Every day thousands of you walk into your schools carrying the good and bad of your personal life – things I cannot presume to know.
I do know however, each of you has a story – you might be enjoying life with your parents, or just one parent, you could be fighting with a portion of your family or all, you could be a caretaker for your siblings or parent, there may be mental health, drug addiction, sickness, money issues, domestic violence, or other conflicts in your home.
You could also be enjoying a perfectly great life so far, but even I have not forgotten how complicated the years between middle and high school are – these years come with highs and lows, insecurities, challenges, competition, and natural peer conflict that are only magnified in your world of social media.
Despite your many different life stories, you and thousands of your peers walk into our schools each day equipped with one thing in common – the ability and free will to choose to make good decisions or bad ones, the ability to be kind or cruel, the ability to be respectful to those around you or not. No matter your life circumstance, these decisions are yours and yours alone.
I do not know why a student chooses to write threats to their school on bathroom walls, bring weapons to campus, threaten a school on social media, or even worse, shoot up a school and take the lives of their peers, but what I do know is that these events all happen as the result of a decision. A very bad, life changing and destructive decision.
I believe each of you, whatever your circumstances, believes in doing what is right, even when someone around you is doing what is wrong.
I am counting on you to tell someone when you hear that there is a weapon on campus, when you might know who has threatened your school on social media or on a bathroom wall, or when someone talks, even as a joke, about hurting themselves or someone else. We’ve made seeing something and saying something as easy as possible with the StudentProtect app. It’s anonymous and it’s immediate, and I hope you download it and use it when necessary.
I am asking you today to keep your eyes and your hearts wide open. It costs us nothing to share a kind word to someone we have never talked to or show an act of kindness to someone you don’t know. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make your school a better place with one act of kindness at a time – and it is my hope that this is a goal you all can share, despite any differences you may have.
Finally, you do not and should not have to carry your problems alone – reach out to an adult on your campus when you need to get support and maybe a little help. We are all dependent upon one another and there is nothing wrong with asking for help for yourself or a friend.
Students, I will never get to meet all of you, but together, we are Palm Beach County Schools. As Superintendent, I am going to do everything within my ability to make your school safe. I want us to be a place where we protect our house and one another by doing what is right and by calling out what is wrong when we see it. Are you with me?
I hope you have a wonderful and safe summer. Read something every day and commit to being a learner, even when you are not in the classroom.
Donald E. Fennoy II, Ed.D.
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