LETTER: SUPERINTENDENT: The World in Which We Live

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Demopolis City School System Parents and Stakeholders,

On the evening of February 14, 2018, I would imagine every school administrator in America was thinking about school safety plans and how can we be more proactive. Schools are supposed to be the safe place for children, a place where adults will love and cultivate children despite the circumstances, and a place where hungry children can get at least two good meals each day. Schools should also be a place that is well lit, cool during the hot months, and warm during the cold months, as well as a place where children can grow intellectually and socially with college, work, or military being the end in mind.

Demopolis Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff

As a school system, Demopolis City Schools will revisit their crisis plans and put additional measures in place on all four campuses to ensure student safety. In an effort to be more proactive, extra safety procedures will be studied and implemented in the coming months. Furthermore, we will continue to work with the Mayor and Chief of Police to lay the foundation for strengthening our School Resource Officer presence on all four campuses. However, the tragedy that took place in Florida on Valentine’s Day should serve as a reminder that we live in a different world than the one in which you and I were raised. There are bigger issues that are impacting how today’s youth think and act. Issues that must be addressed before and after the seven hours children attend schools.

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As parents, it is imperative to monitor children’s social media accounts and question them about posts or friends that are not appropriate. Most likely it is the parent or guardian that pays the cell phone bill in the first place. As parents, if our children are acting abnormal at home, we need to have the uncomfortable discussions with them. We cannot rely on the school or church to initiate the mental, spiritual or behavioral health assistance children may need. Parents are encouraged to go through text messages and check book bags daily. Do not be afraid to eliminate the violent video games. Ask yourself, do these games encourage kindness and respect for humanity, or do these games encourage aggression and viciousness. Children may say that they need their space, but remember, it is your space in which they live.

As adults, often times we have to think for children and teens. It is important to remember what brain research tells us. The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. In fact, recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part of the brain. In teen’s brains, the connections between the emotional part of the brain and the decision-making center are still developing—and not necessarily at the same rate. That’s why when teens experience overwhelming emotional input, they can’t explain later what they were thinking. They weren’t thinking as much as they were feeling.

As with all other facets of education, school safety is best implemented with the tri-pod approach (student, school, home). Let’s work together to be proactive in ensuring that our schools and community continue to be safe places to learn, work, and live.

— Kyle Kallhoff is the superintendent of the Demopolis City School System.