December 17, 2021
Dear Mohawk Trail & Hawlemont Families,
In reflecting on the event that unfolded at Mohawk Trail Regional School (MTRS) on Dec. 6 and the nationwide TikTok threats that surfaced at the end of this week, I understand the weight all of this carries on our entire district. It has been an incredibly difficult few weeks for our students, staff, and caregivers.
Yesterday I shared information with you specifically concerning the viral TikTok messages. While these messages were not specifically aimed at any of our schools, and were deemed as NOT credible threats to our school community, we remained on alert and worked closely with our law enforcement partners. Our students may have seen increased police presence around the district as our local police departments took extra precautions in light of recent local and national events.
This is once again a reminder for caregivers to keep those lines of communication open with your children; to know what social apps they are using and how they are using them; and to alert a trust adult when the see or hear something that doesn't seem or feel quite right.
I want to again stress, threats made against a school are taken seriously and may be considered a felony. Individuals found responsible for these types of threats may face felony charges. Additionally, a felony can result in immediate exclusion from school, long term suspension, and expulsion.
As I shared in my statement at the Mohawk Trail Regional School District school committee meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 8 (the full statement can be found it its entirety below), our focus has been--and will continue to be--ensuring the safety of the entire school community. We would never open any school building if we did not feel we could do so safely, and especially after an incident involving a school threat.
If you or your student have any information involving threats or harm, I urge you to please contact Acting Principal Diane Zamer (email@example.com) or the local police department. If you see something; say something. If you have any questions or need help accessing additional supports, please be in touch.
Thank you to our entire school community for your support throughout these past few weeks. One thing remains abundantly clear--our students and staff are strong and resilient even in the most trying of times. I want to extend my sincerest appreciation to Acting Principal Diane Zamer for her leadership during this time; and thank our schools and central office administration for their tireless work as we continue to ensure a safe school environment for all.
* Superintendent Stanton's statement to School Committee, 12/8/21
* COVID-19 School Planning Task Force updates
* US History class participates in wage negotiation simulation
* MTRS visits to elementary schools
* FULLY FUNDED - Winter hiking equipment
* Winter Enrichment programs announced; Hilltown Scout Camp returns in February
* Talia Miller named Celia B. Godsil fellowship
* School Spotlights
Superintendent Stanton's statement to MTRSD school committee 12/8/21
Process for responding to emergent threats
I want to begin by saying thank you to the students who brought forward their concerns on Monday afternoon, to the staff who have been supporting all our students over the past few days, our school and central office administration who have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of our entire school community, and our state and local police for their presence and expertise in responding to and investigating this incident.
We are doing absolutely everything possible to ensure the safety of our students and staff in response to the incident brought forward Monday. I want to acknowledge that, due to student confidentiality laws/regulations, I cannot share the level of detail that some families have requested.
As a parent of a current high school junior and four graduates, I know and understand this is unsettling, upsetting, and frustrating. I’ve lived through active school violence threats with my own children, talked on the phone with them while they cried and asked for my reassurance as state police patrolled their school hallways and provided additional presence during arrival and dismissals. In Mohawk Trail, we are fortunate that threats of school violence are rare. But this does not dismiss the amount of fear, anxiety, and stress they induce, especially considering the most recent school tragedy in Oxford, Michigan.
I want to take a moment to explain our process for responding to reported threats against the school community.
Whenever we receive information about a threat to the school, we assess to what degree does the information affect the immediate safety of students and staff in the building under our care. We determine whether the threat requires an immediate shelter in place, lock down, or active threat response--all situations for which we have trained.
Once we determine the immediacy of the threat, we assess how to ensure the safety of any students and/or staff that have either brought information forward or are subjects in the threat and bring those involved into safe places in the school. We simultaneously alert and request police assistance, if warranted.
Once we ensure the building is secure, we begin investigating the threat.
In some cases, we determine the credibility of the reported threat through our own internal investigation. -->In some cases, given the seriousness of the threat, we partner with state and local police to determine the credibility of the threat. -->We will always err on the side of caution and request support from state and local police as needed to ensure the safety of our school community. In addition, we work with law enforcement and our families to determine whether there are any additional safety risks for any of the students involved.
We provide initial information to our school community outlining: the threat that was received; identify who we are working with to identify the credibility of the threat; and assure the community that we are following our process to ensure the safety of our school community.
Our school safety team is convened to determine how to support all students involved in the incident. In the case of a serious threat where the state police are involved, we are in constant communication with the District Attorney’s office as they conduct their investigation into the incident.
When the state police investigate school threats, we await the conclusion of the investigation before responding in accordance with the school’s code of conduct as defined in the student handbook or any applicable Massachusetts laws regarding student discipline as any police charges or outcomes may affect the school's response to the incident.
We’ve received many questions about the discipline surrounding this event, and we understand that it can be frustrating not to know the specific consequences that may be imposed. The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as state law/regulations prohibit the release of student records, which includes discipline records. However, what we can share is that when students say or do things that violate school rules or policies, our student code of conduct is clear there will be consequences including suspension or expulsion and could also result in legal or criminal consequences.
I want to be clear; I am not able to share detailed information regarding individual students involved in a school threat. I am not able to share whether a student is subject to school discipline such as suspension, whether a student is home, or whether or when a student will return to school. I know how unsettling this can feel, and I ask that you continue to reach out if you have questions about our procedures and process.
I also want to be clear; school staff and administration followed every step of this process during Monday’s incident. We have also followed up on every concern brought forward since, and this includes several rumors that have circulated that are in fact, false. We have prioritized the critical needs of those students who have been involved in Monday’s incident.
Our focus has been and will continue to be on ensuring the safety of the entire school community. We would never open a school building if we did not feel we could do so safely, and especially after an incident involving a school threat. During this challenging time, I want to remind everyone that the most important way to prevent the kinds of tragedies such as Sandy Hook, Parkland, and Oxford is to build strong relationships with all of our students. These are exactly the kinds of relationships we have developed with our students and families and I am incredibly grateful for that.
COVID-19 School Planning Task Force updates
The COVID-19 School Planning Task Force convened on Monday, Dec. 6 to discuss concerns over rising COVID-19 cases across the county and district. Additionally, the task force discussed the need for revising protocols surrounding positive case notifications and amending the data dashboard to be school-specific and user-friendly.
As a result, COVID-19 Nurse Leader Donna Weber is now issuing communication to all district families whenever an individual in the two district system tests positive for COVID-19. Additionally, the newly revised data dashboard will be updated daily by 5 p.m. The dashboard link is embedded in the positive case notifications, but can always be found on the district's COVID-19 Information page: www.mtrsd.org/covid-19-information.
As noted over the past few weeks, COVID-19 caseload numbers are on the rise and we continue to ask for our community to PLEASE stay diligent in following the Fab FIVE to help stop the spread. If you haven't yet scheduled your COVID-19 vaccination (for yourself or a child aged 5-11), please consider scheduling your appointment. Trust the facts; get the VAX! Vaccination helps protect you and your family from COVID-19. Don't forget to wear your masks; wash your hands; maintain physical distancing when feasible; and STAY HOME when you are not feeling well. Together, these mitigation efforts will help us bring our caseload numbers down.
If you are planning to gather with those outside your household this winter, use FRCOG's chart below to help assess your risk of catching or spreading COVID-19. LAYER UP with your COVID-19 protections and keep your family (and community) healthy! We need our entire community to work together to bring our caseload numbers back down.
Click here to visit the district's COVID-19 information page and data dashboard.
US History class participates in wage negotiation simulation
Before the Thanksgiving break, students in Catherine Glennon's US History class (Grades 10 & 11) participated in a wage negotiation simulation and assumed the roles of a factory owner, adult, or child laborer. Students were provided with a breakdown of their weekly expenses and budgets, and negotiated with one another - including the business owners who competed for being the most profitable.
"They went to great lengths," said Glennon. "In the one picture, Hanna is pleading with Emery to pay her more for the week because of the children her character has to feed at home--she's showing pictures on her phone of the child laborers we saw earlier in class."
History...economics...financing all blended into a great lesson with a real-world application! KUDOS to our students for their awesome negotiating skills!
MTRS visits to elementary schools
There will be additional school visits to the sixth grade classrooms over the next several months as we continue to prepare our students for life at MTRS in the upcoming year. Hard to believe it, but the Class of 2028 will soon be heading to middle school!
MTRS Winter Concert
FULLY FUNDED - Winter Hiking Equipment
Funds will be utilized to purchase winter equipment for a new trail walking class at MTRS this spring. Equipment will also be used by our MTRSD Community Engagement and Enrichment Programs to provide fun, outdoor experiences for our district's elementary students. You can view her project here: www.donorschoose.org/project/winter-hiking-equipment/5888213
Thank you to our entire community for their support (donating...sharing our posts...) for this program. We're excited to hit the trails and show you our adventures!
Winter Enrichment programs announced; Hilltown Scout Camp returns in February
Winter Enrichment program line-up released today! Be sure to check out Mrs. Woof's winter program offerings (for grades 3-12) including middle school band with Nick; babysitters course; MTRS snow club; elementary snowshoeing; and comic creations with Ezra! To view full program descriptions, visit www.mtrsd.org/ceep OR click HERE for the latest newsletter.
Hilltown Scout Camp returns!
Looking for a February vacation educational camp for your child/ren? We are happy to announce we're bringing back a fan-favorite as we offer our Hilltown Scout Camp's "The Wonders of Winter" program at MTRS! This program is open to all district students in grades K-6; space is limited (18 spots available). And thanks to generous funding from the Mary Lyon Foundation, we will be able to offer TWO scholarships for qualifying families. Be sure to head over to www.mtrsd.org/ceep for more information and a line-up of camp events for the week.
Parents' Night Out - Fun had by all!
Talia Miller named Celia B. Godsil fellowship
From the Rural Schools Collaborative press announcement:
"Rural Schools Collaborative is pleased to announce our 2021-22 Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellow recipients. The Fellows will work with their respective students on place-based projects, which address specific community issues. We believe that rural teachers are placemakers. Through place-based learning efforts, teachers are able to express their dedication to the community by rooting classroom teachings in the unique history, environment, economy, and culture of the location in which they educate.
Each Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellow receives a $3,000 grant that supports the student-centered place-based project, a professional development presentation, and an honorarium for the educator. The Grants in Place program is funded through the generous support from Celia and Mark Godsil in honor of Celia's career as a public school teacher and their belief in the importance of classroom teachers to rural communities. Learn more about the program here!
In your region, we are excited to share with you that Talia Miller's project has been selected to be a Celia B. Godsil Grants in Place Fellow for the 2021-22 school year.
Talia Miller has taught in elementary and middle schools for many years and she is currently the Service-Learning Coordinator at Colrain Central School in Colrain, Massachusetts. In her current role, Talia helps to facilitate her school's service-learning initiative by offering professional development, co-teaching units, building community partnerships and coordinating service-learning in Pre-K through sixth grade. Colrain Central School is a small, rural school of about 110 students in the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts.Talia loves building connections to the community and working with teachers to support a shared vision for the school. Talia loves to spend time hiking with her family, running, and cross-country skiing. She also has a background in environmental education and mindfulness training.
Coltrain was home to William Apess, an Native American of the Pequot tribe and an early civil rights activist. This history is little known to most of the residents in Colrain. The local library has asked Colrain Central school to help the town to develop a celebration for the third annual William Apess Day. This celebration will be designed to help the town recognize and celebrate the work of William Apess and the role of indigenous peoples of their area. Other needs their community partners have approached them about consist of helping them to prepare for climate change and to consider how to reduce their vulnerability to flooding and natural disasters. The students will work with local scientists, land trust employees, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife to come up with the solutions.
After working with our community partners and learning about their problem, each class will work together to come up with a proposal for a solution. The project will be entirely student-driven, and will not only impact the students, but the town and community as a whole."
Sanderson Academy - Food Drive
Colrain Central - 4th graders learn about ENERGY!
The SEPAC is a self-governing body (creates its own by-laws and operational procedures) and is open to all parents of children with disabilities and other interested parties. All are welcome.