In addition to the tremendous challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus, there is no question that our country’s highly charged political climate can significantly impact our students, our schools, and the educational process. The upcoming election and the complex issues related to social and racial injustice can be very confusing and polarizing, and naturally, students bring their questions into the classroom.
We take our responsibility and legal obligation to educate students about the history of the United States and the importance of civic engagement to our democracy very seriously. Our educational system is designed not to tell students what to think about issues but rather how to gather and examine information, think critically, engage respectfully with their peers, and draw informed conclusions in a safe environment. Our educators are trained professionals who know they have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that diverse viewpoints do not create division or disruption that would be harmful to students or staff. However, to ignore diverse perspectives or withhold factual information is equally harmful.
This year, particularly with so many community members feeling the anxiety and strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must be more vigilant than ever about creating a school culture rooted in empathy and support rather than conflict and opposition. We have received several inquiries from families concerned that their student is being “indoctrinated” in one or another particular political belief system during the past few weeks. Please know that our teachers or other staff members do not advocate for political candidates or issues in class. When responding to student questions or engaging students in a discussion about politics, it is to create an accurate and constructive forum for students to explore and discuss issues. Our teachers are skilled educators, and we support their efforts to create a safe space for students and mediate diverse viewpoints with sensitivity.
With Election Day less than one week away, the stakes are high, and many of us are deeply passionate about the issues at hand. In a community comprised of people with different viewpoints, we will undoubtedly encounter neighbors and colleagues whose opinions may differ from ours. As an educational community, our responsibility is to maintain safe, and civil learning environments focused on students’ academic growth and social-emotional well-being.
If you have questions or concerns about these matters, please feel free to contact me. I am genuinely grateful to the members of this community for demonstrating kindness, compassion, and decency during these incredibly challenging times.