As Superintendent serving the Franklin West Supervisory Union, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts on the Insurrection at the United States Capitol on January the 6th, 2021. This is my 39th year as an educator and life-long learner. As I watched the mob in support of the 45th President commit violence, destruction, and death to five Americans including a police officer at “The People’s House”, the news commentary continually referred to this chaotic scene with the word surreal. On a personal level I would describe what I saw as horrific, to the incomprehensible level that when I attempted to discuss this event with our leadership team two days later I broke into tears unable to carry the conversation. Fortunately our middle and high school principals were able to share the content of conversations that students shared utilizing a “student voice” supporting democracy.
As a life-long educator and learner it never fails to surprise me as to how powerful, intelligent, and thoughtful the student voice resonates, even in the eye of hateful speech and actions that defy any measure of human decency. I am uplifted by administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and students who in the face of this unthinkable occurrence that the world is observing, strive to help our schools become incubators of inclusion and justice.
Never underestimate the power of student voice. Last spring our high school students with the thoughtful guidance from significant adults in the building formed the BFA Fairfax Racial Justice Alliance. I realize the privilege that I have been afforded and applaud our students for taking a stand against systemic racism. My belief is that all teachers (not just social studies teachers) can assist by engaging in meaningful dialogue to support the value of having a democratic school. Elementary teachers, unified arts teachers and athletic coaches can provide important lessons on the art of winning and losing with sportsmanship and dignity. Additionally, as a community of educators we can all assist to teach and model the tenets of purposeful debate.
In conclusion, I implore all stakeholders to reflect on the unseeable images that we witnessed to grow and learn cohesively as a caring community for our children, who learn from our words and actions. One of the images that is unfortunately and indelibly in my memory is the photograph of a member of the mob carrying a confederate flag inside the United States Capitol. If you look closely at that photo, in the background you will see a portrait of Senator Charles Sumner who was an abolitionist leading up to the Civil War. Sadly history has a bad habit of repeating, Senator Sumner’s birthdate is the same as the Insurrection at “The People’s House” on January the 6th,1811.
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.