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An Open Letter to the Parkway Community from Superintendent Robert Malito

October 24, 2008


It is with both sadness and a sense of outrage that I share this letter with the Parkway community. Many of you may have heard about a distressing incident that occurred at Parkway West Middle School over the past week. I have heard from a number of you who are understandably angry and upset. I, too, am angry.

First and foremost, I want to publicly apologize for the actions of the students involved. I also want to share some of the facts surrounding the situation and let you know what we are doing about it. Additionally, I want to ask for your help as we work together carefully and constructively to move forward in a positive way for our students and community.

Last week, several sixth-graders at West Middle started their own unofficial “spirit-type" activities in the hallways. These activities occurred without the knowledge of teachers or administrators until Monday evening, October 20. What initially began as harmless fun including hugs and high-fives, somehow sadly turned into slaps or hits directed at Jewish students and tall students. Clearly this is unacceptable behavior that will not be tolerated in the Parkway School District. We pride ourselves on being a very diverse learning community that celebrates, respects and honors all voices. I am ashamed and disappointed that this has occurred in one of our schools.

After learning of the situation, the school principal immediately responded. On Tuesday morning she assembled the sixth-graders into the gym, during which time she expressed her outrage and sadness that not only did several students participate in these activities, but that others who knew about it did not immediately step in and stand up for their friends or tell an adult what had happened. She informed the students that anyone involved would be held accountable for their actions in accordance with Parkway’s discipline policy. After the assembly, she began her investigation and sent a letter home to all parents the following day to let them know what had happened and ask for their help in identifying those responsible.

While the investigation is still being conducted, it appears as though five students were directly involved. These students have been immediately suspended and will likely face additional consequences pending the final recommendations of the Discipline Review Committee, which reports to me.

It is hard to understand why these 11- and 12-year-olds acted in such a disrespectful manner. We work very hard in Parkway to teach students appropriate behavior and on any given day the majority of our 18,000 students do just that. But we cannot use this as an excuse to minimize the gravity of what these students have done. It is painful and hurtful and we are committed to doing whatever we can to ensure it does not happen again.

I ask for your support and involvement in this effort and hope by working together we can fulfill our obligation to educate our students and prepare them to be successful, contributing members of a democratic society.


Robert Malito, Ph.D.