety. Society today makes that task even
more difficult.

Having said that, I assure you that the staff of Manhattan-Ogden public schools is working diligently to provide a safe climate
for our students. The Board of Education is concerned about school safety and is supportive of the efforts administrators and
teachers are making on a daily basis to make schools safe. The vast majority of parents and students understand and
appreciate these efforts.

Recently, the climate of the Manhattan High School East Campus has come under scrutiny due to the claims of five parents
whose children are involved in a conflict. Without going into extensive detail, a group of less than 10 ninth grade girls have
had difficulty this semester getting along with each other.

What hasnít been clearly communicated is that significant disciplinary actions have been implemented. Two young people
were previously removed from that building due to their inability to follow school rules, but sufficient evidence that supports
removal of any other students has not been substantiated. Continuing efforts are being made in mediating this conflict so that
all students will feel safe, plus have the opportunity to learn.

I believe it is important that all adults involved model positive behavior. Our schools are a reflection of our society as a whole.
Frankly, Iím concerned about the lack of civility I currently see in our society. My parents stressed the importance of
common courtesy, being kind to others and modeling respect to me as a young child. Those lessons they taught me long ago
now seem even more relevant.

It is easy to sit back and blame our children today (or their schools) for this outbreak of violence that our country is
experiencing. It is my strongly-held opinion, however, that as adults we must set good examples for our youth. I sincerely
believe that as a community "unless we model what we teach, weíre teaching something else." Educators must remain
professional, responsive, courteous and also provide a sense of belonging for all students. Parents, likewise, even as they
attempt to support their children, must refrain from escalating the conflict and commit to becoming part of the solution.
Finally, the media bears a huge responsibility in helping provide safe schools. Sensationalizing events surrounding volatile
situations does not help resolve issues.

In closing, the most important measure we can take to provide a safe climate is to ensure that students remain connected to
their schools and meaningfully engaged in their learning. We appreciate the communityís ongoing support of our efforts.
Working together we can make a difference in the lives of our communityís greatest resource - our young people.

Dan Yunk, Superintendent of Schools Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 It is ironic to me as we prepare to celebrate what should
be both a blessed and joyous time of year that I was asked to write a contributing column about safety in our schools.

It seems that almost daily, some new "horror" story comes across the news line. Today as I write this I learned of a death
plot against the principal and six teachers in a Labette County, Kan., school. Closer to home, a bomb was brought to school
last week at Rock Creek. Earlier that week, a Topeka middle school student brought a hand gun to school and showed it to
fellow students following a Christmas program.

Our own high school west campus was put on alert December 17 because of a general threat penciled on a bathroom wall
that was discovered the day after a similar threat was found at a Lawrence High School. Colby schools were closed prior to
that when a taped threat was mailed to the police. Maize High School implemented a metal detector search around the same
time after rumors of a weapon surfaced.

As Mr. Braun so eloquently put it in his December 19 editorial, no school - public, private, urban, rural - can guarantee that
violence will not occur. In reality, schools probably never could guarantee total safety. Society today makes that task even
more difficult.

Having said that, I assure you that the staff of Manhattan-Ogden public schools is working diligently to provide a safe climate
for our students. The Board of Education is concerned about school safety and is supportive of the efforts administrators and
teachers are making on a daily basis to make schools safe. The vast majority of parents and students understand and
appreciate these efforts.

Recently, the climate of the Manhattan High School East Campus has come under scrutiny due to the claims of five parents
whose children are involved in a conflict. Without going into extensive detail, a group of less than 10 ninth grade girls have
had difficulty this semester getting along with each other.

What hasnít been clearly communicated is that significant disciplinary actions have been implemented. Two young people
were previously removed from that building due to their inability to follow school rules, but sufficient evidence that supports
removal of any other students has not been substantiated. Continuing efforts are being made in mediating this conflict so that
all students will feel safe, plus have the opportunity to learn.

I believe it is important that all adults involved model positive behavior. Our schools are a reflection of our society as a whole.
Frankly, Iím concerned about the lack of civility I currently see in our society. My parents stressed the importance of
common courtesy, being kind to others and modeling respect to me as a young child. Those lessons they taught me long ago
now seem even more relevant.

It is easy to sit back and blame our children today (or their schools) for this outbreak of violence that our country is
experiencing. It is my strongly-held opinion, however, that as adults we must set good examples for our youth. I sincerely
believe that as a community "unless we model what we teach, weíre teaching something else." Educators must remain
professional, responsive, courteous and also provide a sense of belonging for all students. Parents, likewise, even as they
attempt to support their children, must refrain from escalating the conflict and commit to becoming part of the solution.
Finally, the media bears a huge responsibility in helping provide safe schools. Sensationalizing events surrounding volatile
situations does not help resolve issues.

In closing, the most important measure we can take to provide a safe climate is to ensure that students remain connected to
their schools and meaningfully engaged in their learning. We appreciate the communityís ongoing support of our efforts.
Working together we can make a difference in the lives of our communityís greatest resource - our young people.

Dan Yunk, Superintendent of Schools Manhattan-Ogden USD 383
 
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