Dear Dorchester County Parents, Staff, and Community Members:
At last week’s Board of Education regular monthly meeting, I listened as teachers and others addressed the Board regarding their deep concern regarding classroom behavior. I would like to assure the community that school safety is a significant priority for the Dorchester County Board of Education. We know that the majority of concerns from last week’s meeting derived from three elementary schools and involved our PreK through second grade students hitting, pushing, biting, kicking, and using inappropriate language. We want all our students and staff members to be able to teach and learn in a safe and mutually respectful environment.
The Dorchester County Board of Education is collaborating with our administrators and staff at all schools to address recent concerns regarding student behavior and conduct as we believe these issues are critical. I would also like to remind the staff of our schools that there are numerous resources available (in-house counseling, Reshaping Individual Experience – RISE program, Ripple Effect software, access to conflict/mediation services, family navigation services, school-based wellness teams, mobile crisis teams, school-based mental health services provided by our partners Eastern Shore Psychological Services, For All Seasons, and Corsica River Health Services), all of which are outlined in the Dorchester County Public Schools Code of Student Conduct Handbook (revised July 2018) on pages 39-47.
I can assure parents and community that the Board of Education fully supports our educators in helping students to make better decisions. Dorchester County Public Schools has the advantage of having highly skilled, seasoned principals. Between them, they have 108 years of experience in school leadership and bring a wealth of knowledge each day, serving as their teachers’ number one resource in their building. Students who need assistance with addressing disruptive behavior will receive an appropriate intervention and/or disciplinary consequence according to the Dorchester County Public Schools policies and procedures. The Dorchester County Board of Education also recognizes the requirement to follow Senate Bill 651 enacted by the Maryland General Assembly in 2017. This bill prohibits a child enrolled in a public pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, or second grade from being suspended or expelled from school, subject to very few exceptions.
Safety is a significant issue. We realize some of our students are bringing concerns from home – particularly the results of trauma and poverty – that we, as a district, cannot manage alone. We must partner with parents/guardians, community, and staff to find creative ways to support our schools and students. I urge all parents and guardians to work with your child’s school and let’s create solutions in the best interests of all children.
In closing, please know that the Board of Education and Superintendent are working diligently with the Dorchester County Council to gain the resources we need to train and support our staff and students. I look forward to your continued partnership in making the climate of Dorchester County Public Schools one of mutual respect and safety for everyone.
Diana Mitchell, Ed.D., is superintendent of schools for Dorchester County.