“View from the Principal’s Office”
As I welcome our students back from the semester break, I am aware of the confluence of the beginning of our second semester and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. With this in mind, I want to share with our community an area of emphasis we will collectively explore during the second half of our year.
In the past I have shared that I am proud and honored to be Hartford’s Principal. It has been a pleasure to communicate through these posts all the great things that are happening at our school. My history with the school district began in the fall of 1967 when I entered the Wilder Elementary School. I have always felt safe in our schools; however I am aware that I had peers sitting next to me, and later students in the classes I taught, and now learners in the school I lead, who do not feel this same sense of security. Although I never felt disrespected in our schools, I am painfully aware that others have, and do. While there have never been a significant number of students whose language or actions made others feel uncomfortable, and these instances remain a rare occurrence, this fact does not comfort any student who is a victim of this language or these actions.
Hartford High School is currently planning a multi-faceted approach to address language and actions that demean, belittle, degrade, or disenfranchise any student or student group. This includes the use of racially insensitive words or phrases, slang that targets ethnically diverse students, language that creates an environment that is disrespectful of our students who identify with the LBGT community, or words that express gender-based disrespect. In short, we are going to engage in a dialogue within our community to reassure everyone that Hartford High School is a safe, respectful school for all.
Many of our students, and by extension, many of you, will wonder why I am initiating this conversation. I am fully aware that the vast majority of our students never uses offensive language, nor do their actions demean their peers; these students may well feel disconnected from this message. The research is overwhelming that all students reap benefits from a more secure, more respectful environment – as noted above, our goal is that each and every student’s experience at Hartford will be improved by these efforts and this is the reason we seek representation from all voices in our work.
Our first step will be a conversation with all students that describes the culture and community we seek. This communication will include sharing with our students the response they can expect if they use derogatory or racially-charged terms or engage in these negative behaviors. We are planning an off-site retreat that will include representation from all stakeholders and that will provide a forum through which we can better understand each other. We also seek to create a foundation from which we can begin the development of school-wide cultural and school community expectations regarding respect, as well as exploring what it means for all of us to exhibit “professional integrity.” Once the retreat has concluded, participants will partner in supporting these norms throughout our school. The vehicle through which these efforts will likely occur is advisory, however it is our intent that this partnership will provide support throughout the day in creating a safer, more respectful learning environment.
Please feel free to speak with your children about these conversations at home, and share any resources you might have towards embracing a culture of inclusion and respect at Hartford.
Thank you for all that you do.