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Simpson Middle School administration addresses parent concerns

In an age of ever increasing technology use and technological advances, J. Lupton Simpson Middle School in Leesburg is the latest case of a school adjusting to new challenges.

When Simpson students told parents about school administrators removing bathroom doors because of vaping, parents were concerned about potential substance abuse, discipline and about the lack of communication from Simpson staff. Principal Lenny Compton addressed those concerns at Community Forum last Wednesday.

Vaping — the use of an electronic cigarette or similar device — is a new challenge for schools.

“It’s not that it’s prevalent, it’s that they’re exposed to it,” Compton said.

Although rumors about vaping at Simpson have spread throughout the school community, Compton said there have only been six incidents so far this year, which is within the county average, according to data.

Compton told parents he did not think it was necessary to send a preemptive, school-wide email, such as one sent by Stone Bridge High School’s administration several weeks ago, since the six individual cases had been resolved. However, he said an email may have been helpful to parents.

Per Loudoun County Public Schools policy, students receive lectures on drugs and substance abuse, which have begun to incorporate vaping, Substance Abuse Specialist Blaise Carland said.

Teachers also receive updated training about new vaping technology, such as the Juul, a vaporizer that looks like a USB drive, Compton said.

Students also receive presentations on drug and alcohol abuse throughout their middle school years, Carland said. Carland said that with students caught with drugs, LCPS requires them to go through an educational class to learn the full effects of abuse, and staff makes recommendations to parents about what the child may need in order to prevent future offenses.

Substance abuse specialists also work with school social workers and psychologists to treat underlying conditions behind like depression and anxiety.

School Resource Officer Matt Bennett said he also has a gang resistance class with sixth graders which he called a more advanced form of the elementary Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

For certain scenarios like an assault on school grounds, administrators have certain protocols like suspending a student for 10 days. A first-time drug offense results in an intensive three-day class at the Douglass School. From there, administrators make recommendations and connect students and families to other resources.

Compton also said, in order to prevent fights, staff is exploring the possibility of an anonymous tip line for student and counselors working on helping students deal with anger constructively.

The principal added that the school provides resources for parents, are working on a mentorship program with high school students and are establishing clubs as incentives for good behavior. The ultimate goal is to change behavior and be available for learning, Compton said.

In addition to online means of communication, Compton also hosts monthly coffees and talks on different subjects, which are publicized on the school’s website.

The school is hosting a talk on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs Feb. 15 at 6 p.m.

Parents expressed concern about the status of deans at Simpson, especially that they had not heard when the sixth-grade dean went on a leave of absence. Compton said a teacher is filling in for the sixth-grade dean position.

“That is a promise you get from me, that communication will improve,” Compton said.


John M’s story about the troublemakers getting dollars reminds me of my son’s frustration while at Sterling Middle School. This was a while back, when they had an invitation-only ice cream party for all the students who had gone a year since their last in-school-suspension….but no ice cream for the students who had never been in trouble.

Rusty, I learned a long time ago that in LCPS and probably other school districts, the kids who cause trouble get exactly what they crave- attention. When my kids were in elementary school in Ashburn, there was a program put in place by the then Principal, where he gave “dollars” that were named after him, to kids who did something good. Clearly, the program was designed to motivate the kids who behaved badly. Day after day my son would come home and say “the whole class got in trouble because (student name) kept disrupting the teacher, but that kid has more dollars than anyone”. My son was a good, quiet student at that school, and finally one day he came home exasperated and asked: “what’s the point of being good?, I never get any dollars and all the bad kids do”. I had to sit him down and tell him that life isn’t always fair and that being good would pay off eventually. 
This is society today and it is also LCPS’ issue: Teachers are terrified to take action against a bad kid because they know THEY will be blamed.
I also have a friend who is a retired police officer who went to work as a resource officer in Fairfax County, Two weeks into the job, he was breaking up a fight in a hallway, when one of the fighter’s sister jumped on his back, literally tried to gouge out his eyes, causing massive scratches on his face. He was disciplined by the school for putting hands on the students! The mother of the siblings who were fighting threatened to sue the school. My friend left that job within a couple of months, saying it was a complete joke.

Simpson could do a better job of actually disciplining its disruptive students.  My son told me of a recent episode where two “thugs” in seventh grade essentially took a class hostage during a health class video.  These two guys began shaking their desks and chairs in an effort to distract and disrupt the class.  The teacher then had to spend the next 30 minutes calling for backup and resource teachers who simply sat next to the “thugs” with walkie talkies because they refused to leave the classroom.

Folks are so hypersensitive about discipline that the bad guys now know that teachers can’t (or won’t) do anything to stop them.  I say, kick these guys out - permanently.  It is not the job of my children’s teachers to work on the mental health issues of clearly bad humans.

Get the thugs out so the rest of the kids can LEARN!

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