I am writing on behalf of the Charlotte Lab School faculty and staff to share with you our thoughts on the recent events in Charlotte and our plan to address the issues it has raised with students.
As you all know, part of the CLS mission is to use the City as our classroom; as such, we feel it is important to acknowledge and discuss the very complex challenges our City is currently facing. As much as we love and take advantage of the resources and possibilities of Charlotte, we must also learn from and engage with its more difficult realities. We believe it is in the best interest of LAB children that their school community reflect on the tensions in our local community and country and work towards change, while also ensuring that students feel safe and supported.
We plan to spend time facilitating conversations with each grade level on Monday. Our goal is not to share all the details of the situation, but rather to allow students to share feelings and questions related to the current events. Most importantly, we want to connect these conversations to our school’s overall approach to creating a truly multicultural and inclusive curriculum, experience and community. We believe that the dialogue we will have with students on Monday should - and MUST - be just the start. Our launch of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee last spring, the hiring of Kendra Johnson as our Director of Diversity & Inclusion, our decisive steps to increase the socioeconomic diversity of our student body and the intentionality of integrating diversity & inclusion related action steps into our 2016 goals, all speak to the paramount position these issues will hold as we move forward at Lab. The recent events in Charlotte illustrate the urgency with which we need to focus on building an inclusive community and one willing to engage in contemporary issues.
Although it is the protests and riots that have garnered the most media attention, we believe it is also important to address the complex history and context of race relations in our country, as well as events from around our nation in recents years that gave birth to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and are compelling many others to address injustices in our community and push for change. As we think about the implications for our social studies and cultural studies curricula and our Advisory program, there are several key values that will drive our approach and conversations, keeping in mind students’ age and readiness:
- Importance of thinking critically and closely examining both the information and the sources of information;
- Idea of perspective - that history/events/experiences can not be learned or viewed from only one person’s/group’s perspective;
- Value of empathy-acquiring a deep emotional understanding of another’s feelings.
- Role of media in defining what we see and whose perspective we get;
- Importance of listening to understand, even when we are tempted to pass judgment;
- Emphasizing community over “self” - WE is more powerful than I;
- Acknowledgement that beliefs and facts don’t always align;
- And many more ideas we are sure to uncover through the process.
In terms of how we interact in our school community, we also want to make it clear that in our community (students, faculty and parents) at Charlotte Lab School:
- All voices matter and need and deserve to be heard;
- We will not accept language or behavior that intentionally or inadvertently encourages discrimination, intolerance or hatred towards any group based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age, disability, or gender;
- We will do our best to ensure all community members are and feel included; and
- We will continually assess and challenge our own privilege, beliefs, assumptions, and mindsets.
Finally, we want to acknowledge that the conversations we have with students, and with our entire community as we move forward, will be part of a lengthy and, at times, challenging process. We do not have all the answers; we ask for patience and understanding with our staff, all of whom I trust to tackle this topic with tremendous thought and care. We expect that dialogue will remain difficult particularly as we adapt the conversation for students’ developmental readiness and diverse levels of awareness and experience grappling with these topics, focusing mainly on students’ feelings and questions.
Most critically, we need to begin the dialogue with our children and with each other. For those of you who are not sure where to begin, here are some resources that we have compiled.