School transparency: Assistant Principal Maria-Elena Navarro

Maria-Elena Navarro

What happens when a student gets injured?

“When students are injured, I get a report about that, and I have to read the report and sign off on it but that hasn’t come my way.”


How does the administration send out notifications to the students and parents?

“There are different types of information that gets released so it depends what topic it is. We rely heavily on our website. If you go on to our website calendar, all the upcoming events for the school are now on there.”


What is the procedure for whether or not you release the information to the students and parents?

“My answer to that is that it depends on the situation. When [the incident] is something that is going to affect potentially all students, we want to make sure that parents and our community are informed about things, but we never want to panic or upset anybody. The principal and I work in collaboration with the district to make sure that people are accurately informed about what they need to be informed about.”


What does the administration do to find out information and make sure students and parents know about what is happening?

“We generally will use email and the Friday Forecast. When it comes to other incidents, I will inform parents whose children might be involved via email. We work with the approval of the district office to make sure that the statements that we are releasing are accurate, and we need to confirm that accuracy before anything can be sent home.”


What factors did the admin have to consider when releasing information about the student?

“We want to be transparent, open and communicative but protect the privacy of individuals when necessary. We want to be empathetic and build a trusting relationship with all of our stakeholders and community members but also have to consider the privacy and the feelings of the people involved.”


Who do you contact when an emergency situation occurs?

“What we do is very situational. Let’s say that we have a student who is involved with activities he or she shouldn’t be involved in. We will work directly with his or her family. If that behavior affects other students, then we have to be in contact with the parents [of those affected]. [For] the situation about the young man who was not here for a bit, that incident can affect the community because there was concern about the safety of students in the community. At that point, Mr. Dade puts out an email to the parents of Walnut High School in collaboration and with approval of the district. [In another example], we have a lot of traffic congestion, in which upset parents have called me about students crossing the street when they shouldn’t be and parents making u-turns. When [an incident] affects the school at large, that’s when we involve everybody. If they are individual situations, [the information] belongs to the confidentiality of that family.”


How do you think the school handles recent situations?

“I say we’re doing a really good job because we have to comply with board policy, district policy, and the California Education Code. Those are requirements and are not options for us.”


Where can a student find out information about any general topic?

“Students have their student agendas, so they have important information listed in there about policies and procedures. We have our school website, and Mr. Dade sends out a Friday forecast, which is an electronic [news update] every Friday. When larger issues or concerns come up that could potentially affect students at the school, we communicate either through ConnectEd phone calls or the Friday forecast.

[For the] traffic issue, Mr. Dade put out a message to parents telling them to please make sure that they are abiding all traffic regulations in front of our school. That goes out to everybody because it could potentially affect all students here. Upcoming things like the progress reports would be electronic. He’s letting parents know that [notices] can be as big as that or they be information about athletics.”


When an event occurs, do you think the school should tell the students?

“If it’s going to impact multiple students or impact the school or community then yes, we need to notify parents. Let’s say there was a student walking home and someone tried to talk to or abduct him or her. The school would put up words to parents like ‘Hey, heads up, we’ve been notified by the sheriff’s department.’ We also work with a liaison from the Walnut-Diamond Bar Sheriff’s Department who works and collaborates with us on anything that goes on in the community that people need to know about. We communicate via phone, and he stops by and talks with us [sometimes]. It is very important to the sheriff’s department that we’re safe here.”


How do you choose what information to release and keep private?

“When it comes to privacy, all students have the right to have their privacy maintained through their communication with their GLCs and their teachers. Now, if a student is in danger in any way, we are obligated by law to report that either to the sheriff’s department or to children’s services. If a student comes in and shares with us his or her stress and struggles, they’re confidentially and privately speaking to us about that. That’s when that privacy comes in. When their safety is in danger, privacy really no longer comes into play.”


What does the school do if a student is in danger?

“If a parent comes in and feels their child is in danger, we work with that parent immediately to find out why and respond appropriately and accordingly depending on the situation. Sometimes it’s a family matter and it has nothing do with us or the school. Families come to us for advice, and we connect them to the appropriate agencies to help them. Sometimes families will come to us and feel their child isn’t safe because they don’t like the friends that they have, so that’s when we help the family work that out.

No situation is ever the same, and no situation has the exact same answer. Our job is to work with every situation that is individual and unique and respond in a manner that is going to ensure student safety and their mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.”