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Letter to the community regarding student conflict

Husky Community:


I want to Share an update regarding Northwestern District efforts in regard to student relationships and conflict.  We in Northwestern, as with any school district, are no exception to having to deal with situations where students have conflict or do not treat one another with kindness and respect.


In a school district with well over 1,300 students there will always be difficult situations and student conflict. These situations pose ongoing challenges for administration and staff. Some instances are to the level of bullying, but most are not.  The phrase “bullying” is used all too often whenever there is conflict.  Yes, we do have bullying situations, but not every conflict is bullying.


As we have shared in district newsletters and on our website, we continuously strive to share with our community our efforts with school safety, academics, student discipline, and so much more.  We have so much to be thankful for and we have great kids because we work together in supporting them and challenging them to success.  As far as student relationships, PBIS, and discipline, our Principals put together building committees to analyze and discuss student relationships and building culture this past August in an effort to collaborate with parents for each building.  Anyone with a desire to be a part of these committees please contact a Building Principal.  Northwestern had promoted a nationally normed and supported Prevention Survey to students, employees, parents that was completed last spring. This gave us baseline data and we intend on giving this annually for additional information of needs.


A number of things we have put into place: 

  • a new full time HS Asst. Principal 
  • 2 additional Guidance Counselors 
  • created a new guidance transitions and adult mentoring program position.  We are piloting the adult mentoring program in the middle school this spring and summer, then plan to expand this
  • PBIS (positive Behavior Student Interventions & Supports) 
  • relationships and involvement of numerous community based organizations and individuals within our schools for case management, consultation, counseling, various groups, etc.
  • provided additional training for staff and administrators 
  • created and put into place a new principal discipline software program 
  • and we do so much more than these


Much of what is mentioned above has been funded by various grants as well as district dollars.  In my 19 years at the helm of our beloved Northwestern we have and remain open to collaboration. Collaboration works toward improvements and sometime potential solutions. We all want continuous improvements, parent, staff, and student involvement, as well as welcoming appropriate feedback. 


Together we can collaborate and work on improving discipline and other areas, but these conversations need to be respectful and collegial.  As far as specific situations are concerned, as adults sometimes in situations we need to be able to “agree to disagree”.  Specific issues are best resolved at the lowest level.  Parents sometimes come in angry (yes, we sometimes do this as parents) because of one or more student conflicts/situations of which the principals were not even aware.  Yes, these situations occur in all schools.  Of course, students have apprehension informing adults, but at school we consistently encourage students to tell us.  We cannot help a situation when we do not know about it.  We cannot investigate a situation when we do not know about it.  We need to continue to have reasonable discussions regarding situations and ways to best resolve each situation.  If a is not resolved at the coach or teacher level it goes to the Asst. Principal or Principal.  If not resolved at that level it comes to me as Superintendent.  I have always listened to and tried to help situations when not resolved at a lower level.  Individuals who follow the process and chain of personnel to resolve situations then give me an opportunity to help the situation if it has not been resolved find it productive.  I have a lot of experience in student relationships – 33 years in education, 28 years as a school administrator, 22 years as a superintendent, hold a Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership, worked 3 years in ODYS Ohio Dept. of Youth Services at Indian River School and Maumee Youth Center.  More importantly, I have been our Northwestern School Superintendent for 19 years, a father, brother, husband, son, friend, and am a father of three Husky graduates.  Our administrators are Huskies as well and have much experience and training.  I believe our administrators are some of the strongest anywhere.


School administrators have not only PBIS positive interventions and student discipline guidelines to follow, and have issued numerous suspensions and expulsions when appropriate, we also have an obligation to protect the safety and rights of every student. We have to protect FERPA privacy rights, we have to protect HIPAA medical privacy rights, individual Civil Rights, as well as numerous district policies, follow our negotiated agreements, and must follow IEPS (legal individual education plans), 504 plans, as well as adhere to many state and federal laws and guidelines. It is extremely complex and sometimes even requires attorneys.  It is daunting because we cannot share all information in a situation at times with parents of students who have been disciplined or consequenced.  Know that we do listen and strive to make the best decisions possible.  As adults we need to show kindness to one another as we work together to continuously improve. COVID has worsened student interactions in schools. These situations in schools have been difficult for us all – with middle school (where we have heard the most criticism) being the most challenging for students, staff, parents, and administrators.  


Part of our ongoing effort as administrators is to communicate more effectively with others – children, staff, parents, and our community.  I have personally invited and met with concerned parents and employees to conversations with the intent of continuous improvement and finding ways we can do even better.  I have met with building Principals and Asst. Principals with the same goal of doing better. 

We also encourage students to report inappropriate behavior and conflict to teachers, coaches, administrators, or other employees.  Also, to call other students out when one or more are inappropriate to another student. Staff and administrators are trained to do this, but often it is the positive peer pressure that also improves situations.  Our positive student leaders are also instrumental in maintaining a positive school culture. Part of this lies within our assemblies, various programs, school culture, character education, and teachable moments.  We try to also develop acceptance, kindness, grit, tenacity, and the ability to effectively cope with difficult and uncomfortable situations.  


We strive for appropriate and consistent consequences when needed. Nobody wants conflict in our schools, and we strive to reduce this and student anxiety as much as possible.  Please join me in conversations to help support our schools and improve our building cultures.  Contact your building principal about involvement in their building committee or discuss with them your ideas and concerns - and let’s work together for the best schools for our children.  

Husky Proud!

Jeffrey N. Layton, Ed.D.
Northwestern Local School District

[email protected]