You’ve probably seen news about an HCPSS student’s racially offensive comments and the subsequent exchanges on social media. This will make our job even harder tomorrow, but we ARE up to the challenge. To emphasize the magnitude of the concern, we have included Dr. Foose’s message to parents, below.
As educators, we are entrusted by our community to work against ignorance of every kind. Parents and families expect us to take proactive roles against bullying, intimidation, and racism and bias. And we are uniquely suited to do this work. We’ve built relationships with students for years, based on trust and mutual respect. We taught their friends, older siblings, and in many cases, their parents.
Please join HCEA in a display of solidarity and determination this Tuesday, February 2nd to demonstrate our strong support for diversity and dignity of the community we serve. Wear something RED to work. Engage your students in dialogue. Educators have a responsibility to make the world a better place; if this is one reason why you have chosen our career, share it!
HCEA has a collective responsibility as well, and our leadership will listen to YOU to decide upon our actions. Through our Minority Affairs Leadership committee, we will invite our members to approach us for support or training related to the attitudes/behaviors of students. We will engage with HCPSS about a renewed emphasis on high-quality cultural proficiency training and dialogue, and discuss options that we might provide students, staff, and the community.
No matter what the weather throws at us, no matter what students say or do, and no matter how daunting our job is, we will continue educating to elevate the discussion here in Howard County.
Paul Lemle, HCEA president
Why do we wear RED?
HCEA chose red as a protest/solidarity color to draw attention to educational issues that affect the students and educators of Howard County. Our colleagues in North Carolina (and other states) have worn “Red for Public Ed” for many years. It is also the color of the Moral Monday actions and the campaign to end HIV/AIDS in Africa, as well as charitable organizations like the American Heart Association and the International Red Cross.
Message from the Superintendent of Howard County Public Schools, Dr. Renee Foose:
Dear Parents and Guardians:
I want to share with parents and our community the details of an incident that I believe provides us with a teachable moment. Today, I learned about a series of events that occurred between our students during a social gathering at one of their homes.
I want to inform you, so the school system, parents and students can come together to address the damage caused by use of hurtful words about race and the misuse of social media. In this particular case, one student videotaped a classmate making inflammatory, insensitive, and racist comments. The details of the video are disturbing.
The video was posted on several social media platforms and has already been shared hundreds of times, offending many people of all races, and reflecting poorly on students directly involved and those who chose to stand silent. This behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
I am deeply saddened that this occurred in our community, which prides itself on being a welcoming community to people of all cultures.
The principal of the school that the students attend and members of the School Administration are investigating. Conferences are being scheduled with all youth involved and their parents as soon as possible.
I encourage you to participate in my call to action. Take a stand and refuse to share the video, and delete any copies. This is more than an example of an irresponsible use of social media. It is hateful. No Howard County public school student should engage in this type of conduct, nor do they need to be exposed to it.
I urge you to have conversations with your children about cultural differences, self-respect, and respect for people of all cultures. Student Services are available at all schools if young people or adults need guidance and support when addressing these issues. The Howard County Public School System also has a unique cultural proficiency program that is used to help our staff members support students.
It is imperative that students and families engage one another in these tough conversations. These conversations, while hard, they are essential if we are to move forward as a strong, vibrant community.
Renee A. Foose, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools