Sumter School District superintendent calls on parents, adults to help safeguard against incidents at schools


After two fights in local schools last week, Sumter School District's superintendent is sharing the district's code of conduct relating to student behavior this week.

Superintendent Penelope Martin-Knox and her staff engaged in a lengthy discussion with trustees Monday night at the full board's regularly scheduled meeting and followed up with an email to families Tuesday where she in part asked parents for their assistance.

Regarding handling complaints of inappropriate student conduct, Martin-Knox said it is important for parents and adults to call the school and speak with an administrator on issues or even to call the district office.

Instead, oftentimes reported incidents are posted to Facebook initially, and that does not help school officials, she said.

"Someone will send a screenshot and say, 'Doc, are you familiar with this?'" Martin-Knox said. "And then we are backwardly mapping and spending a lot of time trying to figure out where an incident has occurred when the resources are there. Call the school, talk to the principal, the assistant principal, counselors, social workers. Call district office staff. Call me. But when we receive information, it's almost like a ghost in the environment, and we are chasing those entities that may or may not exist."

On a second point, she asked parents and community members to talk with children about making right choices and to refrain from disruptive behavior.

"Please discuss with your child the importance of appropriate behavior at school and emphasize the seriousness of disruptions to the learning environment," Martin-Knox added. "Our goal is always to empower our students, allowing them to realize their fullest potential and thrive. We are encouraging and requesting that parents, guardians and members of our community engage in meaningful discourse about making appropriate choices while remaining focused on positive behaviors and refraining from engaging in unsafe and harmful actions that impact our students, families and community."

She also added on Monday night for parents to check their children for weapons.

School violence is also increasing nationally, she said.

"Schools are no longer that place where we send our children where we don't have to worry," Martin-Knox said. "So, we continue to make sure that we have practices in place, we continue to have that dialogue with our leaders to ensure we are putting the best practices in place to safeguard the learning environment."