These were comments given to the Antioch School Board at their October 8th meeting.
Hi, my name is Angie Jorgenson. I am the parent of a Deer Valley Junior and a Dallas Ranch 8th grader, the Deer Valley Band Booster Vice President, I help with the Deer Valley Girls Golf team, and am on campus weekly as a volunteer with Younglife, an international organization that works with kids. I am here in support of Deer Valley in light of recent events in the media and on campus.
I don’t want to try to discount anything that has been said tonight. There are valid concerns that have been brought up that need to be addressed. However, it has been my experience that many issues often stem from the fact that when something doesn’t happen according to a person’s idea of how it should be or should’ve been handled, they let their anger get the best of them. Sometimes it’s ok to get angry, but we need to move past the anger to solve issues at their root, instead of vilifying one person or falling prey to a knee jerk reaction caused by anger. We need to actively listen when something is said. We need to realize communication breakdowns and strive to communicate better. We need to own our mistakes and make corrections. We need to work to be true peacemakers in our school community, not just peacekeepers. We need to stop placing blame and start presenting solutions.
Deer Valley is a good school. I could spend a half hour telling you about all the high achievers, programs, clubs, sports, music, and high academics that exist at Deer Valley but I hope you already know about those things.
There are a very small number of kids, I believe about 50, which is only about two percent of the entire student body that are a problem for this campus. Unfortunately, so much attention is being given to this problem group that the general consensus of public opinion is that this is a terrible school with an ineffective administration and out of control kids where nothing good could possibly happen. I am here to tell you the opposite is true.
When you think of an out of control situation, what comes to mind? Syria, the Ebola crisis, a prison on the verge of lockdown, riots, chaos? I can tell you that at Deer Valley we are very far from the examples I just cited. I believe the pervasive negativity by the community and the media is taking a toll on our kids and teachers. The more you hear something the more you start to believe it. I am around quite a bit and have not seen anything that comes close to an out of control campus. I invite you to come hang out with me at lunch on campus if you don’t believe me.
Fighting is not acceptable, but I personally have seen fights on campus dealt with quickly by the administration. My child is good at communicating with me, as a Junior she has been privy to maybe three or four classroom disruptions (including fights), physical or verbal, total in all her classrooms over the course of the last 2 ½ years. That’s 20 classes and 400 school days with minimal disruption. Most of the kids I have talked to think Deer Valley is a good school. They’ll tell you about kids in their class that make it hard to pay attention or cause problems, but none of them are refusing to go to class because they feel unsafe. If you walk around campus when class is in session there is hardly anyone out and around. There is a security option in place that allows teachers to call for help when needed, and a number to dial if it is an emergency situation. The kids do not run the school, not even close, however the hands of the administration and staff have been tied due to past situations and lawsuits that have severely restricted what they are able to do to enforce discipline and order. We need to realize and admit that we have become hog tied by what is politically correct and by what the media portrays. We are so concerned we might get sued or portrayed as intolerant that we are unwilling to stand up for what’s right. We need to speak truth, we need to draw a line in the sand and call unacceptable behavior exactly that, we need to hold people accountable for their actions and there needs to be real consequences for those actions. This goes for kids as well as adults.
I will not deny there are problems. There are still fights, and we do have paid security guards on campus to help keep our kids safe. I’m sure the typical high school issues of sex, drugs, and alcohol are there. This is high school. There will always be problems as there will never be a perfect school. To my knowledge there never has been, mine definitely wasn’t. School is a place where you get an education, not just from books, but also from life experience. There are always things we can do better. Teachers and kids need to feel safe and supported. As hard as it is to accept, we won’t be able to reach every kid, and it won’t always be the greatest environment, but we can reinforce the positive instead of focusing so much on the negative and buying into half truths and generalizations. One, two, or even 10 out of control kids doesn’t not mean the entire campus of over 2,500 is out of control and unmanageable. My experience with this administration has been positive. I believe they are trying to do their best for the school. They have shown themselves willing to communicate as well as own mistakes when they occur. They have control of this campus as a whole, and are working hard to keep it that way. We need to trust them and support them so they can do their job.
We can’t stop every negative thing from happening, and sometimes those things happen just because of people interacting. Pitting people against each other never solves anything; it just sets the stage for a toxic environment. We all need to work together to keep things from being blown out of proportion. Deer Valley is it’s own community with many good teachers and parents involved in it that deserve our support. In the coming days I hope we can reverse some of the negative out there with some positive.
I would ask the school board to take a hard line with the media. I for one am tired of seeing positive interviews cut out or dismissed. If they can’t portray both sides, or are unwilling to report on positive occurrences as well as the negative, then don’t give them access to our schools. I also ask the board to look for viable solutions, not just those that are politically acceptable.
Make the hard choices that will affect real change.