Dear HCPSS Community:
We would like to take a moment to address the recent events in our nation, state, and county. As we grapple with the social-emotional impacts of a pandemic that may have forever changed our daily lives, we have witnessed another senseless killing of an African American, George Floyd. It is important that we acknowledge this event, reflect on the hurt and pain we are feeling and resolve together to do our part to eradicate hate, condemn violence and stand up to acts of racism within our own community.
We are outraged that incidents like these continue to occur and as educators, we know that these incidents have a profound impact on our children. As recently as last week there have been incidents where our students have made or posted racially charged remarks on social media. Our entire community suffers when even one individual feels their sense of safety and belonging is compromised.
At this moment, the word pandemic holds so much more meaning. We are facing a pandemic of racism, hate, and bias that threatens the freedom, peace and well-being of every person in our nation. During the COVID–19 pandemic, we have seen members of our community discriminated against and scapegoated. Now, amidst dealing with the uncertainty of a post-COVID world, we once again are met with the harsh reality that some in our society do not value the lives of African Americans. Make no mistake about it, what is happening in Minneapolis is part of a systemic issue that we need to talk about and address. What we are seeing across America is more than just a reaction to one incident; it is a culmination of years of dismissal, frustration, and anger.
The great writer James Baldwin said it best, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The best way for us to get through this is to face it head on and talk about it. We must create opportunities and spaces for people to share and heal together. We are asking staff, families, and community members to talk openly about what is happening and to encourage our young people and adults to talk through this. These conversations can be hard, but they are necessary. We encourage you to review resources that we have provided on the HCPSS website, including how to talk to children about traumatic events.
If you are unsure where to start, reach out to community and faith-based organizations that may be able to help, or contact our Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Kevin Gilbert at Kevin_Gilbert@hcpss.org.
As a school system, we will continue to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion resources, in order to address the structural racism in a measured and intentional way. Collectively, the Board of Education and superintendent have made a commitment to invest in restorative justice practices, mental health supports, anti-bullying resources, anti-bias and microaggressions training, and professional learning for leaders to operationalize equity in every building and office. Now more than ever, our commitment must not waver. Our school system, however, cannot do this alone and it is incumbent upon every individual in our community to take the initiative and have the tough, uncomfortable conversations that are necessary to address incivility and hate.
To our students, we want to say that if you are feeling unsafe, please reach out to a trusted adult—whether it is a parent, guardian, relative, teacher or administrator. We may not be together in our school buildings right now to provide you support in person but know that all of us are here to help you, protect you, and take care of your well-being first and foremost.
We ask that together, we use the widespread hurt, pain, and anger as a catalyst to create the type of society we desire for each and every one of our students. We pledge to do everything within our authority to eradicate acts of violence, hatred, and racism in the Howard County Public School System and create an environment where every student feels a sense of safety, belonging and inclusion.
Chair, Board of Education
Michael J. Martirano