As the sadistic warden said to convict Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is failure to communicate.”
Perhaps the primary lesson of the lunch period melee at Santa Monica High School ten days ago is that there has been a virtual communication collapse in the Santa Monica–Malibu Unified School District.
We heard from a number of Samohi students weeks ago that tension was rising on the campus, and sought, without success, to discuss the students’ worries with school officials.
When the students themselves tried to talk to Samohi administrators about the increasing tension in advance of the melee, their concerns were dismissed as “rumors.”
Though many students witnessed the Friday fracas, no students were invited to describe what they saw at the “informational meeting” held at Samohi following the outburst.
A number of students did speak during the public comment period at last Thursday’s Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting. The entire Board was present, along with school officials, but the only Board members who seemed to actually hear what the students were saying were Oscar de la Torre and Maria Leon-Vasquez.
Noting that the situation at the high school was still volatile, Leon-Vasquez proposed that a community meeting, which would include students, and be held as soon as possible, but her proposal was barely acknowledged and not supported by any other Board member or Superintendent John Deasy.
The School District’s sole reason for being is the education of students, and, as any good teacher knows, education is not a monologue, but a conversation in which students participate fully.
If the Samohi administration had listened to the students weeks ago, perhaps it could have resolved the problems that triggered the tension and avoided the lunch time eruption. But it didn’t listen.
In the aftermath, Samohi principal Ilene Straus and Deasy seemed less interested in finding out what had happened than in downplaying it, whatever it was.Until Straus, Deasy and the School Board begin to listen to and hear the students, respond to them in a serious way and address their concerns and complaints, there can be no real progress – on any front.