Since becoming Pasco Superintendent of Schools, I have spoken at length about creating a culture of caring and respect, and the importance of social-emotional learning — giving our students the skills they need to navigate their lives in a healthy, positive way. And that is why I feel compelled to write today. This past Friday, the Pasco County community lost a 16-year-old in a senseless act of violence committed by another teenager.
The District School Board of Pasco County has been working diligently to foster a culture of respect. We started this conversation over the summer at the Together We Stand Youth Summit, and we now must raise our voices to get the message across. Today, I write this letter to continue the conversation about how we can all help our kids grow into responsible and caring adults who interact with one another in a civil, respectful way. I don’t have all the answers in our schools, but I know we cannot do this without the community. I know it will take deliberate and tough conversations within families and communities to help kids learn how to deal with conflict and cope with adversity appropriately. We must work together!
Whether you’re a Pasco native or you moved here from somewhere else; whether you’re rich or poor; whether your skin color is red, olive, black or white — this culture of violence is our problem, and we must work together to create the type of community we want for our children. A culture of caring and respect must transcend the school doors and spill over into the community, especially during this holiday season.
In the meantime, I call on government, business, community, faith and — especially — our youth leaders to resume talking about how we can address the problems our kids are experiencing. I urge parents and caretakers to talk to their children on an ongoing basis about what’s appropriate and not appropriate. Know their friends. Watch their Facebook and Twitter conversations. Set limits and talk to them about your expectations.
If you have any thoughts or ideas to help further this dialogue, please do not hesitate to email me at email@example.com. We do not need any more children killing children. We need adults and children to practice respect and to care for each other. Are you with me?
Kurt Browning is Pasco County Superintendent of Schools.