Like many, we were shocked by the acts of violence and hatred recently perpetrated by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Va. As educators, it’s our responsibility not only to condemn such racial and ethnic prejudice and to talk with our students about these issues, but also to embrace diversity within our community. If we do nothing, we are complicit.
In light of these tragic incidents, and as we prepare for the new school year, we want to reaffirm our commitment to strengthening unity within our schools and serving as positive role models.
The State College Area School District does not tolerate racism, violence or bullying by any individual or group. Just as importantly, we are actively working toward a more inclusive and caring environment to provide every student with a respectful, safe and positive experience on a daily basis.
Last year, our board of directors developed and approved a new policy (School Climate / Inclusive Excellence) to ensure that every school community member is treated with dignity, and has the opportunity to learn in a physically, emotionally and intellectually safe environment. This policy was informed by annual surveys, as well as community discussions that brought people together to identify shared beliefs and expectations for a common purpose.
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Subsequently, we have identified several areas of concern where we need to improve inclusivity — such as race, ethnicity, disability, and sexual and gender orientation — and have taken steps to serve our students better. In addition to training employees in diversity and unconscious bias, our district is working closely with a steering team of community members, Penn State faculty experts, local clergy, parents and students to obtain ideas for improving actions we take in our district. With this ongoing effort, we will update you on our progress and seek your input.
Please know that if at any time your child is not feeling safe and supported at school, we encourage you to contact your child’s teacher, counselor or principal.
We are asking you to stand with us in denouncing racism. Together, our unified school community will make a positive difference in the lives of our students and families.
Robert O’Donnell is the superintendent of State College Area School District. Amber Concepcion is the president of the board of school directors.