January 18th SEL Listening Session Summary
By Katie Kresly
On Wednesday, January 18th, at Highline High School, the Highline Schools Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Team gathered with parents and community members to collect input regarding Highline’s 3-years running SEL program. They aim to make the SEL program consistent across the District and partner with parents and families.
For those unfamiliar with SEL, the primary objectives are: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Self-Efficacy, Social Awareness, Social Management, and Social Engagement.
The meeting commenced just after 5 pm, with approximately eleven (11) parent/community attendees, eight (8) family engagement specialists, liaisons, UW partners, the HR director, and a Spanish translator. (The attendance was lower than expected, likely because the meeting date had been corrected only a day in advance.) Perhaps the Highline SEL team will announce an extra SEL Listening Session to allow those parents a chance to speak.
SEL Director Melissa Pointer opened by reading the Native Land Acknowledgement. She said this practice is “routine at Highline.”
Next was a “welcoming ritual,” another standard SEL practice, where attendees were invited to share their names, pronouns, and grades of students.
Following the introduction, Ms. Pointer offered Spanish speakers and BIPOC attendees the option to self-segregate into private “breakout” sessions in another room where they could “feel more supported by being in a space that is conducted in Spanish”, or … “specific to people who identify as black, indigenous or people of color.” [BIPOC]
A composite sampling of the survey:
- What helps your child feel safe, respected, and supported at school?
- What do you wish teachers knew about your child’s feelings and behaviors?
- What do you hope your child will learn about managing their feelings, making choices, and relationships with other children and adults?
- What do you do at home (and in the community) to help your child feel safe, respected, supported, manage feelings, make choices, and build strong relationships?
The eight remaining parents expressed a variety of responses:
- One dad appreciated that his kid’s class day starts with a group “check-in” session.
- Another dad expressed that Highline CRT/IRI curriculum policies are racist, divisive, and anti-white. His young sons are white, heterosexual males, and they feel unsafe in this environment.
- Homeschool mom removed kids from HSD. She read books (that HSD teachers read) that stated that the “white, soccer, Christian mom is an enemy to every black man.” Her daughter was targeted and verbally bullied at school for being white/female. No teacher/administrator meaningfully addressed this poor behavior, so she removed her children from Highline. As a result, her kids are excelling academically – far beyond their peers. Why are we failing students academically in the classroom? Why are parents being undermined?
- Substitute teachers need to be reading or adhering to special needs plans.
- HSD needs to focus more on academics and less on emotional management.
- Mom knows that school surveys are OPTIONAL, but her son reported specifics of the survey he took regarding future plans, if he likes boys or girls, his preferred name. NO. He is there to learn math, writing and speaking. The Highline Promise of “knowing students by name, strength, and need” is “BS.” Her child is allowed to sleep in class. The kids have no future. They are not learning how to be productive in society.
- Autistic kids need a partnership between teachers and parents, NOT schools taking over parenting roles.
- Dad is glad that his child is learning to connect consequences to choices.
- Mom expressed concerns that feelings (gender, preferences, etc.) are being elevated above academics. Some teachers cannot control the kids (phones, disruptions, etc.), so learning is nearly impossible. Her child was verbally attacked by a teacher for disagreeing. Parents MUST be allowed to be involved.
- A mother asked, “How do we teach critical decision-making if only the left [viewpoint] is presented?”
- A father expressed that this parent group is not representative of Highline; they need more parental viewpoints. Argues that CRT, IRI, SEL, and Transformative SEL represent woke, radical left policies that should NOT be in the public schools that exist to serve ALL people. He is extremely skeptical because SEL is not “value neutral,” it is not inclusive of all groups, and it overrides the job of parents. He hopes that his kids will learn to “manage their feelings” by “knowing that mom and dad are going to help” by parenting them. It will not be left up to the schools.
- Mom is disturbed that parents are not allowed to see the medical records of teens without the teen’s permission.
- SEL Surveys presume that many kids are in danger (unsafe), so they ask probing, personal questions. The result is that kids form “safe” relationship bonds with school adults instead of their parents.
- Mom’s concerns: kids are being left behind; not all adults can be trusted.
- Mom stated that all of her kids are in therapy, school counselors are not supportive, and they are not communicating with parents. How can this be fixed? Reiterated that “Academics is your job!”
- Parents should be able to “opt in” to SEL. Or it could be an “after-school” program. It should not be mandatory. Other parents are uninformed, so you are likely not getting real feedback because they need help understanding.
- A dad wants to know more about how his kids are doing so that he can interact more effectively.
- A mom noted that choices come with consequences. School “Reflection Rooms” are good because they help her child learn about their actions and regulate their emotions.
Optimistic Closure Points:
- Raise good kids
- Involve parents, residents, refugee families, and multiple languages
- Help parents/kids stay connected – keep parents alerted about kids’ actions
- Parental involvement in SEL – “opt-in” would support Equity
Family input is critical in the next few weeks, so if you missed this session and have questions or comments, please contact Director Melissa Pointer at 206-631-3269,
Here are the links: