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Letter from the Superintendent

August 18, 2020
 
Dear CHSD 218 Community –
 
Recently, there has been some activity on social media that has been full of anger and vitriol directed at one of our teachers. Our teacher posted on social media that she had a Black Lives Matter banner that she intended to use as her background while teaching remotely on Zoom. Prior to this, the district had decided that it was going to require both students and teachers to have either a neutral blank background or a school logo background behind them when classes started on Monday of this week. This directive was, ironically, coming from an equity perspective. Both after the teacher posted her intent on social media, and also after the district mandated neutral backgrounds, we received several emails in support of our teacher. We also received some opposition emails that were respectful and reasonable in their arguments that teachers should not be imposing their views on students in the classroom. Finally, we also received other emails in opposition – including some extreme ones that were racist in nature. This is the world we live in – a world in which there is angry opposition to almost any opinion. We seem to be losing the ability to have meaningful dialogue about sensitive issues.
 
As a school district that is currently under enormous pressure to teach students remotely while also maintaining extensive safety protocols, it is difficult to currently solve these problems of the world. What we can do, however, is speak out against the catcalls of the ugly Americans who have hurled abhorrent insults at our district, our schools, and our staff. We support our teacher and her support of the statement Black Lives Matter. We are not referencing the BLM organization and we are not attaching ourselves to any political organization with our views. We are simply acknowledging that systemic racism exists in our world and that we will stand against it. Any threats toward this teacher or any staff member is wrong and will not be tolerated.
 
To show where they stand, our Board of Education adopted an Equity Policy Statement back in September of 2016. It is posted on our website. I have also attached a letter that we sent to the community in June and we stand by the words written below. Please believe in us and in our mission. We are trying to educate our students in a socially just world. We will not be taken hostage by a social media narrative war that is currently taking place. We know where we stand on these issues.
 
Sincerely,

Dr. Ty Harting
Superintendent of Schools
Community High School District 218
 
 
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June 5, 2020
 
Dear CHSD 218 Family –
 
We find our communities and our country in a time of great turmoil right now. For almost three months we have been in the grips of a worldwide pandemic that closed our schools and has shut down our economy. 40 million Americans are unemployed. And, once again, after the death of George Floyd (and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and on and on), we see a country wrestling with issues of prejudice and racial discrimination. People are marching in the streets across the United States to protest the seemingly endless cycle of racism, violence, and bigotry.
 
Even though school is out of session, we understand the vital role that schools play in our communities. We think that it is important that we let our Voice join the chorus of so many others that are condemning the racial discrimination that continues to be perpetuated against our African American citizens.

We want to say with emphasis: Black Lives Matter.

Here in CHSD 218, we believe that systemic racism is real. It finds its way into every nook and cranny of our society. And that systemic racism fans the flames of injustice. It weakens us as a society and it does irreparable harm to our people. In a school system – where part of our mission is to mold young minds and prepare our students to be positive, contributing members of society – systemic racism can be especially damaging. That is one of the reasons the CHSD Board of Education created an Equity Statement a few years ago (which can be found on our website) that states very directly our position. We believe that excellence for all can only be achieved by equity for all. We ask that all CHSD 218 staff members “with deliberate effort, continue to examine and eliminate institutional beliefs, policies, practices, and teaching that perpetuate racial disparities in achievement.” We have asked our staff to focus on “identifying and removing barriers in our current policies, procedures, systems, or practices that limit opportunities for our students.”

None of this is easy and we admittedly have more work to do in this area. We all do. Discrimination and racism have sadly been a part of the fabric of our society since the inception of our country. This statement letter alone will elicit angry phone calls and emails from members of our community that will be racist in nature. Recently we have had some inappropriate, racist social media posts from current and former students that would make you cringe. These attitudes are ugly and hurtful. And they are real. We will continue to work with our staff and our students to promote compassion, empathy, and respect for all people regardless of their race, creed, or gender identification.

Though school is currently out of session, we know there are still ways we can help right now. We want to be part of the solution. If your sons or daughters – our students – need help coping with the explosive events of the last two weeks – whether they are angry or scared – please reach out to our support services. We have people who can talk to them and help them sort through these difficult times. If we can’t help, hopefully we can point you in the direction of someone who can. Families can use the request form below to contact one of our professionals should any of our students need to speak to a trusted adult.
 

While we will NEVER be okay with those who commit violence or vandalism or looting, we will ALWAYS stand with the peaceful, non-violent protesters that want a better version of our society. We stand up for our African American students and staff members. We stand up for all of our students who are discriminated against. We stand up for your children. We stand up for our staff members and the citizens of our communities who want and demand a better world.

Sincerely,

Dr. Ty Harting – Superintendent CHSD 218
Dr. Erik Briseno – Principal of Eisenhower High School
Mr. Joe Fowler – Principal of Delta/Summit Learning Center
Dr. Mike Jacobson – Principal of Richards High School
Dr. Greg Walder – Principal of Shepard High School
Dr. Josh Barron – Asst. Superintendent CHSD 218
Dr. Sue Feeney – Asst. Superintendent CHSD 218
Dr. Michael Ryan – Asst. Superintendent CHSD 218
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