A letter to District 220 parents and staff from Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard:
Sometimes my challenge is to address what parents and community members expect to know in the public domain, versus the private protection of a student’s best interests. This is one of those stories.
You can read about the alleged incident in a news brief on the police website as well as other accounts being reported by local media.
The truth is, we did not communicate sooner because this is a delicate and complex situation. All three students are minors and obviously ride the same school bus, so we will do everything we can to protect their anonymity, privacy and safety while balancing their respective rights to counseling, due process and a continued education.
Because some may question the severity of the punishment-to-date for the two young male students, I can only tell you their consequences are fair and appropriate given the circumstances. Building and district administrators carefully weigh the gravity of these rulings. Legally, student discipline events such as this require a high degree of confidentiality.
The investigation determined no more than these three students were directly involved in this incident. A few others apparently witnessed the assault but did not immediately intervene. The bus driver reported something amiss on the bus, which led to a conversation with one student involved in the situation. That same day, a friend of the victim eventually submitted a Bullying Hotline report. This information and a review of the bus surveillance videos led to interviews of additional students. As the events were better understood, school administrators quickly contacted police and parents of the children involved. All students affected by the episode, including those in close enough proximity to witness the incident, have received counseling from school personnel. The Barrington Transportation Company has been fully cooperative in the investigation.
Our tradition in Barrington 220 values open, honest and prompt communication. In some cases, however, the disclosure of information may take time or may not occur at all. If so, we are not hiding something; rather, we have chosen the welfare of individual students over the broader community's need to be aware of a contained situation that does not pertain to more than a few persons. We agreed to provide basic details when it was apparent this circumstance would become a public matter rather than a private ordeal for the children affected.
These are hard decisions to make and this incident reminds us of important truths we continually stress to parents and students through school and community programs embedded in our curriculum. Please join us in urging your children to quickly share with a trusted adult anything they see out of the ordinary or any uncomfortable experience they encounter. Parents, keep an open dialog with your children about questionable behaviors they observe at school, on the bus or among their friends.
To respect each other, to recognize inappropriate behavior, to resist unwelcome advances and toreport anyone or anything that seems questionable are responsibilities we all share. With everyone’s help, our school district and communities can remain a safe place where troubling incidents such as this are rare.