Don’t Just Say It, Live It
When discussing Brighton Believes, BHS Principal Dr. Tom Hall often uses this simple expression as a reminder that it is not enough to talk about integrity, respect, responsibility, kindness, and self-control. We are called to live these values in what we say and how we act.
Words are important. Speaking out is necessary. In fact, I’d argue that silence is complicity. Although words can also be reassuring to a point, it is our actions that make a difference. These actions must be thoughtful, intentional, and visible. Performative gestures are disingenuous and hurtful. It is in this spirit of taking action and living our words that I write to you today.
You will notice today that a sign has been placed at the Twelve Corners expressing “Brighton Believes that Black Lives Matter … Join Us.” Simply put, systemized oppression, racial injustice, and institutionalized racism, among other factors, have resulted in a society where the lives of our African American friends, neighbors, and community members have not mattered. Those of us protected and promoted through our own innate privilege receive constant reinforcement that our lives matter. This is an important acknowledgement and a call for us to embrace the importance and significance of black lives, but it is again just words.
Over the coming year, we will be taking significant steps forward in our diversity, equity, and inclusion work. However, we believe that our actions need to progress faster and with a sense of urgency reflective of this important moment in the fight for true equality and inclusion.
To that end and beginning immediately, we will:
Address what we teach:
1. Implement a K-12 anti-racism, anti-bias curriculum.
2. Conduct enhanced reviews of teaching materials being used at all levels to assess cultural responsiveness and appropriateness. We will change materials as needed.
Address the need for our staff to better reflect our student and family population:
3. Continue to redevelop our hiring practices and be intentional about diversifying our staff through enhanced recruitment and retention practices and further incorporating anti-bias practices in our hiring process.
Address how we work with all members of our community:
4. Require refresher and new training on implicit bias for all staff.
5. Continue to focus on providing training to our staff on culturally responsive teaching practices.
6. Continue to shift our discipline practices to a more therapeutic, supportive approach as opposed to punitive measures that disproportionately impact students of color. This includes the continued implementation of Restorative Practices K-12 and a redesign of the in-school suspension program.
Address equity as it relates to students and families fully engaging and participating in the school community:
7. Conduct an audit of all visual and performing arts, athletics, and extracurricular club and activity programs to assess the engagement levels of all students, determine barriers to participation, and develop an action plan to address obstacles.
8. Assess our family engagement subcommittee work done to date and work to connect with every family of color to better assess our practices related to full inclusion and opportunities for equitable participation.
Finally, we will also begin the process of choosing a new mascot. The Baron is a symbol of elitism and privilege at best and can be historically traced to slavery. It is time to engage the community in choosing a symbol and a name that reflects a spirit or ethos we can all embrace and all be proud of. We will be asking for your feedback and giving everyone an opportunity to help make this change.
Our actions are only a part of the solution. They begin to address how we teach, what we teach, who we are, and our desire for all children, all families, and all community members to be fully supported, enriched, and engaged in the school community. Please note the last two words below and on the sign at the Twelve Corners: Join Us. Please look for events and programming in the upcoming year that bring us all together in learning how we can all actively play a role as anti-racists that support systems focused on equity and inclusion for every member of our school community.
Let’s not just say it, let’s live it.
Kevin McGowan, Ed.D.