We in the Peninsula School District join the rest of our nation in sad recognition that many children and families are in pain right now, but especially our black children and black parents. As educators, we cannot live our lives in isolation or be immune to the protests. Our work must include a look at our own policies and practices to ensure we are part of the solution and not contributing to the pain. When we meet, we must talk about our own organizations and look inward.
As a school district serving 9,000 young people, and the largest employer in the area, we acknowledge that clashes in the streets have vividly exposed the daily hurt and trauma that some of our students, families and staff suffer because of the color of their skin. The murder of George Floyd, like so many others, has ignited protests from coast to coast in America.
To all, I first offer my heart in sympathy. Unfortunately, as a school system, we are unable to gather with our students to talk at this crucial time. Instead, we offer ourselves, our teachers and our counselors as resources to families. For our black students and black families, we know you are deeply affected by this and we offer our assistance and our commitment to helping find answers. I urge others to do the same.
What can you do? There are no bystanders, and I urge all to look for ways to move us from violence to solutions.
A major charge looms for us in the school business. Like many of those who are old enough to remember the 1960s anti-war protests, Civil Rights Movement, Watts riots and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this 2020 violence feels even stronger. I reflect on words echoed over the last century, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” ;
As educators, our responsibility is here now. The answer may not be as complex as it might sound –– in our business we must teach. In today’s world of immediate access to information, it has become evident that one of the most important things we do is help students learn to think and evaluate what they see, hear and read. Learning standards are clear that students must be discerning if they are to become contributing citizens. Similarly, to be good citizens, students must know how to contribute to their own well-being and that of others.
We are working to have our website access the wealth of pertinent writings that are emerging for students and anyone interested in the huge questions surrounding racial violence. At a minimum, we urge you to keep checking our website psd401.net for these excellent materials as we continue to grow our library.
Our schools are places for young people to grow and learn, including how to address questions of decency and justice. The violence, anger, death and crime are not passing incidents with little consequence. It is an element of our society that will undoubtedly affect our young people for the rest of their lives.
As we close this school year and anticipate the next, the world of civic awareness and responsibility must be a major focus. To all, we dedicate ourselves to offer a safe place called school. To those for whom school is not yet a safe place, we dedicate ourselves to that aspiration. Our children deserve it.
Art Jarvis, Ph.D., is the interim Superintendent of the Peninsula School District.