Earlier today, Principal Henry Turner sent an email to the Newton North community regarding “events both within our school and nationally that have impacted our North community.” The email discusses the travel ban, posts on social media (mentioned in a V14 post here) and two new, disturbing incidents involving swastikas. The latter incidents prompted the principal to contact Newton police and the Anti-Defamation League.
Following is Principal Turner’s email in full.
Dear Newton North Community,
I would like to update you on events both within our school and nationally that have impacted our North community. High schools across the country are seeing a spike in similar kinds of incidents. This letter will describe the incidents, identify immediate action steps, and share plans for moving forward together.
- Many students, teachers and families at North have been directly and indirectly impacted by the recent Presidential Executive Order on immigration and are fearful for their future.
- On Thursday afternoon (2/2), a swastika was found by a teacher etched in the dirt near the softball field. It is unclear when the carving occurred.
- Hurtful, insensitive and offensive posts by some of our students on social media over the past few weeks, targeting students on all sides of the political spectrum. Many of the students involved have taken responsibility and apologized for their actions.
- On Friday afternoon (2/3), two students self-reported their involvement in texting a photo of the cartoon character “Sponge Bob” with a swastika to a group of students. These students are apologetic and owned their responsibility.
Immediate Action Steps/Response
Both the incidents in our school, as well as national events, have created fear, anger, and tension among our students. Because the swastika is such a profound symbol of hate and intolerance, I have reached out to the Newton Police and Anti-Defamation League to help us address these incidents, identify areas in which we can provide more instruction, and determine how we can best move forward as a school. Many student and faculty groups, including VOICE, Office of Human Rights, Student/Faculty Working Group, Faculty Anti-Bias PLC, and the Office of Civic Engagement and Service have already been working on these issues and are eager to continue. House Dean Michelle Stauss and a committee of students and teachers are revising the anti-bullying curriculum to include strategies to combat bias as well. In addition, the Newton North School Council, which represents parent/guardians, students and faculty, will conduct family and community outreach to share how we all can reinforce our social and civic expectations.
There is no doubt that events at the national level impact our school community. And students are reacting to these events during a time in which they are still learning about themselves and their society. National events are beyond our control. But, as a school community, we can reaffirm our commitment to create a welcoming, supportive, and safe school community for all students, no matter their race, religion, culture, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status or political affiliation. Reaffirming this commitment means:
- We stand up to hateful acts of intolerance.
- We engage in open and respectful dialogue with those with whom we agree and disagree.
- We can make it clear that Newton North is a school that welcomes all students and appreciates all viewpoints.
A portion of our mission statement is particularly poignant at this moment:
…We celebrate the dignity of all people, teach and learn to the depth and distance of our abilities, take responsibility for our actions and conduct ourselves with integrity and civility.
A few weeks ago I shared our plan with parents, students and faculty to bring our mission to life and ensure students meet our social and civic expectations in these challenging times (January Newsletter). The plan emphasizes that working together, schools and families can prepare students to become active citizens, ready and able to address societal and global problems.
As we all navigate forward from these incidents and events, please know that we are deeply committed to the work we have laid out above. By focusing on developing empathy and respect for others, we help our students to counter and reject any hate or intolerance they may experience in our school or beyond. I will keep you updated on our progress and look forward to continuing our work
While we cannot guarantee how all members of our community respond and grow in these these turbulent times, I can guarantee that we won’t stop fighting to create a school environment that respects the dignity of all students and where we conduct ourselves with integrity and civility.