I don't have a title for this post. I don't know that I even have anything constructive to say, or what I am allowed to say as an employee of a school district that is currently in crisis. I am nothing but a raw nerve of despondence, and I can't say everything I want to say, but I can't stay silent.
I first heard the news as most things in rural Iowa travel: gossip. A question from family members over dinner, told in that can you believe it? tone that goes along with divulging bad news. By the next day at school, rumors were swirling. Three kids from the high school expelled. Hazing incidents. Reporters. Newspapers. Television crews. Lies. Truth. A perfect storm of sensation to distract from everything we try to do right in our classrooms, and to instead focus on the worst imaginable scenarios of what allegedly happened.
I have heard very little fact about the events that occurred in my district, and I doubt that I will ever know everything. I know names. I know sordid details, no doubt being expanded on as they spread in this disgusting game of adult telephone. And I know that ultimately the kids suffer the most from this situation.
But we as teachers, as a school district, as a wider community suffer, too. We strive every day to create a safe environment, a caring place for all of our students. We do our best. And to have this happen, to have this be what puts us in the spotlight, is heartbreaking. We are not a place where this is okay. We are not a place where students are allowed to treat each other this way. We are not a place where teachers look the other way. We are not this place that people will now think we are based on a soundbite or an article.
I am scared for my students in middle school who are now worried about moving on to high school based on the awful things they are hearing. I am frustrated with people on the outside using this as an opportunity to release long-held hatred toward our school. I am furious with adults who think that gossip about teenagers is an acceptable pastime, especially when it's something of this magnitude. I am heartbroken for the victims who have had their childhoods scarred by senseless acts. I am disgusted and worried for the bullies who allowed poor decisions to irrevocably change their lives.
I refuse to let this change the love I have for my job, my building, or my district. A small group of troubled individuals did terrible things. We will not ignore this problem and pretend it didn't happen, but we will also not allow it to overshadow the truly amazing things that happen in this school district every day. This is not who we are, and I will do everything I can to create a positive narrative about this learning community.
I'll end this post with a picture of some of the high school kids I know at Clarion-Goldfield-Dows: members of my Varsity Cross Country team, on the day of their last group practice before Districts. They ran a slow, easy course that we use regularly. And when I saw them coming back into view, they were running together, as a family, even though they all run at different speeds. I didn't know they were going to do it; they just did it so they could be together one last time. Bad things might have happened here over the past few weeks, but some pretty amazing things happened, too.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.