Vital Words – September 15th, 2015

Dear Friends,

Some of you may have not visited our Lincoln Place campus where our Middle and Upper Schools live. Many of the hallways are lined with student lockers and it has long been a matter of interest to me that we have locks on the lockers at Lincoln Place. I know the easy explanation is that students may keep something of value in the lockers and therefore the lockers need to be secure. This is more than a little ironic because over the years the biggest concern we have had with students and their belongings is it seems that most carry every last item around with them in their backpacks.

Our endeavors at school are built on trust and I think our students do a very good job of living up to our expectations. Our students are tolerant, honest, and up for taking risks.

At the opening meetings for Middle and Upper School students I invited all of our students to go without putting a lock on their locker. Why?  I hope that as a community we can strengthen our ability to look after one another.  This symbolic gesture would send the message that we are committed to having a safe community.

The longer that I am at it, the more convinced I become that the only way the world will change is if we all begin taking better care of one another. Getting us to be more conscious of one another and extending that care and concern to physical items would provide good practice for a skill that is much needed in today’s world. Of course, if a student would feel more comfortable with the locker secured, we will certainly respect that.

I recently had an exchange with a Head of School who has taken the step I am proposing.  He wrote, “I wanted to acknowledge in a meaningful way the exceptional caring and respectful culture on the campus. Our students are proud of the fact they don’t need to lock their lockers/cubbies and parents and visitors are impressed by the demonstrated culture of trust and respect.”

When I reflect on the challenges that we have faced as a society this year, events went off the tracks when people failed to look out for one another.  Who was looking out after Eric Garner?  Who was looking out after Michael Brown? And if you have read of the trouble at  St. Paul’s School it is clear that so many individuals needed to be looked after.

I understand that a prime reason for the locks is to protect belongings from outsiders; we do a very good job of limiting access to each of our buildings and vendors or repair people are escorted when they are on the grounds.

A major part of our mission is to build ethical people and  hopefully this action will help all of us build stronger backbones.  At the least, it will prompt lots of discussion about how much we really are our brothers’, and sisters’, keepers.
Thanks for your thoughts.