We are sending the message below to all of our high school students, many of whom have reached out to us with concerns about the issues of diversity, equity and tolerance. We’re sharing this message with not only the parents of our high school students, but also the parents of all of our students, so you will be aware of its contents and can consider having a conversation at home about this topic. We are very aware of where our role ends and where yours begins, and that we must work together to help our students succeed.
To Our High School Students:
Earlier this month, I sent a message to your parents to address CCSD’s position amid the nationwide protests. We also shared it on our website and social media.
In retrospect, I should have also sent it to you. This message is on our website at https://bit.ly/CCSD652020. If you have not already read the message, please click the link and read it now before you continue reading this email, as it’s important for you to know where we stand on diversity, equity and tolerance.
After reading the letters some of you have written me and the social media posts some of you have directed toward CCSD, I know some of you think our school district should take a political position. As a district, while we don’t take political positions, we are committed to ensuring our schools are welcoming and inclusive; if this disappoints you, please consider how you would feel if we took a position opposed to your own.
I view the Black Lives Matter protests and movement through the lens of our responsibility as a school district: we are responsible for providing safe schools that provide equality and equity in education. Our Mission Statement makes this clear: “We are committed to educating the emerging generation through learning environments designed to increase the performance of all students.” And our Core Beliefs, especially this one, make it clearer: “We believe safe, diverse and inclusive schools are critical for successful teaching and learning and strengthening our culture of belonging, kindness and possibility.”
As your Superintendent, I do not tolerate racism or hate speech in our schools. I care for every student we serve and value the life of every student we serve – and our schools serve students of every race and dozens of ethnicities. Our school district operates our own school police department that is just as dedicated to fairness as our organization is as a whole, and I value the life of every officer who protects and serves us all.
My message to your parents and teachers noted the steps we are taking to ensure we continue to fulfil this responsibility as a school district as we work together for the families we serve. As I stated to them, we are better together! To that list, I have two more steps to add.
We are aware of some students’ concerns about possibly seeing the Confederate flag at their schools. Our schools do not display Confederate flags; the only permitted use by the school itself is by teachers during applicable lessons. Our student code of conduct, which includes our dress code, addresses the potential disruption of teaching and learning; I am reminding all of our Principals that students causing disruptions face code of conduct violations and must be addressed.
It also is clear that I need to communicate more with you.
I believe that social media posts directed toward schools about these matters are an ineffective way for us to communicate; also, posts that make allegations against classmates or teachers could lead to legal action by those you accuse. If you experience harassment at school by anyone for any reason, including but not limited to race, let your Principal know, as we have a process for you to make a complaint that will be investigated – by administration for possible disciplinary action and/or by our police for possible criminal action.
The letters you send to me let me hear from you directly, which is better, but letters – even this one – still don’t allow for the crucial conversations that lead to change.
When our schools reopen, which I still hope we will be able to do on Aug. 3, each middle school and high school will encourage students to be involved in increasing cultural awareness and unity in their school and ending hate and divisiveness through participation in a Principal’s Student Advisory Council; and, if there is interest, a student-organized, after-school club. Once these groups are up and running this fall, I want to visit them and hear from you. Each middle school and each high school also will have the opportunity to select one member from the club and/or council it forms to serve on a new Superintendent’s ad hoc advisory student committee, along with the Student Delegate to the School Board from each high school. I will meet during the school year with this committee to hear students’ perspectives on how we can do better as a school district to support students.
I – and your teachers, counselors, coaches, bus drivers, cafeteria staff, media specialists, administrators and everyone else in our organization – care about your success. And we care about you.
Dr. Brian V. Hightower
Superintendent of Schools