All In: We Must Speak Out Against Hate, Bias and Discrimination
No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People 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
In order to learn at high levels, students need a sense of well-being. They need to know that they are physically, socially and psychologically well taken care of. They need an environment where they are valued. They need schools and communities free of hate and bias.
I am disturbed about negative actions that have occurred in our schools that are clearly anti-Semitic or racist; that are biased against children who experience poverty; that are based on sexual orientation or gender identity, or are based on someone’s religion, language or neighborhood. These actions of hate and bias are unacceptable. I addressed this in a video recorded in May 2019, and want to reiterate the message today because our work is not yet done.
Hate and bias are not unique to Montgomery County, but I see resistance against hate and bias in this community every day. There are a great many people here who stand up and speak loudly against inappropriate actions and beliefs. We have more work to do. We must stand up and push back even harder against hateful words and deeds. As a school system, we must stay true to our core values of respect, relationships, equity, excellence and learning; they each play a critical role in ensuring schools are safe and welcoming environments where learning is the priority.
We have a highly diverse community, and this school system has embraced the idea of respect for all. MCPS staff has worked hard in this arena for decades. We have a strong Student Code of Conduct that identifies unacceptable behaviors and delineates how we as a school system will respond. We also have Board of Education policies and regulations that address non-discrimination, equity and cultural proficiency. They lay out behavioral expectations for staff and students. We use appropriate and thoughtful disciplinary actions as needed. We will continue to do that, but no one will ever discipline us into being a good community or a good society. It will take, in addition to discipline, strong teaching and learning, experience and conversation, and prevention and proactive practices. It will take all of us, regardless of our roles, working together. We must come together on behalf of our students.
Our school system is fortunate to have many community partners, and we are actively working to include many other members of our community in this work. Children must hear consistent messages from adults in all aspects of their lives and must know there are supportive people and places everywhere.
While I am proud of the work our school system and community have already done, we must do more. MCPS has convened a group of staff and community members who are looking into additional steps that we can take to address the unsettling incidents that have occurred in our schools. We must ensure that our responses are consistent and that we are being as proactive as possible to prevent future incidences. The group will analyze data to ensure that we address specific problem areas that exist. More information will be coming out next month regarding these efforts.
I encourage you, if you are engaged with children in any way, to talk with those children. Help them know how to get help if someone says or does something disrespectful or hateful. Let them know that it is unacceptable to say or do things to others that are belittling or hateful. Help them have positive experiences with people from diverse backgrounds. Speak up when you see or hear something discriminatory, racist or hateful.
The work is not easy, but it is one of the most important things we can do. I challenge myself, our 24,000 staff members, and the 1.1 million members of our community to engage in this work. We must be vigilant and take actions in big and small ways, in public and in private, to reach our goal of creating schools and communities that are diverse and safe for all.
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop
As we all know, learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult. I am constantly learning about new ideas and exploring new perspectives. I do this through books, articles and podcasts. Each blog, I will share a few of the most interesting ones with you. Some have made me ask questions, some have irritated me; others have made me smile or frown. I hope they make you think critically and open doors to new information and ideas.
Why? Explaining the Holocaust, by Peter Hayes
The Empowered University: Shared Leadership, Culture Change, and Academic Success, by Freeman A. Hrabowski III with Philip J. Rous and Peter H. Henderson
Teaching the science of learning, Yana Weinstein, Christopher R. Madan, and Megan A. Sumeracki