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Communication to Communities - June 8, 2020

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  – Nelson Mandela (1994)

Dear Students, Families, Staff and Community Members of Region One,
 
We stand together with those we serve at this time of crisis. Unfortunately, our nation has a devastating condition of racism. Ending racism must be about ending inequities of all kinds. We strive for greater equity in our own work. We are unrelenting in our efforts to inspire our society to embrace and translate solutions into policies and collective and individual action for a better, more just world for all people.


There are deep divides in our country at the moment; these deep divides have existed for many years. Now, after the death of George Floyd, as well as others who have lost their lives as a result of racist and extreme violence, the deeply painful experiences of the last weeks require us to acknowledge that we must do more. 

There is much we can do in our educational systems. While we offer all of our children in Region One equal opportunities to a high quality education, we must always examine if we are denying any child an opportunity because of race or ethnicity or another factor that is inherent for who they are. Any denial to access for a student is a denial of social justice.

Social justice focuses on the fact that everyone deserves to have access to property, education, and opportunities, it focuses on creating an ideal society that is just, fair and looks after the downtrodden. And what we are seeing now is that a society that has lacked social justice and is descending into chaos. And peaceful protests are increasing rapidly, as more citizens witness the inequalities that exist.

Social justice is about distributing resources fairly and treating all students equitably so that they feel safe and secure—physically and psychologically. What we know is that our schools nationwide do not have fair distribution of resources and equitable treatment. Students in poorly-funded schools do not have the technology, books, art and music programs that create a well-rounded education, while students in more affluent areas have the latest academic resources, school counselors, librarians, and more to help them succeed. Bringing social justice into schools shines a light on all sorts of important societal issues—from the myriad of reasons that lie beneath the deep disparity between the suspension rates of black and white students to how current migration policy separates families and violates student rights.1 As parents, board members, and educators, it is our responsibility to stand up for all students’ rights to ensure all children have the same educational opportunities.

These educational opportunities include the curriculum that our schools adhere to. While Connecticut requires schools offer courses in Black and Hispanic culture, if our school systems think of this as “add-on” courses to meet the requirements, then this is a system failure. Instead, we must seriously examine our curriculum throughout the grades, to see opportunities to educate our children about cultures and racial inequity, past and present.

Stefanie Jones, founder of Mapping Racial Trauma in Schools, says it is necessary to help prepare teachers to critically examine their discipline and to frame teaching as a reflective practice by asking important questions of themselves and their curriculum. Teachers should have continued support for professional development that is antiracist at its core and includes stories of joy and resistance.

Most importantly, she states that it is the wrong reaction for teachers to avoid teaching Black histories for fear of perpetuating negative reactions and violence. Remaining silent or choosing to omit certain elements of history has the same impact. “We must want to do the right thing by our students, even if that means we have to struggle to learn more and seek feedback from students about the impact of our curricular choices…We do this so that we can begin the process of educational reparations— wherein we repair the harm that we have done to children by reconstructing curricula that has failed them”.2

In Region One, we have been reworking our curriculum for years. And we will look deeply at our own practices and our own approaches to ensure that statements about equity, justice, and inclusion are borne out in our own actions. Equally as important, we intend to listen to our students and those in our school communities. We will call upon all of our schools to continue to embrace this important work and we applaud the efforts of our communities to bring meaning and life to this purpose.

We have had nearly 400 years of racism in our country. How much have we changed? Not enough. We must speak in the language of unity and recognize the deep wounds in our nation. It is incredibly sad that it has taken the most recent and violent deaths of Black people and the protests in our country to finally realize that we must do more. It is time to fix a broken system, for us to all believe that justice starts with a recognition that we have a problem with racism in our country and people deserve to be heard.

You and your children may need to talk about the recent events as they are taking place. Our administrators and school counselors are available to meet or speak with you and your children to process the events as they are taking place.

I believe that what we are seeing is a change in mindset about what is taking place. We, as a nation, can do better. We must do better. And in our school districts, we are committed to ensuring that every person feels safe and valued.

Dr Pam Vogel

Region One Superintendent

 

1 Alvarez, B., (January 22, 2019). “Why Social Justice in Schools Matter”, NEA Today.

2 Jones, S., (Spring 2020). “Ending Curriculum Violence”, Teaching Tolerance.