This headline poses a hard question. It is a question common to just about all high schools across the nation, but no one in a position of authority at our own local high school wants to give a good answer. Why?
Let’s start with a truth universally acknowledged:
Of all the variables affecting a school’s success and students’ performance, so-called “parental involvement” is critical. Yet Rappahannock County High School (RCHS) does very little, if anything, to encourage parental involvement. In fact, the very opposite: it pushes parents away.
I have come to this sad conclusion as both a parent and as the publisher of a newspaper whose duty is to report on local schools. (If this dual role means a conflict of interest, please stop reading here.) But whether a parent or the public: Both have a right to know.
My three children have had experiences in a wide range of schools: private and public; big-city and rural; day and boarding; huge state university and elite private college. But never have I felt more distant than now as the parent of my youngest child as an 8th grader at RCHS. While many excellent RCHS teachers, coaches and administrators are communicative and responsive, the prevailing attitude seems to be that parents are a nuisance to be avoided.
Proactive engagement occurs only when parents need to be informed of disciplinary actions triggered by their own child’s misbehavior. Positive reinforcement of good behavior is communicated only secondhand, such as letters from our state Delegate Todd Gilbert congratulating students on making honor role.
I have witnessed a similarly unresponsive attitude in my role as publisher of the community newspaper. Anyone with a police scanner knows that, within the last couple of weeks, drug-sniffing dogs from Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office were summoned to RCHS and that Rappahannock’s own Sheriff’s Office was called to RCHS on at least two different occasions (this in addition to the deputy assigned there on school days). Anyone with a child who uses Facebook or text messages knows that at least three RCHS students were suspended or expelled during that same period.
Yet no school reporting by this newspaper was able to confirm these “facts,” much less get any kind of official explanation. And no letter from the RCHS principal ever went out in student book bags to parents communicating what really happened and what if, anything, parents should do in helping their children work with RCHS in addressing the situation.
Maybe the explanation for not involving parents lies in some kind of misguided “privacy concerns,” even though no individual student names need be revealed.
Or maybe the explanation lies in a rural culture of reticence. That may have been a virtue in old-time western movies starring Gary Cooper, but in today’s world of interconnected technology, silence is not always golden, particularly when competing with the likes of Charlie Sheen and his antics.
It’s time for RCHS to abandon its bunker mentality.