Letter from Superintendent Kirby: School Safety Updates & TikTok Threat Challenge
Dear CH-UH Staff, Students and Community,
As you may be aware, our District has had several security-related incidents over the past week and a half. Most importantly, all students, staff, and members of our school community remained safe throughout all of these situations. I applaud the focused response of staff, maturity of students, patience of families, and professionalism of local law enforcement. “See Something, Say Something” and the District’s emergency response plans were important tools in managing these events.
This has been a difficult time for us all, and I know you may have concerns. I shared the following updates during our Board of Education meeting last night related to our response and next steps.
In less than two weeks, we have had two apparent threats on social media against Heights High School, one against Monticello Middle School, and one against Roxboro Middle School, as well as an apparent threat against Noble Elementary sent in a text message just this morning. The student who police say made the December 6 social media threat against Heights High School has been arrested and charged with two felonies: making terroristic threats and inducing panic.
Regarding the Monticello threat, we have since learned from law enforcement that the message was directed at a different school in New York state. The message directed at Noble, as well as the post directed at Roxboro Middle School, were both found by law enforcement to be unsubstantiated. The other social media post involving Heights High remains under investigation.
Unfortunately, this wave of social media threats is not unique to the Heights and is happening all over the country. We have recently learned of a TikTok challenge that may take place tomorrow, December 17. It is our understanding that the challenge encourages students to make threats of shootings, bomb threats and violence against schools. The TikTok challenge did not originate in our school District or the local area. These threats do not target any specific school but may impact schools across the U.S., including ours. As an extra precaution, Cleveland Heights Police will have an increased presence at our schools tomorrow, December 17.
I cannot stress enough that making any sort of threat to harm another person, regardless of actual intent, is always taken seriously and can even lead to criminal charges. Curbing this trend begins with us; all adults have a responsibility to talk with our children about responsible social media use and the potentially life-altering consequences that can come from making poor decisions.
While these threats seem overwhelming, I know that the vast majority of CH-UH students make good choices each day. They set a great example for their peers, and I appreciate that they take pride in making the Heights the best place possible to learn.
As a result of these incidents, several parents have asked me about the use of metal detectors at the high school. While we do use metal detectors for some of our large sporting events, we have never used them at the high school as a part of our school day entry procedures. We discussed this topic at the BOE meeting last night, weighing the pros and cons based on research and experience. We are continuing the conversation with stakeholders and our District Safe Schools Advisory Committee and will be seeking feedback from parents, staff and students.
Our District has been working with The Educator’s School Safety Network since August, and they are also providing consultation in this and other District security procedures, structures and protocols. At the high school, our administrative team has worked to identify a trusted adult that each student can connect with if they have a question, concern or are in need of support, building on the caring relationships that already exist among our students and staff. Trusting relationships among our school community are a key component of maintaining a healthy school climate. All of our schools have implemented PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) initiatives for students and engage in a student assistance team process to identify interventions and supports for students with academic and social emotional needs.
We will continue to implement ESSER funded supports, such as additional staff, tutors, PBIS structures, and academic supports. Schools will continue to focus on improving and adjusting structures, routines and relationships in partnership with school stakeholders.
On Friday, December 10, Heights High students held a walk-out at school to express concerns regarding the District’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations among students. The protest was peaceful, and I am proud of the students for organizing around a cause they are passionate about.
As a next step, I have begun holding meetings with Heights High students regarding their concerns. I also met with a team this week to review our current structures, support for students, and training for staff on working to eliminate inappropriate interactions between students aligned to Board policies. Furthermore, in the new year, a District committee will be convened to develop a root cause analysis and develop an action plan for proposed solutions and next steps in this area. COVID-19 We also discussed at last night’s Board meeting the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
Our District continues to follow Cuyahoga County Board of Health guidance on decisions related to the pandemic, including school/class closures and quarantine guidelines. We will be meeting with the CCBH over the winter break and will share updates and information.
As a reminder, students who are vaccinated and without symptoms do not have to quarantine based on current guidelines. The District and MetroHealth hosted a COVID vaccine clinic for children 5-18 on Monday; we will share information regarding future vaccine opportunities as it becomes available. You can also find locations using this link from the Ohio Department of Health. Understanding that families may be interested in a fully online option due to this case increase, the District has extended the application deadline for the second semester of Tiger Virtual Academy to January 5, 2022. Find more information about TVA here.
Reporting safety concerns All members of the Heights community should continue to abide by our District safety policy of “See Something, Say Something.” We also have available the Safe School Helpline. The Helpline is designed to assist you in anonymously reporting anything that could potentially harm our students or staff. To access the Safe School Helpline, call 1-800-4-1-VOICE (1-800-418-6423) ext. 359 to leave your information. You can also submit a report via SafeSchoolHelpline.com or text 614- 426-0240 and type TIPS. Safe School Helpline numbers are also posted in each of our school buildings. Read more here. As a reminder, for those Heights High School students who need to retrieve items from their lockers, students may report to the school between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. tomorrow. Security will be on hand to assist students as they retrieve their materials.
Thank you, as always, for being a partner in our important work of maintaining safe, comfortable and healthy school environments at CH-UH. The pandemic continues to present unprecedented challenges, and I am extremely blessed to work with a school community that is so committed to the success of our students.