Opinion ~ Letter to the Editor

January 29, 2022

By Kristin Grubbs

As a former graduate and current parent of four in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District, I have certain expectations of the school district my kids attend. Bare minimum, I expect them to follow through with their commitments. Of the seven commitments listed on the LSR7 website, I want to focus on these three:

  1. Sustaining positive relationships among students, staff, families and community members.
  2. Continuing a safe and caring environment.
  3. Promoting continuous improvement through data-driven decision-making.

First, I think most people would agree that sustaining positive relationships is important. LSR7 has always had outstanding teachers and excellent staff and administrators. However, this relationship has suffered in recent years. Since 2019, our district has been working to implement an equity plan that claims to nurture inclusion and belonging. Panorama Surveys given to grades 3-12 are used to assess the structure and implementation of this plan but do little to achieve its goals. The surveys are filled with racially charged questions that could make anyone appear racist. Any data collected from such a survey would be biased at minimum.

For a district that strives to be focused on dignity, belonging and inclusion, the recent situation at Pleasant Lee Middle School is unbecoming. Just weeks ago, students held a protest, causing a soft lockdown of the school after two students (one person of color and one not) used the same racial slur, but one student was disciplined more harshly than the other. The very act of unjust discipline goes against the anti-discrimination policy the district claims to follow. How does unjust discipline for the same behavior nurture positive relationships in our schools and community?

Second, if our district’s goal is to have a safe and caring environment, then it is failing miserably. Several LSR7 schools have experienced a rash of violent incidences this school year alone. In October, there was a fight at Lee’s Summit High School involving bullying that resulted in an assault and three out of school suspensions. On December 15, 2021, there was a report of an assault at Lee’s Summit North High School, and the very next day, witness accounts report five to six more fights, despite Lee’s Summit Police Department only reporting two. Having seen videos from that day’s events, it is suspicious as to why there would be a discrepancy between witness accounts and the official response from LSN administration and LSPD (see LSPD Statement in Reference to Lee’s Summit North High School Rumors, published December 17, 2021). These are only a few examples of the hostilities that have festered in LSR7 this school year. The rest are hidden behind the district’s opaque wall they call ‘transparency’.

Lastly, our school district commits to, “data-driven decision-making”, yet there are current policies and practices in place that question this. Like many other districts, our schools have enforced restrictive Covid protocols that are supposedly in place to mitigate spread and keep children in schools. However, these very policies have flaws that need addressed. Since their return to in-person learning, those who have been fingered as a close contact to a person who tested positive are forced to quarantine for a period usually set by CDC recommendations. The flaw is that most of those forced into quarantine return to school after the prescribed days without having displayed any symptoms of the virus. One question remaining is: how many of those forced to quarantine end up testing positive? In the LSR7 School Board meeting on January 6, 2022, the Board openly admitted that there is no follow-up with those quarantined to ascertain that percentage. How can our data-loving district deem this decisive datapoint unworthy of collecting? Bare minimum, follow-through like this could be perceived as a step toward transparency, but the choice to discount the opportunity speaks volumes.

If I were to grade the district, assuming it’s excelling in the other four commitments they declare and fail them for the reasons above on just these three commitments, that is fifty-seven percent. No matter how the district spins it, that’s a failing grade in my book.