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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Letter to the Editor

Teacher addresses school safety


I’ve spent my entire teaching career at Stephen Decatur Middle School. This is year 22. Never have I ever feared for my safety. I have had three of my four kiddos in my building. Never have I ever feared for their safety. My husband now works in my building as a substitute. Never have I ever feared for his safety. When I walk through our halls, I do not see criminals; I see students and colleagues. We are a family. We are Decatur. I have always felt proud to be a member of such an amazing and top performing school. I have always been proud to be a Worcester County teacher.

Amazing things happen in our schools each day. And one of the things that makes our county so special is that our schools are so deeply interconnected with and supported by our communities. When we say “We are Worcester” we mean the collective we. It takes all of us to make a difference in the lives of our students. We value the strong connection between schools, families, and communities.

What is the benefit of a sheriff painting our students as criminals? What is the benefit of creating divisiveness between a community and the schools that serve it? What is the benefit of cherry picking data to perpetuate a narrative that is overwhelmingly incorrect? There is no benefit. What is the benefit of county commissioners refusing to fully fund our schools? There is no benefit.

Our students, teachers, leaders, schools, and communities cannot be turned into pawns in a game that has so much at stake. We must come together. We must put our students first in every way. School safety is important; I do not know a single person in education who would say it isn’t. Do some students make bad choices? Yes. But does that make them criminals? No. Does that mean our Worcester schools are overrun by violence? No.

We serve young people whose frontal lobes are still developing, so we can expect all the ups and downs that go along with the natural brain development that occurs into their young adult years. Kids can be mean, so we teach and model kindness. Kids can be impulsive & break rules (and yes, sometimes it results in a fight), so we discipline out of care for all students and to teach right from wrong. Kids can struggle with mental health, so we put support systems in place. We believe in neuroplasticity and perpetual learning. We believe in conscious discipline and trauma-informed practices. We believe in teaching the whole child. And, we believe that parents, communities, and schools must work together to support our learners. We cannot afford for divisiveness to distract us from the important work we must do together. We are Worcester. We are Worcester Strong.

Jaimie Ridgely, Ed.D.
(The writer is 2023-2024 Worcester County Teacher of the Year.)