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Why didn’t THEY know?

The Phoebe Prince tragedy confounds me…from two distinctive perspectives.

I have been a high school teacher…in a school with a reputation as being a “tough” school. Many of our students were from single family homes, living on public assistance. Having an older sibling who “graduated” into a prison facility was not uncommon. So please disavow yourself of any mental picture of this high school as the gathering place for scrubbed adolescents in button down shirts, eager to learn Shakespeare.

But all that being was a far, far, far more civilized place than the picture we’ve been given of South Hadley High.

At “my” school, it was a custom for teachers to stand IN the hallways, right outside their door… while classes were changing. It was NOT required….as I say, it was custom. A teacher learns a lot in the hallways as classes are changing…and there is much “interaction” with the kids that a classroom does not provide. In the hallways, you will see tears…and you can question and comfort; you will see fights… and you can step in.  In the hallways…you will learn who are friends or enemies…outcasts or instigators…you can get a good take on what’s bubbling up.

Hmmm…Do the South Hadley teachers stand in the halls?  I’d like to ask them.

I have been the parent of children who attended public school as well. On the day that my daughter started kindergarten..we excitedly made our way to her classroom door (open campus  setting.)  There we saw a group of bewildered children, some alone…some with irritated parents. The teacher was indeed in the classroom, but she had locked the door and was enjoying a smoke.  When I inquired about it later, I was told her contract did not require her to open the door till the minute school started. In the months to come, she never did one whit more than her contract demanded.  The teachers I knew would stay on their own time if a high school student needed help after school; this kindergarten teacher would leave five-year-olds’ unattended… if it was one minute past her union contract obligation.

While I’m on the subject of spending time with students ON YOUR OWN TIME…let me say…that has innumerable rewards as well. One on one…kids will confide. will gossip, will share their stories and the stories of what is really going on in their world. Moreover, that intimacy builds trust…even among the “toughest” kids…and builds cooperation. If any teachers at South Hadley High had had this kind of relationship with Sean Mulveyhill or any of the others…they might have called them in and said..”Make this STOP. C’mon, you’re a leader, a captain. I’m watching you. I’m counting on you. Stop by tomorrow and the next day…I want to know how YOU are making this stop.”

But of course, that means TEACHER cannot be the first out the door.  TEACHER has to engage, listen, and give freely of his or her free time.  How “engaged” are the faculty at South Hadley High?  You know, the place where books are shoved from students arms, girls are slammed into lockers, new students are threatened and pursued into restrooms. vulgarities shouted in the library…bullies barge into class-in-session.

And no one KNOWS anything…unless a report is made?

Teachers are still professionals, aren’t they…not watch-the-clock fast food clerks?  Why didn’t they know? How COULD all this have happened in their professional workplace and they missed it? To me, this is analogous to a patient bleeding to death in a busy hospital corridor…and staff saying”Huh? Well no one TOLD me!”

Do they realize their plea of ignorance is a serious indictment of their professionalism?


And now, they should be held accountable.

4 Responses

  1. You are absolutely right and thank you for being the kind of teacher we expect and hope for….

    Why didn’t they know? You and I and a lot of others with some kind of common sense know that they were aware of it all along. They could have known every insident and names just by asking. They play the game of pretending not to see, pretending not to know and asking no questions. Is this safe for our kids? NO. When they do that it realy brings dispare to the victim, they are siding with the bullies. The victim feels that if this can happen in front of everyone she trusted and depended on for her safety then it’s hopeless. The administration would like us to believe that she didn’t even confide in her mother but we know that is not true at all. Even if she hadn’t that is no excuse for them, their business is what is happening in that school. They failed her, they failed her family, they failed the bullies even and they failed the community. They also failed the teachers, those that reported it and nothing was done. They failed every student in that school because they know they are out and out lying. These are the role models for these students. Where else could this happen and you still keep your job? The administration and the bullies show up at school next day like nothing happened…you go ahead with a planned dance giving the bullies a chance to attend and boast of their “accomplishment”. These schools and administration obviously have too much power, they did their own investigation, they answer to no one. They absolve themselves of any responsibility or accountibility by stressing the point that they are only a reflection of the community, a mirror image. They just turn it back onto the community. The superintendent stressed this point and the fact that it was a lot of cyberbulling and text msgs. They wouldn’t know anything about that, they have no control over that. They know nothing, now let’s go to the dance.

    The bullies are learning a lot from them…

    • Parent,your point is well taken. If you don’t know what YOU should know..that is not a viable excuse for a professional. You inspired my new post this AM. Thanks for your insightful post.

  2. If you’ve read comments on my blog, you will have seen statements from purported SHHS students who write that the principal stands in the hallways. Therefore, it’s not a far stretch to say that teachers are expected to do the same for certain time periods. In addition, a couple of the items in the indictment papers point towards events which occurred in the hallways and in sight of teachers.

    They knew. But looked the other way at times. At other times, they may have seen and reported, but the principal did not reduce the report to writing. I’d be really interested in the contents of any emails, to the point of contemplated submitting a formal public records act request for those emails. Can’t help but wondering if the DA subpoena’d those emails. …

    • Excellent point, Sauerkraut.

      I’m new to your Blog but a faithful reader these days. I’m still reading old posts…your blog is an amazing source of information. All of us interested in this case owe you our thanks.

      I would like to aee emails and hear from these teachers who made reports as well. Hard to believe teachers who saw these incidents..if indeed all these overt acts were such aberrations…were not discussing this among themselves.

      Yet…nothing? No help for this child? Not one advocate?

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