Letter to the editor: Shaftsbury School Board not transparent enough
Shaftsbury School Board not transparent enough
Like most parents, I recently learned that the Shaftsbury School Board and administration knew that there were elevated levels of CO2 at the school since April and did not disclose this fact to parents until after the information was brought to public light following a parent post on Facebook, and a Bennington Banner report the next day. This is unacceptable. First, because elevated CO2 levels have been proven to have a direct and negative impact on human cognition and decision making, as reported in a landmark Harvard Public Health Study. Degrading air quality and elevated CO2 levels is relevant information for parents and the public. I expect, at the very least, a notice to be sent to parents and staff members by the principal or the superintendent. I also expect that the Board would notify the public of elevated CO2 levels. This is in the public's interest, it is a public matter, and the discussion belongs squarely in the public realm.
While this lack of transparency regarding CO2 levels is concerning, it is mostly alarming because it not an isolated incident. It comes on the heels of an utterly irresponsible series of decisions made by the administration and excused by the Board.
Just a few months ago, after a student reported a visiting adult inappropriately touched her in the school hallway, I learned that no one from the school contacted the parents of the child who reported this incident until more than a week after she came to administrators with the complaint. This is not only unacceptable it is frighteningly negligent. The incident was never reported to DCF by school officials, as every mandated reporter is obligated to do. Everyone who works with children or in childcare is a mandated reporter. Everyone who goes through the training knows that you are never to interrogate or investigate the allegation, even with good intentions, for the safety and well being of the child and the accused. You must report the allegation and allow trained investigators and interviewers do their job.
If my child ever reports that someone has touched her inappropriately, abused her in any way in school or outside of school, I want a phone call within an hour of that report. What parent wouldn't expect that and should not expect that?
To assure parents this will never happen again, the Board must update school policy before the next school year. The policy should clearly state that all school administrators must inform parents (unless the parent is the accused party or suspected of fostering the abuse) within an hour of their child reporting abuse in the school or outside of it. If parents are not notified with immediate expediency that their child has reported abuse, and if the incident fails to be reported to the proper investigators, the administrator should be placed on immediate leave and an investigation should swiftly follow.
If school administrators and school board members are notified about anything that impacts the health and well being of the students and staff in the school, parents and the public should be notified promptly.
Because administrators and the Board have withheld information that is relevant to student safety and health, I am not confident that without clear guidelines and specific language and accountability measures that the Board or administrators will be able to do what is in the best interest of children. We expect more and believe that our children deserve more from school leaders, even if you are good people.
— Briee Della Rocca Shaftsbury
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