This past year there have been a number of encounters in Singer Park between Sequoyah students engaged in PE classes. and people experiencing homelessness and possibly mental illness. Although there have been no incidents of physical contact or harm, these encounters have sometimes proven disruptive or unsettling for students and teachers.
PE instructor Ben Moran, the faculty member most directly involved in student safety at Singer Park, described a particularly dramatic a few months ago. “There happened to be two classes doing PE at Singer Park when an agitated cyclist, whom we had seen using the roads around Sequoyah, was coming close to the park. He was shouting profanities and ordering people about; cars, drivers, pedestrians, and inappropriately engaging everybody around there.”
There are various safety precautions in place designed to avoid these encounters as well as protect students if they occur. The school’s Operations team, based in the St. John’s offices across from the park, has made contact with local homeless services and the Pasadena police department, and has made an effort to get to know the population living in the area. “Before we go into an area,” Moran said, “we look around, check for concerns. We know the people that might be causing concerns and if they are there we adjust our situation.” This may include relocating to a different area or giving whoever is being disruptive some space.
If incidents occur, Sequoyah has a couple of protocols. The first is to get children out of harm’s way, if the situation is dangerous. “We carry our walkie talkies, which is a new practice, and we could signal for support from the Operations team,” said Moran. “And I’ve done that in the past and the Operations team responded promptly and directly.”
In addition, Moran maintains an awareness of the shifting group of persons hanging out in Singer Park. Said Moran, “I go out of my way to interact with them. When I’m by myself, I’ll go over to the park and introduce myself and talk with them and get to know them and get a read on them. In the particular case with the aggravated cyclist, we did move the class into an area that I felt was contained and thus safer.”
Moran also noted the need to balance safety with an attitude of exploration. “We live in a world that we want to be going out into. We want to explore the world. At Sequoyah School, we believe that the whole world is our classroom, and we take advantage of all the opportunities. We need to do that in a wise way, with an adventuresome and pioneering spirit, and make good judgment calls, and kids need to listen to teachers.”
Far less common are events where itinerant people walk onto the main campus. However, these do take place, as happened seven years ago when an inebriated woman wandered onto campus during school hours. She was escorted off campus by Moran and Operations without incident.
Since then, Sequoyah has begun to introduce security measures such as security cameras and locked gates. Moran added, “The gates used to be all open. There used to be a gate that opened right onto the sidewalk, which is how that person got in.”