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Safety First - Toxic Stress in Education


I work in a small school in a big state.  The local school community had the power shut over the weekend as a preventive action for avoiding fires.  This morning I was told that there would be school without power and to plan to provide services and teach children without power. 

My instinct was - this is not safe!  

So I drove to school.  As I pulled off the highway into the community I noticed that two police officers had pulled two different cars over a couple of blocks apart from each other.  My adrenalin started to pump a little more.  It was already elevated because I knew I was going to work in an unsafe situation, no power for technology, which included communication.  I was not sure why we were having school without power.

I stopped in the office and heard more colleagues expressing their concerns and confusion.  I worked my way back to my dark office where a few other colleagues were trying to figure out how to work without light, were very cold as the temperature was 42 degrees and were concerned about how the students might be feeling about being at school without power after being home without power all weekend.

So one of my colleagues and I thought we would check in with one of the teachers who had several students in her class that were on our caseloads (special education).  We began to walk into the courtyard and were told by our assistant principal as she was briskly walking by, that our campus was on "lock down".  I was shocked.  It was an awful feeling to know that a procedure that was meant to keep us safe was not!  I walked out into an unsafe situation because we had no power and the communication did not happen. 

To make it worse when I looked out the window because I heard young voices I saw a couple of children walking about.  Yikes.  I was concerned and confused.  Were we still in lockdown?  Our radio never asked if we were clear?   

Shortly after my assistant principal came into our room to explain that the "lock down" was done to make sure teachers kept their doors closed to keep in the little heat.  Oh my.  My adrenalin and my mind were so confused.  Was I safe?  Was having a lockdown a solution to make it ok work without power ?

It took me a few minutes to realize that I had a choice.  I could stay in this unsafe environment or leave.  I used all of my problem solving power to let my colleagues know that I was headed home to do paperwork with power until the power came back on.  I did not feel safe working in a school with children without power.  I sent an email to my administration and they did not respond. 

My childhood trauma of "Is this OK?" has been triggered by this incident. The confusion and chaos of being told to stay in an unsafe situation where everything is supposed to go on as usual. 

Why are our educational agencies/leaders allowed to make decisions that are unsafe?  Is this the result of chronic toxic stress?  Is our educational system not considering safety when I, a human being, says they don't feel safe?  Are they considering the stressful impact of teachers and students being without power all day and in fear of fires near by?

I made the decision to leave school.  I made a decision to take myself out of an unsafe situation. 

On my way out a district administrator stopped me and said "but we have to provide services, school is open".  And I replied "I don't feel that this is a safe environment and that it is safe to provide services without power, light and heat. "  

When I told my assistant principal I didn't understand why they had school without power and they were using a lock down as a way to encourage teachers to keep their doors closed, she said "I wish I had a choice!".  

Yes, we do have a choice! 

What if the Administrators told the Superintendent that they did not feel safe opening school without power? 

What if the teachers told the administrators that they did not feel safe coming to school without power? 

What if the parents told the teachers and administrators that they did not feel safe sending their children to school without power?

Then we would begin to end the toxic stress. We would be focused on safety instead of survival.  

Instead teachers are told they "have to" come in and parents are told their student will be "marked absent" if they don't attend.  

What is the purpose of having school without power?

Are we not worthy of working in a safe, clean and efficient environments, with heat and light and working communication systems?

Can't we take this time off and make it up at the end of the year?

Should schools have generators? 

How can we solve this problem without creating more toxic stress?

How can we as adults become more regulated and make safe decisions ?

What are the fears behind this survival based decision making? 

Your responses are welcome here or on my Facebook Page:  Jessie Graham Coach and Consultant, ACES and Education or my website Jessie Graham Coach







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