At Stoneleigh-Burnham School we talk about community all the time. In Admissions, we talk about how close knit our community is and how vital it is to the function of our school. We talk about the strong relationships we foster between our faculty and students, and about the fact that everyone, even the Head of School, will know you by name.
As a school, we talk about the importance of taking care of our community, of being careful with each others feelings and being respectful. The mission statement of Stoneleigh-Burnham School describes creating a community that “inspires girls to pursue meaningful lives based on honor, respect and intellectual curiosity. Each student is challenged to discover her best self and graduate with the confidence to think independently and act ethically, secure in the knowledge that her voice will be heard.” The Honor Code further encourages and expects our students to be guided by the following: “Respect for others in all my words, expressions and actions. I will be kind and polite and will refrain from hurtful remarks about appearance, race, religion, family, intelligence and sexuality.”
During the opening of each school year every member of the community signs the SBS Honor Code which hangs in the Capen Room as a daily reminder of the commitment we have made to ourselves, our community and our school.
The mission statement and the honor code are part of the fabric of who we are as a school. They help to guide students, faculty and staff in the decisions they make each and every day. However, in light of the recent acts of bullying across the nation, Massachusetts has passed an anti-bullying law which requires schools to write and uphold a policy which specifically addresses bullying.
Yesterday, during Housemeeting, Head of School Sally Mixsell presented “Stoneleigh-Burnham School’s Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan” to the student body. The presentation detailed the steps which will be taken should someone report something that has occurred. The plan is intended to (1) prevent bullying and cyber-bullying among our community members, (2) to encourage community members to have confidence in the School’s procedures and to come forward promptly whenever a student is subject to conduct that is prohibited by this or any other School policy; and (3) to implement appropriate discipline and other corrective measures when they are found to be warranted.
So why would this prompt me to write about our community? What makes Stoneleigh-Burnham School different than other schools in Massachusetts? The policy itself is similar in nature to those policies being presented at public and private schools across Massachusetts. The difference for Stoneleigh-Burnham is in our community.
I see small acts of kindness and joy here every day.
The day our students left for break I walked down the hallway and found a basket of handmade treats with a note. I picked up the note, written in the early morning hours by Monica, a member of our facilities staff, and it read
“Thank you all for helping me keep UMB clean. Have a great vacation. Please enjoy a pop and candy cane.”
Not only did this bring a smile to my face, it reminded me why I love this school. The little things we do for each other that help to brighten each others day.
Things like John, our security guard who comes in a bit early each evening to shuttle our riders from the barn to the main building at the end of the day.
Or Elizabeth and Allie, two of our 9th grade students who diligently cut out snowflakes for each and every office, dorm room and classroom door one weekend and spent the better part of their free time writing notes on each one and hanging them up as a surprise for the students, faculty and staff on Monday morning.
Or the way each time I take a group of students ice skating they make sure no one is left behind. They link arms and hold hands and encourage those who are still learning to skate. I’ve yet to see a single girl left behind to skate on her own…even if she’s never been on the ice before.
It’s things like walking onto the middle school hallway to see “I love you” scrawled anonymously on the white boards of every room on the hall, or hearing the last two students arrive, at 9:35 on Monday evening from their winter break and having the entire hallway flood downstairs to help carry their bags and welcome them back.
These are the reasons our bullying prevention plan will be different than those at other schools. The written words, discussed in further detail in our Head of School’s post on the topic here, will be the same as those written at schools across the state. For us, it’s the community behind those words that makes the difference.
– Laura Lavallee, Associate Director of Admissions