VALENTINE’S DAY CANCELED: Area Elementary Schools React To Parkland

News Palm Beach County Schools

Mental Health Professionals and School Board Leader Say Canceling is “Bad Decision.”

BY: Andrew Colton, Editor/Publisher

BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Reports that some South Palm Beach County elementary school principals are prohibiting Valentine’s Day parties in the wake of last year’s Parkland school massacre are generating a strong response from parents, school board members and mental health professionals.

All are calling on the principals, who serve at elementary schools in Boca Raton and Delray Beach, to divert focus from the one year anniversary of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shootings by letting elementary school kids celebrate Valentine’s Day, a longtime staple of elementary school life.

“Valentine’s Day is a day with candy and cards that shouldn’t be stopped,” said Palm Beach County School Board President Frank Barbieri, Jr., Esq. “I don’t think (canceling parties) is a good decision.”

BocaNewsNow.com is not naming the schools — or the principals — that are prohibiting parties. It is not a unilateral decision. The schools are scattered throughout our coverage area. Elementary school parties are traditionally run by class parents.

When asked why elementary school principals in Palm Beach County would prohibit recognition of Valentine’s Day due to the shootings at a high school in Broward County, Palm Beach School District Spokeswoman Julie Houston Trieste said that principals can decide what happens in their schools.

“In (one elementary school),” said Houston Trieste, “the principal said that it was the teachers who chose to not have parties in their classrooms.”

However, several parents and parent group members speaking with BocaNewsNow.com on the condition of anonymity — as to not involve their children — agree with Barbieri’s position, suggesting there’s no reason for 5 to 11 year olds to miss celebrating a holiday that promotes “like” and “love” because a hateful event occurred in another county a year earlier.

“By banning Valentine’s Day,” said one parent, “schools are creating a sense of unease in little kids who don’t — or shouldn’t — understand why a special day is no longer special. It’s arguably more vital now to celebrate love.”

The National Association of School Psychologists says it’s important for children to have a sense that everything is okay.

“It is a good idea that educators and school leaders are attentive to a tragic event,” said NASP Spokeswoman Katherine Cowan, “but the goal is to maintain as much normalcy as possible. School leaders need to consider whether children will believe that Valentine’s Day is canceled because something bad is happening.”

“I believe celebrating love for one another is a great way to heal trauma and spread a sense of togetherness for all students,” said Boca Raton Psychologist Stephanie Renfrow, Ph.D. “It’s important for school administrators to consider that banning Valentine’s Day celebrations may be a missed opportunity to demonstrate love and consideration in the classroom.”

Sources tell BocaNewsNow.com that Palm Beach County School Superintendent Donald Fennoy — a strong proponent of parental involvement in schools — is aware of the issue. While older grades across Palm Beach County are expected to take part in service programs to commemorate the anniversary of the mass shooting, elementary school principals may be instructed to proceed with Valentine’s Day parties as they have in previous years, complete with parental involvement. Whether or not a district mandate is imposed, School Board President Barbieri says it would be inappropriate for local administrators to prohibit parties in the name of “security.”

“There’s no impact on security by allowing these things to happen,” said Barbieri.

The National Association of School Psychologists offers several resources for dealing with a traumatic anniversary. Follow this link.