Mt. Ararat Middle School
66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086
Phone: (207)729-2950 Fax: (207)729-2964
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January 31, 2017
Dear Students and Parents/Guardians,
In these updates, I often have the privilege of highlighting positive happenings at our school. However, I am writing to you today because a mistake has been made. Making mistakes is a part of growing up; we are constantly working with adolescents, parents, and the community to help children learn from their mistakes, as well as to help them understand the broad implications of prohibited behaviors.
Recently, a very concerning behavior took place at our school: A student used disturbing and discriminatory language toward another student. We want to assure all members of our school community that we took this incident very seriously. It was addressed through a thorough disciplinary process. The need to protect the confidentiality of the students involved does not permit me to provide specificity. An isolated incident of behavior such as this does not represent the positive norms of our school community.
In response to some inquiries that I have received from parents and community members about what we are doing to promote kindness, respect for diversity, and compassion, I want to take this opportunity to share some of our ongoing efforts here at MAMS:
Our school-wide Code of Cooperation of Focused, Respectful, and Responsible, is taught daily in every classroom. As part of this, students and teachers engage in discussions and programming around what respectful behavior looks like in a school and community setting.
Every student participates in the Advisor Group program, where they are matched up with one adult and a small number of peers with whom they start every day and engage in community building and social skill development activities. A particular focus of this curriculum includes teaching lessons around diversity, empathy, and tolerance.
Furthermore, tolerance and diversity are also taught within curriculum content in social studies and through reading and writing.
Through the Boys to Men and Hardy Girls curriculum, we engage our students in programming about the potentially negative societal pressures facing adolescent boys and girls today.
Last month, we brought many of our students to the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine in Augusta where they participated in programming around stereotypes and decision-making.
In November, in response to the tone of current events, our staff engaged with students through talking points and resources about how to treat each other with the values of kindness, tolerance, and respect. These discussions are ongoing.
As a school, we place particular emphasis on student voice and empowerment. We have a number of student leadership groups that have developed several student-led efforts related to promoting a positive school environment, including:
This fall, 8th grade students came together to create a new club, Change the World Team, a group focused around promoting the positive values of kindness, respect, and tolerance in our school community. One of their first initiatives was to place tear-out compliment slips all around the school so that students could leave positive notes for each other.
Our school’s Interact Club, a leadership and community service group, recently started a school-wide initiative called The Blizzard of Kindness, where students and staff recognize moments when students treated other students with kindness, respect, and generosity.
Our Student Council recently engaged all teams in two competitive fundraisers to help those in need in our community.
This Spring, there will be a collaborative event with our students and the students at Brunswick Junior High School. The event will include a march where our students will meet students from BJHS in the middle of the green bridge to send a message that students from both schools are working together to stand up for kindness, safety, and respect in our schools and communities-at-large.
I am sharing this list of programming with you in the event you wish to further discussion with your child. Because, despite all these educational efforts, there is always more we can do. Please be assured that we will use this incident, as well as feedback from our students, teachers, parents, and broader community to continue to refine our efforts to teach kindness, respect for diversity, and compassion.
I will be meeting today with our Superintendent Brad Smith to discuss the idea of hosting a community-wide event where we can all share ideas about how to further efforts to promote our positive values. In the meantime, feel free to share any ideas with me that you may have about how MAMS could help all of our students to prepare for active and positive participation in a democratic society.
I also welcome the opportunity to meet with any student or parent to discuss ideas or concerns. Please feel free to call the school at 729-2950 or send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.