The following email was sent by South Orange-Maplewood Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Gayle Carrick in response to the recent arrest of a CHS astronomy and physics teacher on possession of child pornography.
Dear Members of the Columbia High School Community:
We know that many of you are aware that a member of the Columbia High School staff has been charged with having inappropriate material on his home digital devices. The South Orange Maplewood School District was notified about this on June 13. The Union County Prosecutor’s Office, as of June 14, 2019, has informed us that the investigation has found this employee’s conduct did not involve Columbia High School or Columbia High School students.
As we continue to keep the well-being of our students and community in the forefront of our concerns, we wanted to share with you what we are doing at CHS to support our students and staff, and to offer you some resources.
What we are doing at CHS:
- We held an early morning faculty meeting to provide staff members with guidance on how to speak with and support students throughout the day.
- Administrators and a social worker met with this staff member’s classes before their scheduled exams.
- Students in classes scheduled to take final exams today were offered the opportunity to reschedule their exam for next week. We made counseling services available for all students and staff members.
- We are providing ongoing access to school supports – including the CHS administrative team, guidance counselors, student assistance counselors, school social workers, and teachers.
- We are addressing individual concerns as they arise.
We have prepared some talking points for discussing this with your children, if you decide that this is appropriate for your family.
Thank you for your ongoing partnership.
Dr. Gayle Carrick
South Orange Maplewood School District
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Resources for Families
When serious incidents occur, as adult caregivers it is sometimes difficult to know what to say and how to respond to children’s questions and concerns. This is especially true when the situation involves the alleged sexual misconduct by an adult towards children. We offer the following resources to help parents support their children.
Suggestions for Talking with Your Child
- Students will display a wide range of differing responses to recent events, which is completely expected. Some students might be disinterested while others might have an intense emotional reaction. The strong media focus and community reaction can create additional stress. Monitor your child’s stress level and seek help when necessary.
- Take advantage of this teachable moment in your child’s life. Don’t be afraid to bring up this difficult topic.
- Start by listening; ask your child what reactions, thoughts, or feelings about the situation they have observed in our school community.
- Alternatively, you might provide them with a mentor that both you and your child trust.
- Your conversation can include discussion of how to handle difficult situations, and most importantly, when to reach out to an adult for help.
- Take your cues from your child as to how much, or little, they want to focus on and discuss these events.