NSA head writes letter to school family

Published 10:44 pm Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March 23, 2009

Dear friends:

As you know, we conducted a sweep for controlled substances on our campus with the help of the Suffolk Police Department Canine Unit on Tuesday, March 17th. This sweep was part of our long-term commitment that our administration will be engaged in keeping the Nansemond-Suffolk Academy community safe from drugs. This will be coupled with an educational program that continues to address the ruinous realities of drug and alcohol use in adolescence.


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In light of the situation at hand, I am writing this letter to share with you information about the chain of events that took place on our NSA campus. Last Tuesday morning, the Suffolk Police commenced with their sweep and their dogs alerted them to 25 cars in our lot. They issued search warrants for the purpose of collecting evidence from the cars instead of relying on the school’s authority to conduct a search of the cars that the dogs found suspicious. At that point, we had to follow the procedures that the police set in place. This procedure was a departure from what has been done on our campus in the past and what was originally understood would occur between the NSA Administration and the Suffolk Police Department.

Unfortunately, we experienced what can happen when people are accused of potential wrongdoing. A vast majority of students served with search warrants had what I would term, “false-positive” results from the dogs used by the police. Also, I have to add, that we are very concerned about the threshold of evidence the police used to charge one of our students.

While the search warrants were being obtained, the students who were impacted and their parents were immediately called and apprised of the situation. Many of the parents came to school to be with their child as their cars were inspected.

The most heartbreaking aspect of this whole matter was that a number of people were swept up in something they, and the school, had no control over. Even in my early months at NSA, I have come to know some of these students, and to see them in the midst of this was simply absurd – as was it for so many others. To the, their family, and friends I am deeply sorry for the inconvenience. I have made it a point to meet with each student and share my distress.

Knowing that our school community needed to be made aware of the happenings of the day prior to the public-at-large, we uploaded a letter to inform our parents of the news on the Edline system and sent an email to our faculty. On the morning of Wednesday, March 18th, an assembly was held with students in grades 8-12 to discuss the matter. Students in grades 5-7 met with the Lower School Dean of Students and Guidance Counselor to answer questions on information they had heard. Because we were aware that many Lower School parents in grades Early School 3 – Grade 4 may have not yet activated their Edline, we felt it was prudent to send a hard copy of the letter home to those parents. Upper and Lower School classroom teachers, counselors and advisors continue to discuss the situation with students as questions or concerns arise. A meeting with the teachers was held on March 18th at the end of the day to brief them as well.

In the wake of the sweep, we did garnish some unfortunate and false media coverage. Reports that there were a number of arrests were wildly inaccurate. One television report was so far of any semblance of the truth that our calls for a retraction were immediately made by the reporter within 10 minutes.

It was also during this week that I learned that an Upper School faculty member, Dick Stewart, was one of the first to arrive on the scene of a horrific accident on Route 58 last week. He and another kicked in a windshield and pulled a truck driver from his overturned truck. The drive lost his leg, but survived the accident, and from his hospital bed called Dick “the angel who saved his life” – this valiant effort unfortunately did not make the news.

It is a reminder of the larger things in life, as well as the quality of people, that make us so proud of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy. It is why we are dedicated to keeping our children safe and why Nansemond-Suffolk Academy is resolved to confront the dangers that threaten our children – and do this with a purposeful humility.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me. My door is always open. I am

Very truly yours,

Colley Bell III (signature)