Naturally, most of us are highly emotional about the recent violent, high-profile deaths and unlawful treatment of black Americans. Due to advances in technology, these events are no longer out of sight, out of mind, but right on our tv’s, computer screens and cell phones. They are disturbing. They are offensive. They are almost unbearable to watch. Some of us are in despair. Others of us are angry. But hopefully, the painful impact of these events will encourage us all to purposely incorporate anti-racist actions and thinking processes into everything that we do.
In Painesville City Local Schools (PCLS), our motto is “Engaging students today for tomorrow’s world.” Thus, it is imperative that we be culturally responsible, and engage our students and staff in difficult conversations on racism, diversity, and equity. Unless we are willing to have honest dialogue in which we sincerely attend to the thoughts and experiences of others, especially the disenfranchised, tomorrow’s world will look no different than today’s.
We are sincerely proud of the peaceful demonstration organized by some of our students on June 1, 2020 protesting the death of George Floyd and ongoing social concerns of racial injustice and disparities. Education is important. Open discussion is important. Recognition is important. But combining these things with action is how we truly affect change in systemic racism and oppression. Our students get it, and we are committed to making sure that they know we support them and will fight this fight with them.
The PCLS anti-bullying policy states that, “The Board of Education will not tolerate any gestures, comments, threats, or actions which cause or threaten to cause bodily harm or personal degradation.” Racism itself is a degrading institution that further perpetuates discrimination, hatred, oppression, and violence. As a district with a racially diverse student body, we at PCLS condemn all forms of discrimination, racist behavior, and language. We oppose systemic and structural inequalities. And we are committed to providing a safe, empathetic, and supportive learning environment to our students in the face of these challenges.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated in “The Purpose of Education,” a piece he wrote in the February, 1947 edition of the Morehouse College student newspaper, “We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.” At PCLS, we endeavor to build both.