I hope this message finds you all well; it is hard to believe that the holiday season is already upon us. As we approach Thanksgiving break, despite the difficult times we have recently experienced, I am grateful to be a part of the Haverhill Public Schools and the Haverhill Community.
Sadly, our traditional high school football game will not be played this Thanksgiving. Our community is involved in a serious investigation into hazing by members of our football team. Despite many interviews and conversations, the extent of this behavior remains to be determined. While we hope the incidents are isolated, there is evidence that this may not be true. I’m asking parents to take advantage of the coming family time to talk with your student about the dangers of hazing, harassment, and bullying. Please let them know that they have every right to feel safe and that no one has the right to hurt them in any manner; that no matter what trouble they might be in, they can always call you or a trusted adult in a crisis or emergency and that our first concern will be their safety.
Please also ask your children if they have any knowledge of the present situation with the football team. If they have information and are afraid to share, please let them know that they can report anonymously at Haverhill Public Schools Incident Reporting Form. If you are uncertain how to begin this difficult conversation, consider visiting the website, Stomp Out Bullying to read the article – Help Your Kids Understand Hazing for more information.
As a school district, we have begun our healing process. In addition to our own clinicians working to support our students, we have engaged the Center of the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University to work with our students and staff. Our goal is to reshape our culture into one where hazing is not only against the rules but not tolerated.
These recent events particularly sadden me because they detract from the many wonderful things happening in our schools and community daily. We are fortunate to have a community that generously gives to our students and families. Our district has teachers who are committed to students, helping them reach their goals daily. Our support staff works tirelessly in the background, often going unnoticed. I appreciate everyone’s daily contributions to our students, families, and schools. We are fortunate to live and work in a supportive community that values the hard work of preparing all students for the opportunities ahead.
As we enter the holiday season, I want to remind students and families how vital it is for students to maintain good attendance. Students who arrive on time and attend school regularly are shown to achieve higher levels of success than students who do not have regular attendance. This time of year creates a lot of extracurricular activities and excitement but staying within a routine that includes getting a good night’s sleep and prioritizing attendance will help students achieve their goals successfully.
I understand that the holidays can be a stressful time for some families. If you or someone you know could use some help this holiday season, please visit our website for the Family Holiday Resource Guide, which highlights some of the aforementioned positive community resources.
I hope each of you has a beautiful Thanksgiving holiday shared with family and friends and moments to reflect on thankfulness, positivity, and acts of kindness.
Margaret Marotta EdD
Superintendent of Schools