Some Highlights of Attending This Week’s American Association of Suicidology Conference in Atlanta (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Me at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Me at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

This is my second year as a member of the American Association of Suicidology.  Earlier this Spring, I happened to peruse the association’s website and discovered that the annual conference was to be held in Atlanta, only a short distance from my home!  How could I pass up an opportunity to attend the conference?  It would have been unthinkable not to go.  So, this week, I invested the equivalent of two days throughout a three-day period into hearing presentations, attending workshops, meeting colleagues, and getting photographs.

Me with Dr. David Miller, President, American Association of Suicidology, Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Me with Dr. David Miller, President, American Association of Suicidology, Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

The conference was very affordable at $150, plus receiving a free student seat to a half-day preconference workshop on Tuesday, presented by Dr. Jim Mazza and Dr. Alec Miller. I wasn’t required to fly or drive in over a long distance (although driving in the downpouring rain wasn’t very pleasant on Wednesday morning), I didn’t have to shell out big bucks for a hotel stay, and I didn’t have to pay alot of money for food.  I parked at a self-serve parking lot on Spring Street, just one block away from the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, paying $4 per day for each of the three days.

Dr. Marsha Linehan and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Dr. Marsha Linehan and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Yesterday, I enjoyed eating lunch at the buffet of a nearby Chinese restaurant, paying only $8.50, including tip for my meal.  One thing I did miss out on today, however, was the $10 student lunch voucher.  I arrived too late, and there were none left, so I had to go without.  The wonderful bagels for breakfast, however, certainly made up for the lost lunch opportunity.

Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Michael Anestis, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

I’m still extremely happy to have enjoyed the free student seat at Wednesday’s workshop, as well as to have met a huge presence in the field of counseling and psychotherapy, Dr. Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy!  I snapped a couple of pictures of Dr. Linehan, but missed out on my chance to be photographed with her when a kind lady was unable to navigate my camera – and Dr. Linehan was in a hurry.  To hear her presentation about her personal background and how it relates to her creation of DBT is incredibly inspiring!

Iris Bolton Speaking at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Iris Bolton Speaking at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

There are so many additional, wonderful presenters that I heard, as well, including, but not limited to Dr. Thomas Joiner and Dr. Cheryl King (who both autographed my program booklet – thank you!), Dr. Matt Nock, Dr. Michael Anestis (Conference Program Chair), Dr. David Miller (Association President, with whom I did get a photo!), Kathik Dinakar, Dr. David Klonsky, Dr. Keith Hawton, Adam Horwitz, Raymond Tucker, Stephanie Pennings, Dr. Sarra Nazem, Dr. April Smith, Chris Hagan, Iris Bolton, Dr. David Mayo, Dr. Madelyn Gould, and Dr. Peter Wyman.

Autographed Program Booklet, Name Tag, Book Bag, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Autographed Program Booklet, Name Tag, Book Bag, American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

While I did not do much networking, there were folks who I met and spoke with, making the experience more personal and enjoyable.  One particular colleague with whom I networked on each of the three days I was at the conference was Stephen.  Additionally, all of the staff and volunteers of the association were extremely helpful and friendly, particularly Justin, Sarah, John, and Pollyanna.

Dr. Keith Hawton Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

Dr. Keith Hawton Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 16, 2015

All those employees of the Hyatt Regency with whom I spoke were also very friendly and professional, providing an excellent reflection of the hospitality provided by those at the hotel.

Dr. Madelyn Gould Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, with Dr. Cheryl King looking on, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

Dr. Madelyn Gould Presenting at American Association of Suicidology Conference, with Dr. Cheryl King looking on, Atlanta, Georgia, April 17, 2015

There was so much that I learned, and I’m so happy to have had the chance to attend this year’s 48th annual conference.  I hope that I will be a more effective, compassionate, and professional support to those who have been affected in some way by suicidality, as a result of attending this conference.

K12 Field Trip at Atlanta’s Fernbank Museum of Natural History (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My son with dinosaur statues at Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

My son with dinosaur statues at Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

On Monday, April 13, 2015, my son and I enjoyed taking a field trip through K12 to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia.

Potentially poisonous Dart Frogs at Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

Potentially poisonous Dart Frogs at Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

The primary exhibit currently on display at the museum is Poison, and we found it to be very interesting.

My son flanked by dinosaur skeleton replica, Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

My son flanked by dinosaur skeleton replica, Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

It was great to get out and see something different for a change!

My son with replica of Giant Sloth, Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

My son with replica of Giant Sloth, Fernbank Museum, Atlanta (April 13, 2015)

My son and I spent three hours touring the museum, a time that was definitely worthwhile and beneficial to increasing our knowledge and learning about science.

LinkedIn’s Restrictions on Free Speech Constitute Cyber Bullying (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Cyber Bullying Image (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://nifahliciousblvd.wordpress.com/2013/11/19/hiding-behind-a-computer-screen-whats-up-with-all-the-cyber-bullying/

Cyber Bullying Image (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://nifahliciousblvd. wordpress.com/2013/11/19/hiding-behind-a-computer-screen-whats-up-with-all-the-cyber-bullying/)

Yesterday, I received a notice on LinkedIn that my group postings are temporarily being moderated because someone didn’t like that I promoted my new group, “Stop Youth Suicide,” in theirs. All of the 30 groups in which I promoted this group two weeks ago were related to counseling, child welfare, bullying, and social justice.

How sad is it that anyone would flag or report about that, and thus, have my group postings across my 51 groups be moderated by LinkedIn. I think it just goes to show that there are those folks out there who are very insensitive about this issue, and who are unable to cope with the perspectives of others that may be different than their own.  It also reflects how easy it is on LinkedIn for company staff to limit and restrict members’ freedom of speech.

This situation further reflects the punitive nature in American society in which well-intentioned people are often blamed and punished rather than being provided with an opportunity to defend and protect themselves.  LinkedIn is no different.  There is no appeal process for this on LinkedIn, and due process does not exist.  If one desires to be a member of LinkedIn, he or she has no choice but to agree to such policies as these that may be used in a punitive and restrictive manner, as I have experienced.

In one counseling group in which I promoted this group, my post was placed in the “jobs” section, not even in “promotions.” The group manager of that group is a licensed counselor! This is so sad.  The manager of that group eliminated my posting from the discussions section of the group, thereby removing any possibility for interaction and communication about the issue.  I have since left that group.

For all of you who are members in the LinkedIn groups that I have founded and/or moderate, I have always posted everyone’s discussions. If there is a member who repeatedly posts about topics that are not relevant to the group, I’ve sent them a private email message informing them about that, deleted those discussions that are not relevant, and/or moved them to the appropriate section, such as “jobs” or “promotions.”  Most often, people are understanding about group expectations, or if not, they leave a group.  I have known of a couple of people who were restricted by LinkedIn who left LinkedIn.

Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 fromhttp://acaruso2.myweb.usf.edu/Cyberbully/teachers.html)

Take a Stand Against Cyberbullying (Retrieved on May 16, 2014 fromhttp://acaruso2.myweb.usf.edu/ Cyberbully/teachers.html)

It is important for LinkedIn company employees to recognize that there are often times when people report on others simply because they dislike them and are unable to cope with a good message that is promoted and/or shared within relevant groups.

As another example, about two years ago, I left two anti-bullying groups that were out of the United Kingdom, after having posted relevant issues to the groups.  One member of those groups reported on me for posting about issues that were not relevant when they actually were relevant.  When I informed the group’s managers about my concern, after having been blocked in those groups, the managers did nothing, effectively supporting the bully who made the false reports.  I, therefore, left both groups.  By not supporting the target, and placing restrictions on the bully rather than the bully’s target, LinkedIn is also be supporting the bully.

For no one to even provide a professional courtesy of sending me a private message to inform me about their concerns related to my posting, and then reporting me to LinkedIn staff, thus causing my postings to be moderated across groups, is insensitive at best and bullying at most. If a posting is not desired in a group, it is very easy for the group manager to delete it.  It is also very easy to send an email to someone, or post a comment to the discussion, reflecting a concern.

The Computer Ethics Institute has published the 10 Commandments of Computer Ethics.  Among those rules of ethical computer use include the following: “1. Thou shalt not use a computer to harm other people; 2. Thou shalt not interfere with other people’s computer work;…5. Thou shalt not use a computer to bear false witness; and 10. Thou shalt always use a computer in ways that ensure consideration and respect for your fellow humans.”  Obviously, not everyone practices these rules of ethics, including those within social networks, as has often been evidenced.

For LinkedIn just to drop the hammer, effectively restricting my posting status across groups, is not only cyber bullying, but also removes my freedom of speech.  Those who report on other members, rather than attempting to resolve a situation, have no insight about and do not practice professional courtesy.  Instead, they are doing what they want because of being unable to accept or cope with the views and perspectives of others that may be different from their own.  Instead of becoming part of the solution, they remain part of the problem, and may also escalate the problem.

I would like to know in which groups my posting about the issue of preventing suicide is not relevant or welcome in their group…so I can leave their group and continue to post in groups where my views are welcomed and supported. I have emailed LinkedIn customer service requesting said information, though I doubt I will get the information that I desire. I have been oppressed too much and too often in my life to take this lightly.  To me, networking and sharing information about ways to prevent and eliminate suicide are serious issues.  Cyber bullying about this issue must not be tolerated.  I will not be silenced!

Follow-up (July 13, 2014):  Two days ago, a LinkedIn employee again blocked my posts and comments to nearly all LinkedIn groups (48 of them) in which I am a member.  Again, LinkedIn has required moderation of my posts and comments in those groups.  LinkedIn did not provide me any reason or notification of being blocked.  I have done no wrong.  This is another example of LinkedIn’s restrictions and removals of freedom of speech.

Follow-up (July 16, 2014): In response to LinkedIn’s restrictions on my group postings, I re-posted this article in two locations on LinkedIn.  The next day, I found that LinkedIn had further restricted my posting settings by blanketing all groups, including those that I manage.  LinkedIn’s policies in regard to such restrictions only enable and promote cyber bullying and harassment from other members, and further escalate the situation.  There are several other forums in which I have posted this article so that readers are informed about such institutional policies that reward accusers and harm targets.  I guess I should be proud that my speaking out about these issues has caused others to bully and/or harass me, as well as restrict my participation, however these actions are also a reflection on how acceptable bullying, harassment, and infringements on people’s rights have become.  If something is inherently wrong, I am one to speak out about it so that it can be changed and improved rather than entrenched and worsened.

References:

Computer Ethics Institute (2014).  The Ten Commandments of Computer Ethics.  Retrieved on May 16, 2014 from http://guardingkids.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html.

Hurray for Boys Standing up to Bullying! (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Stop Bullying (Retrieved from http://www.ftajax.com/bullying/ on December 27, 2013)

Stop Bullying (Retrieved from http://www.ftajax.com/bullying/ on December 27, 2013)

Last week, I attended a particular all-boy holiday gathering with my son and his dad.  We are brand new to the group, and began meeting the boys and their families who are in the group (but for one family whom we already knew) that evening.  My former spouse and I sat at a large round table with our son, and many other boys came and filled up our table.  Our son sat among the boys, including next to his new friend whom he made through school.  My Ex and I were the only adults at the table with the boys who were aged 10-12 years old.

During the meal of this gathering, one boy approached another boy and began bullying him.  I knew that both boys were brothers and passed judgment on them that they probably behave in such ways in private, much as I often see older brothers do with younger brothers.  My son, who was sitting next to the younger boy who was being bullied by his older and bigger brother, told him to “stop bullying.”  The boy who was being bullied completed the catch phrase – “speak up” – that has been seen on an anti-bullying TV commercial.  The older boy told my son to “shut up” as he messed with his younger brother, the older boy physically pushing his younger brother on his head.  My son stood up to the older boy, and he backed down and walked away from them.

During this interaction, I told my son from across the table not to get involved.  First, we were new to the group and did not really know the nuances of the interactions between the boys.  Secondly, I was concerned for my son’s safety, and did not desire for him to be hurt in some way by the older, bigger boy.  My son, however, knows what it is like to be bullied, and he does not like it.  He knows that I generally stand up to bullying, and I can see that my efforts have had a positive effect on him.

I later kissed and hugged my son for his involvement in stopping the bullying that occurred.  I told my son that I was very proud of him.  I also explained my reasons to him for not wanting him to get involved, however he saw that bullying is bullying, no matter who it is directed toward.  He did not want to see it happening, and he took a stand against and stopped it.  While he was uncomfortable about the situation, he was also proud of himself – and rightly so – that he could help someone and make a positive difference for him.  The situation also boosted his confidence level.  He was able to help the underdog, as he has all too often been in many situations, especially in school as well as within this boys’ organization on a broader scope.

In the past, I have also stood up against bullying – not within this individual boys’ organization in which we are new – but within other groups associated with this national boys’ organization.  The organization is supposed to promote goodness, kindness, and Christianity among the boys.  And, when a mom such as myself does not see that happening – and when my son also does not observe it occurring – we have stood up, made our voices heard, and taken steps to attempt to stop the bullying – not only among the boys, but also among adults, as well.  Sometimes, we have been successful, but most times, we have not.

Even so, the experience that my son had in standing up to and stopping bullying is a small victory.  Not only is it a victory for the boy who was being bullied by his older brother, it is a victory for my son, too.  He can place himself in the shoes of another person who is being bullied because he has all too often been bullied by so many.  The amount of bullying that he has experienced is incredible.

Now, at 10, my son is at an age where he feels confident enough to actually stand up to bullying.  When I did not want to stand up to bullying, he did.  That is also a victory for me, as well – my own son stood up to and stopped bullying.  I have taught him something, standing up for the right thing; and for that, I am very proud of him and know that I have made a positive difference in his life. 🙂

Note: This article has also been published, separately, in my anti-bullying group in LinkedIn, “People Against Retaliation and Bullying” on December 27, 2013.

“Fantastic Swimming Experience at Local Park Pool” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

My Son Enjoying a Summer Swimming Lesson, Briscoe Park, Snellville, Georgia, July 2013

For the past five years, my son has taken Summer swimming lessons at Snellville’s Briscoe Park.  For four of those five years, the area business, Positively Pools, has been contracted to provide life guards, swimming instructors, supervisors, and maintenance for the pool.  It is my absolute pleasure to share the overall wonderful experiences my son has had in taking swimming lessons, as well as in swimming recreationally at the pool.

I would like to take this time, therefore, to thank the managers and staff of Briscoe Park, as well as the employees of Positively Pools for consistently providing my family with such outstanding experiences with swimming at Briscoe Park.  Folks such as Justin, Stephen, Amber, Gabby, Deluir, Gabby, and so many others have repeatedly evidenced their exceptional professionalism, customer service, courtesy, and expertise to us. 

Thank you, everyone, for all of your hard work, commitment, and dedication to consistently doing the best of your ability in being flexible, open-minded, professional, courteous, and dedicated.  It is folks like you who help make swimming an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone – and that’s how it should be.  Keep up the great work!

“Student Exodus from Area Parochial School Could be Avoided” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

St. John Neumann School Billboard, August 12, 2013, Lilburn, Georgia

During this Summer of 2013, 15 rising fourth grade students left St. John Neumann Regional Catholic School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Only three new students entered the fourth grade in addition to the 15 who left.  During the Summer of 2012, eight rising third grade students left the school.  Only two students entered the school as new pupils in the third grade.  Interestingly, both of those students also left the school this Summer, after only one year at the school.  Additionally, the vast majority of students who have left are Caucasian; most others are of mixed race parentage.  Each year for the past three years, the school has considerably down-sized in terms of student population as well as faculty.  Currently, all grade levels have two classes; it used to be that most or all grade levels had three classes up until three years ago.

As a person who has been Roman Catholic all of my life, and who has provided a Catholic education to my child, the exodus of students and faculty from St. John Neumann School is concerning and disturbing.  One must ask, then, why there are so many who are leaving the school.  I have the answers to that, and it does not necessarily involve finances, budgets, or economics.

I suspect that I will come across as “the bad guy” to many by sharing this information regarding the school, however it is for my concern for students’ welfare, well-being, safety, and positive growth and development that I am doing so.  Additionally, my son is aware that I have a blog, and he also asked me to include his perspectives; my son is 10-years-old.

First, let me state that St. John Neumann School provides an outstanding – outstanding – education to the students.  Overall, my observations of what students learn through the challenging curriculum are well above my expectations.  Each year that my son was a student at St. John Neumann School, however, was a roller coaster.  There were wonderful and memorable experiences that he had with several outstanding teachers, however there were also many situations that he experienced by peers and adults at the school that were mentally and emotionally harmful and injurious to him. 

I often communicated with both school administrators and school system administrators, encouraging that greater sensitivity, compassion, and understanding be provided to the students.  Some of my suggestions were put into place, and some were not, and some were later removed after they were first implemented.  As an involved parent at the school, as well as an active volunteer for five years there, there was much that I personally observed and/or was informed about by students.  By far, the most serious issue facing students is the bullying, harshness, and often insensitive treatment they experience by administrators and certain teachers and staff.  I often encouraged upper administrators in the past five years to hold sensitivity training for employees of the school, though that never occurred.

Another very serious issue at the school is bullying that students’ experience from their own peers.  Some children repeatedly experienced bullying from teachers, adminstrators, and/or other staff, as well as certain peers.  This has created an unnecessary and avoidable stressful and hostile environment for many students.  One problem is because many of the school employees are so harsh and insensitive toward students, they are bullies themselves, and they therefore do not recognize, nor put a stop to student bullying.  Last year, more than 25% of parents responding to a school survey stated that bullying is a problem at the school.  I am one who has, again, encouraged school system administrators to hold anti-bullying and bullying prevention programs for faculty and staff at the school, however that has also never occurred.  Such training may help reduce bullying and increase sensitivity and compassion of adults and students toward other students.

A further big concern is the overwhelming pressure that is placed on students to be perfect in every area and in every way – academics, behavior, sociality, religion, and extra-curriculars.  Beginning with the youngest children, students who do not complete their homework are regularly disciplined.  In the past, teachers required students to stand outside for 5-10 minutes “on the line” – as they would say, on the outdoor paved parking lot play area, typically in the excessive heat.  This was an unspoken rule practiced by primary and early elementary school teachers and paraprofessionals.  Older children who did not complete homework are required to write answers to particular questions on a “behavior reflection” that reduces or eliminates their 15-20 minutes of recess time. 

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

St. John Neumann School Parking Lot Play Area, Lilburn, Georgia, May 2012

For two of the past five years, another unspoken disciplinary rule practiced by at least three school faculty involved making students walk and/or run “laps” outside during recess on the parking lot, again, typically in the excessive heat.  Sadly, this practice appears to be somewhat of a common, unwritten practice in this area – requiring students to run laps as punishment in excessively high temperatures – as I have discovered that it occurs at many schools.  In regard to one second grade boy, I informed his father that he was required to run laps as punishment by a paraprofessional, outside in the searing heat, and the dad did not believe me.  How sad that some parents are not more concerned about what their child is experiencing at school.

Other teachers at the school regularly separated certain students from their classmates by requiring them to keep their desks far-removed from those of other students, whether for certain assignments or even months at a time.  I often observed where many teachers would use guilt, humiliation, and embarassment toward students to demoralize them into doing what they wanted them to, rather than speak to children with respect, compassion, and understanding. 

Early elementary students are also required to miss 45 minutes of lunch and recess by serving detention in the main office, including for extremely minor offenses.  Such harsh and unnecessary punishments are unethical, demoralizing, and depressing to many students, particulary those outstanding students who get caught in the crossfires of the political drama at the school.  In consulting with employees of other area schools, lengthy detentions are required only in the most severe situations of high school – high school – students, not early elementary students!  I personally requested of school administration to reduce or eliminate this practice, though there was no positive change, and in fact, only a worsening of it, amounting to nothing less than emotional sadism toward students.  When those who are charged with caring for children see nothing wrong with such unnecessary, harsh disciplinary action toward children for the most minor of offenses, definite positive change is needed. 

Also in practice at the school is suspending children as young as second grade – to my knowledge; one very sweet little girl was suspended last Spring for I cannot imagine what.  In other area schools, such a practice of issuing out-of-school suspensions to the youngest students is unheard of and entirely taboo.  Such a practice proves the lack of sensitivity, understanding, and compassion by school administration.

I feel sorry for the students who are at St. John Neumann School due to the harshness, coldness, and lack of sensitivity and compassion that so many experience from alot of adults as well as peers at the school.  I have often encouraged those in charge who could make a positive difference to consider being more sensitive, understanding, kind, and compassionate toward students.   Harsh, demoralizing, excessive, and/or inhumane punishments that are disguised as “disciplinary actions” – even for the most minor of wrongs – are well beyond what school employees should expect of children.

When students get seriously hurt or ill at the school, a parent is lucky to get a phone call or communication about the incident from anyone.  A second-grade student got a serious blow to the head during outdoor play, but no ice was placed on the injury and no phone call was made to parents.  Upon picking up the child from school, it was obvious to the parent that the injury was serious.  When the child spoke of dizziness a number of hours after the injury, the parent took the child to their pediatrician. 

A kindergarten student fell in the hallway and sustained a large gash near her chin.  Parents received no communications from the school about the incident, and only a band-aid was placed on the wound.  Upon removing the band-aid after the child got home, the parent observed the depth of the wound, taking her to the emergency medical clinic where she received four stitches.  There have also been instances in which students were genuinely ill, but when they asked to go to the clinic, they were refused by certain teachers and paraprofessionals.  Keep in mind that absolutely no communications to parents by anyone at the school was made in any of these situations.

Safety is also a concern at the school.  There are no security cameras at the school, so there is no tangible record of situations that occur there – it is one person’s word against another’s.  A parent can inform an administrator about a teacher who belittles, bullies, and yells at a student – such as, simply for asking to use the restroom – but without any recording of it, the administrator does not believe it, does not want to get involved, and further, had already behaved in a bullyish manner toward children, so it is a lost cause.

Additionally, even with improved security measures having been implemented at the school this past Spring, it has not actually gotten better.  All visitors are to sign-in at the front office upon entering the building, however have been many occasion – including since the new policies were implemented – that I personally observed people enter and walk through the building without signing in at all, nor going to the main office.  There are also repeated instances of no one being at the front desk at the main office when people enter the school. 

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

St. John Neumann School, Lilburn, Georgia, August 2013

Last Spring, there was an actual “intruder alert” that occurred at the school that was not a drill; I was at the school volunteering when it occurred.  Parents were not informed by any school officials that the intruder alert occurred.  While the Superintendent stated in an archdiocese newspaper article that such drills and procedures regularly occur at all schools, a teacher at the school shared that only one such alert – whether actual or drill – occurred there in the past seven years!  If she means that such alerts and/or drills occur every seven years, she would be correct that they occur regularly, however it has been my experience that many public schools, for example, practice them between 2-4 times each year.  Because these drills and alerts are not “regularly” practiced at the school, many teachers really do not know what to do.  When fire and even tornado drills are practiced more than intruder drills, I for one, am concerned about the safety of my child at the school.

Teachers are also known to leave outside doors propped or even slightly ajar when they are supposed to be closed and locked.  Unfortunately, this is also a practice at many schools, so that late colleagues can enter the school undetected by supervisors.  However, that this is regularly being done on the hallway that houses the youngest children is a serious safety concern.

Again, I will likely be viewed as the bearer of bad news by sharing this information, however I believe that steps need to be taken to make improvements in order to progress rather than regress at St. John Neumann School.  I know I won’t win any awards for my article.  That my son – a 10-year-old – also wanted me to share his views about what he experienced at the school reflects the tone and atmosphere that is present at the school. 

While we have had many wonderful and memorable experiences at the school, as well as having met, interacted with, and befriended many people – including some truly great teachers – it is a serious concern when a school does not live up to it’s mission and standards.  When “teaching the Gospel values” of God and Jesus in the Catholic tradition is merely spoken but not actually practiced by many school representatives, there is definitely something that must change for the better. 

So, at $7,000 per student in tuition only, St. John Neumann lost a total of 18 students from the second and third grades in the past two years.  I think that’s a total of $126,000 if I did my math correctly, right?  That’s alot of money to be losing.  In business, it is always said that it is much easier to retain those people who are already part of an institution rather than recruit new ones.  However, in sharing my perspectives about this to both school administrators and school system administrators, there has been an apathy and lack of concern about it.  For me, personally, as a Catholic and having desired for my child to have a Catholic education, this is a serious concern. 

Thus, the reasons that I have described herein, I believe, are those that have caused the increasing exodus from and diminished size of St. John Neumann School in Lilburn, Georgia.  Isn’t it time for a positive change?  My aim in sharing this information is not to be critical, however it is to be honest and urge for positive change and improvements to occur at the school.  St. John Neumann is surely an excellent school at which students receive an outstanding education.  And again, while we have had many wonderful, exciting, and happy memories at the school, there are also a number of issues that deserve both serious attention and improvement. 

It is definitely disappointing when a school of one’s own faith does not meet minimal expectations regarding the value and treatment of children.  Children should not be perceived, nor treated as bad what with issuing so many unnecessary and harsh punishments; it is the perspectives and training of the adults that need drastic improvement.  Maybe if more people put their heads together, praying and working hard in doing what is in the best interests of children, that will occur.

“Christmas Lights Strung with Love” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

A Home in my Area that has an Outstanding Christmas Lights Display, Synchronized to Music, December 2012

There are a few homes in my immediate residential area in and around Snellville and Lilburn, Georgia, of which the owners have decked out their residences with amazing and breath-taking displays of Christmas lights.  In past years, there have been two homes, in particular, at which the Christmas lights have been extremely impressive and enjoyable.  Just this year, I located another home that has an outstanding display of Christmas lights, and it tops my list for my immediate residential area. 

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

I have taken opportunities this year – as in past years – to tour parts of my area to scout out, view, and enjoy homes with Christmas light displays.  Before Christmas, I was able to take my son and family on an outing to enjoy one such Christmas Light Tour.  It was great to view the displays, express our “Ooh” and “Ahhs,” and identify the parts of the displays that we liked the best. 

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

Another Part of a Christmas Lights Display at a Home in my Area, December 2012

That was also an opportunity for my dad to tell my son about the Christmas light displays he fashioned, painted, and made in his younger years when I was just a baby or toddler.  It was good for my dad – and for me and my mom – to tell my son of what we remembered about my dad’s own festive and creative Christmas lights displays.  My dad recalled that for three consecutive years in our small town in Western New York State that he earned the winning cash award for his displays.  He also remembered that the competition was discontinued when it was realized that no one could defeat his artistic craftsmanship.  For that, he is very proud, and he was able to share that pride with my son.

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

An Impressive Display of Christmas Lights in my Area, December 2012

Similarly, I can imagine the pride and joy that is felt by those home-owners who adorn their own houses and yards with 100s of Christmas lights.  There are so many lights that fill the darkness that one can see their glow before even arriving in view of the homes.  I have been able to personally express my gratitude and appreciation to two of the three home-owners at which my favorite three Christmas lights displays can be viewed.  The third home-owner is a professional contractor whom I have not yet met, though a number of photos of his displays are included within this article.

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

Another Festive Display of Christmas Lights in my Local Area, December 2012

While my family has our own small display of Christmas lights that we can view in our back yard from our dining room picture window, we very much appreciate and enjoy everyone’s festive and decorative Christmas lights for the holiday season.  Most especially, we appreciate all of the time, effort, creativity, expense, and love that is invested into the most impressive of all of the Christmas lights displays.  I take the opportunity whenever I can during the holidays to view and enjoy these displays with my son and family.