As school leaders, we write to condemn hateful and racist actions that occurred within our Natick community over the weekend. These events run counter to the beliefs and teaching of the Natick Public Schools and our belief in the core principles of the Natick Community at large.
This writing also comes after two days last week when students shared their very real human emotions with their classmates and trusted adults after the conclusion of our national election. It is very important that we continue to talk, to share our concerns and gain a greater appreciation of the issues that divide us so we may find the ways to be united and strong. As we engage in these conversations and in our daily actions, it is essential to reinforce the common values that unite us and condemn hatred in all its forms.
We are a caring, supportive and welcoming school and community. We are driven by the common values of responsibility, integrity, service to others and mutual respect for one another. The rhetoric of a political campaign and the ugly acts of a few will not erode these values. The health and safety of our students, including emotional safety, will forever be top priorities. Students with beliefs on all sides of the election told high school staff this week that they were feeling less safe as a result of the election and commentary afterward. Students at our middle schools indicated fear for their status and treatment. Such feelings from our students concern us deeply.
As a school system, we want our community, and most especially our students to know that we will do everything in our power to ensure that students of every gender, race, class, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, learning style, abilities and political party are protected and supported in our school system. We will not tolerate racism, sexism, bullying or name-calling of any kind, even if we see those behaviors modeled elsewhere. In the Natick Public Schools, all of our students have a safe space to be the fullest and truest versions of themselves as they learn and grow in our school system.
In our realm--the realm of teaching and learning--teaching students these values and this orientation of acceptance coupled with social justice up-stander behavior are not just words we say in our district, but actions we live by and actively cultivate in our students.
As educators, we intervene whenever we see injustice and teach the issues around the injustice, the factors that lead to injustice, and the remedy to injustice. We do this through specific and identifiable curriculum at every level in our school system, from the Open Circle and Second Step curriculum at the elementary level, to our deep and long secondary school collaboration with Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves and the Anti-Defamation league--all organizations who collaborate with us in training students and whose curriculum is employed extensively by our staff.
Most importantly and more important than curriculum, we seek to build lasting bonds with our students so they may feel safe and supported in our system; the relationship between teachers and students is a sacred one and one we count on in times like these to support our children and ensure that they have trusted adults with whom to share their fears, thoughts, hopes and needs.
Such sharing is ongoing in our system and is not just in response to the divisive election and to the recent deplorable acts in the Natick community. It is through these relationships that our high school diversity and inclusion committee--a group of students and staff working on these issues together-- share with you the voices of our students. The draft mission statement below, written by eight high school student leaders appropriately serves as a beautiful reminder of our core values and collective responsibility:
The students, teachers and families of Natick High School will...
Build respect for all members of the community
Listen to diverse perspectives with an open mind and willingness to learn
Encourage everyone to go beyond areas of comfort and familiarity to build empathy and compassion for others
Make NHS a safe and comfortable space for all
Reduce fear around these topics to create meaningful conversations
Care enough to comment! Silence implies acceptance/approval
Respond to issues and events in the community
Create opportunities for authentic experiences and interactions to change minds
We write to you standing up for all that our students espouse here--we will not be silent in the face of issues in our community. We stand at the ready to ensure that no person will be mistreated, discriminated against, or excluded based on gender, race, class, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, learning style, abilities or political party. We hope you join us in supporting our students and our community.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.