On January 27th we closed Amherst Regional High School for the day due to a threat posted on social media

. I have shared with the community the process that led to the decision to close the school and the initial steps taken in responding to the immediate safety concerns that were raised. The actions that followed were consistent with our student code of conduct and included disciplinary consequences and educational interventions. Since that time, we have conducted a comprehensive investigation into separate allegations of racial harassment and bullying. This process has been multi-layered, extensive and, not surprisingly, very time consuming. The seriousness and complexity of the situation required an exceptionally careful response. As part of the comprehensive investigation, district and site-level administrators reviewed all available data, including social media posts; staff and student written statements; interviews with staff, students and family members; and district policies and definitions of bullying and racial harassment. Ultimately, the investigation showed that there were separate behaviors during the series of events that are consistent with the definition of both bullying and racial harassment. Accordingly, disciplinary consequences and educational interventions have been assigned as appropriate and where warranted. This information has now been shared with all those involved and the consequences will be implemented immediately. I understand that there will be some in the community who wish to know specifics about the individuals involved and the consequences given; however, these specifics will not be shared. The district is legally bound by confidentiality requirements for children as well as for personnel. And beyond the legal boundaries, I believe there is also a strong ethical obligation to protect the privacy and confidentiality of these members of our community, with sensitive information being shared on a need-to-know basis only. In addition to the investigation into the incident itself, a thorough after-action review was also conducted. The team participating in the after-action review was comprised of district staff and out-of-district consultants. These consultants have a great depth and breadth of expertise in student behavior, discipline, counseling, educational interventions, and organizational improvement (particularly related to areas of systemic and organizational improvement). We spent several days examining our response to the situation at both the school and district levels. The review was extremely valuable and highlighted some systems issues that must be attended to, including strengthening and clarifying communication protocols, clarifying expectations regarding behavioral intervention, strengthening investigation protocols, and updating the districts’ procedures for addressing bullying or bias-based harassment. We are particularly interested in developing our community’s skills as active bystanders who are able to intervene and help resolve conflicts in order to support a positive and safe school culture. New ways to enhance our school climate were also identified, including development of a standing Equity Committee that will meet on a regular basis and the development of an online investigation reporting system. I look forward to sharing information and progress reports about these important next steps. This incident provides an important opportunity to address deeper issues of racial equity affecting both our schools and the broader community. As a community, we clearly value inclusiveness and acceptance for all, but our system must also provide the supports necessary to actualize those values. We prioritize an environment where our students, faculty/staff and families can work together to develop a safe, accepting and inclusive school climate. We will provide opportunities for growth through personal and professional development regarding inclusive practices and issues of equity. Working together, we will provide opportunities for students, staff, and community members to continue this dialogue to support growth and learning for all of us—students and adults alike.

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