This week, all over the country, kids are returning back to school with a sense of excitement. Excited for new classes, new students, and new programs. Crefeld is no exception. It has been a wonderful start to the school year. The returning students are welcoming the new students and today, we are having a whole school BBQ so everyone can enjoy a meal together.
However, there are many Americans who started this school year with a sense of anxiety. This is a statement from Donna Orem, President of NAIS.
On Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration will be ending the federal program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. This program allows people brought to the United States illegally as children to receive relief from deportation and to become authorized to work if they meet certain criteria. Nearly 800,000 people have participated in the program. Some attend high school or college, others have graduated. Many now serve in the military or have entered the civilian workforce. These numbers include members of the independent school community.
For many of these students, faculty members, and staff — known as “Dreamers”— Tuesday’s announcement upended life as they knew it. Dreamers and their families may have intense fears that they will be deported when the program ends or that they will lose the ability to work. For some, the United States is the only country they have ever truly known.
As schools, we have a fundamental responsibility to provide a safe environment for all students. A large portion of the bias incidents and hate crimes in the country over the last year have occurred on campuses. It is our duty to help every member of our community understand that while diversity of opinion and dialogue are to be encouraged, bias and discrimination will not be tolerated in our schools. It may be helpful to re-articulate your school’s standards for acceptable behavior for both children and adults.
Our schools also have a profound opportunity to help educate today’s students about the great benefits of diversity. Many of our schools include equity and inclusion in their mission statements. As education institutions, we understand that having students and faculty from different backgrounds encourages more innovative thinking and richer discussions and helps community members grow empathy and cross-cultural communication skills. We can help grow awareness of this core value among people from all political perspectives.
As schools, we are in the business of creating opportunity. We devote ourselves to educating children because we know that our work will improve their lives, just as our lives were enriched by our teachers. Helping students learn and grow not only helps them – it also helps our local communities and America.
I want to reinforce Donna’s message, “It is our duty to help every member of our community understand that while diversity of opinion and dialogue are to be encouraged, bias and discrimination will not be tolerated in our schools”. If the actions of our government do not align with what many believe is right, I ask each of you as critically engaged citizens, what is our responsibility as change agents?