Principal apologizes for setting up 'smash space' for teachers, staff

A Montgomery County elementary school principal has apologized for the creation of a "smash space" that provided her staff an area to use baseball bats on a broken rocking chair in an effort to help relieve stress.

In a letter to parents, Kensington Parkwood Elementary School principal Barbara Liess explained how the space came to light and called it a "lapse in judgment."

Liess said the space was set up on school grounds on March 8 after a broken rocking chair was brought to the loading dock outside of the school building, which is used as the school's outdoor trash room, and is "out of sight and sound of students."

In the letter, Principal Liess wrote:

Dear KP Community:

A message was shared on the Kensington Parkwood listserv regarding the existence of a "smash" space at our school. First and foremost, I want to apologize for my lapse in judgement. And, while there is no excuse for my decision, I want to provide some additional details that I hope will address your concerns.

Approximately one month ago, on March 8th, a rocking chair became broken beyond repair and was brought to our outdoor trash room for bulk pick up. This space was outside of the school building, on the loading dock, out of sight and sound of students.

I absolutely regret my decision to provide staff with an opportunity to "smash" the rocking chair. This decision was not in response to any teacher comment or behavior, rather a misguided attempt by me to provide staff with an outlet. I got the idea after reading some business articles that discussed companies providing items to be smashed as a way to reduce stress. This was a lapse in judgement and I recognize the concerns this may have raised. Our staff is committed to modeling for students and one another productive and appropriate ways for handling stress. I recognize that while well-intended, this scenario is counter to what we teach students and has no place in a school.

Please know that I am committed to Kensington Parkwood, to our families, and to our students. Please accept my sincerest apologies and know that I will do all I can to regain your trust.

Montgomery County Public Schools said in a statement:

"MCPS does not condone this behavior by our staff. It is counter to our mission and our values. We take this matter very seriously and continue to investigate this incident. MCPS has a longstanding commitment to providing its employees with wellness support to help staff manage stress."

The school district would not discuss if the principal is facing disciplinary action, saying it does not comment on personnel matters.