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An Important Message from the Superintendent Regarding Events at the U.S. Capitol

Dear Members of the Brighton School Community,

I am writing to follow up on Wednesday evening’s communication regarding current events and our work with your children. I appreciate you taking the time to read this lengthy message, as these are important and complicated topics.

Please note that Wednesday’s message was intended to provide you with immediate feedback on our work with your children related to these events. Our focus has been and will continue to be twofold:

1. Providing students with a sense of safety, care, and support. Images and discussions that children have been exposed to can be anxiety inducing to say the least. Children benefit from feeling cared for and being provided with a safe, consistent, calm, and supportive environment. We’re in a period of unprecedented division and as caregivers, providing children a sense of safety is important.

2. Creating an educational environment where all political perspectives are welcomed, valued, and openly discussed is essential. We only create a further divide when we perpetuate the echo chamber of one perspective being valued over another. It is important to note that we do not consider bigotry, hatefulness, or the marginalization of other people as reasoned political perspectives and our classrooms are not open to those ideas being promoted. Being nonpartisan is a more appropriate way of describing what I have previously referred to as apolitical. My comments regarding the inherent good nature of people, was in reference to being able to openly discuss differing viewpoints and was not intended to sound supportive of domestic terrorists who threatened our democracy. Support for an insurrection is not an acceptable political perspective.

It is clear to me that what we have witnessed a violent insurrection incited by the actions and words of the President. This view has been shared in comments by democratic and republican leaders alike. In other words, this is not a partisan perspective. It is important to acknowledge this as an abhorrent and unacceptable act of domestic terrorism; unequivocally an assault on our democracy without precedence.

Over the years, I have written to the school community about any number of topics and current events. I have expressed anger, dismay, frustration, outrage, and concern among plenty of other emotions. Most often, these communications have followed events with a direct relationship to students, families, and educators. Consistently, my messages have been intended to express support for those being hurt, marginalized, or otherwise directly impacted by the event or topic and how we would address these issues in school. For example, when executive actions threatened the protections of LGBTQ individuals, a travel ban created fear, anxiety, and threatened freedoms for children and community members, or events related to civil unrest, racism and the marginalization of non-white students and families, I have attempted to speak loudly, clearly, and without reservation regarding our positions on these topics and our follow up in school.

Not surprisingly, these communications have engendered any number of responses from all sides of issues. Some have felt that I have injected more liberal or personal politics into the work of a public school district. Others have questioned the veracity of my statements and asked for a stronger stance with clear actions, better explained. The vast majority of responses have been supportive of our approach with students and grateful for any resources provided. These are all fair points and I welcome the constructive feedback that only helps us improve our approach and the clarity of our communication.

As this school year began, I was deeply concerned about the very divisive political discourse in our nation and the impact that this could have on our classroom discussions. I believe that our staff did an excellent job of creating an environment free from partisan messaging where thoughtful discussions of different perspectives could take place. I believe that this moment called for a reminder regarding this approach, but do not believe that creating a nonpartisan environment means sanitizing the horrendous activities that occurred on Wednesday. I further believe that the next several weeks may further test our resolve in these matters. It is our goal to continue to focus on providing reassurance to children and teaching them about these matters in an open, inclusive, and nonpartisan manner.

Please note the following resources that you might find helpful in both understanding our work and following up with your children.

These are helpful resources regarding discussing current events and news stories with children:

How to Talk to Kids About Current Events and What They See on the News from Kurtz Psychology

How to Talk to Your Child About the News from Kids Health

10 Ways to Talk to Kids About Events in the News from Education.com

These are resources we have shared directly with our K-12 staff regarding instructional approaches to these events:

Responding to the Insurrection From Facing History

When Bad Things Happen From Teaching Tolerance

Resources for Teachers From Beyond the Stoplight

Historical Perspectives on the Topic: A Resource Collection

Talking to Kids About Fear and Violence From Mental Health America

Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event From The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Thank you for taking the time to read through this message and consider how we’re approaching this teachable moment as both caregivers and as educators.

Kevin

Kevin McGowan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools