Schools have always put safety first. At this moment in history, this is well beyond a platitude. Each day when I leave for work, the weight of keeping approximately 1,600 people safe rides in the passenger seat next to me.
There are two kinds of safety: physical and emotional. Neuroscience now confirms what common sense already told us: human brains learn through emotional channels, so learning only happens when humans are emotionally safe as well as physically safe.
Our focus on safety of both types is real. We will be conducting more safety practice than we have in the past. We are counting on parents to join us in helping our students understand that by practicing until we are automatic, we build the ability to respond safely to any circumstance, as a matter of muscle memory.
We are working closely with Risk Management and HISD PD, as well local first responders to ensure that we are following the guidance of experts and clearly communicating with our first responders to put safety first each and every day. Knowing we are prepared allows all of us to relax in the confidence that we know what to do in the unlikely case of a true emergency. This, in turn, lets us focus on teaching and learning.
Uniforms contribute to both types of safety. Physically, we can see at a glance if someone doesn’t “belong” in the space. This is even more important in times of budget cuts that reduce the number of adults, changing the adult:student ratio. From an emotional perspective, uniforms are designed to reduce the impact of peer pressure and support a learning environment where all thrive.
When dress code became a significant challenge last year, our community did not respond as it usually does; this was disappointing. By instituting a dress code change, we have been able to get the dialogue started that we tried to begin last year. I have personally spoken with each parent who has reached out to me with questions and concerns. At Lanier, we model, develop, expect and celebrate the qualities that embody the IB learner: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, and caring. We invite all in our community to join us in this endeavor, starting and ending with our students.
I have been thrilled to bring our students back to the process we follow at Lanier to use a design cycle and collaboration to solve our challenges together. A student committee is being formed and will meet for the first time during lunch with me on the second day of school (students and I agreed that day one is too hectic). Together, we will address both the physical and emotional safety elements of the dress code to develop policy and practices that put students in the center of owning keeping each other safe, just as we did at the start of last year to successfully launch “Spirit Shirt and Jeans Fridays” at Lanier. Students will decide when we are ready to bring parents into this conversation; please look for an invitation soon.
Safety is job one, every day and all day. Please join us in pausing, reflecting, and modeling making decisions that keep all in our community physically and emotionally safe in both our physical and cyber spaces. We can’t wait to start our new school year- GO PURPLE PUPS!!!!