The following message was distributed to Jeffco Public Schools staff, families, and community today, regarding the recent violent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. As this is a community concern, I’d welcome any feedback or critique of the message I sent.
Dear Jeffco Community, Families, Students, and Staff,
The events in Charlottesville, VA and what they mean for our country going forward weigh heavily on many of us. The purpose of this memo is to address how Jeffco Public Schools will respond to this event in terms of the operation of our schools – and how we can use this as an authentic learning experience for our students.
Let me begin by stating, unambiguously, every one of our public schools is a safe place for all children and students in our community. This commitment to serve and welcome all is at the core of public education’s moral purpose.
As Americans, we value and cherish the right to speak our minds as guaranteed by the First Amendment. At Jeffco Public Schools, we respect the right of any person or group to, peacefully, express their views and opinions.
However, acts or expressions which threaten any student’s right to enter our schools, to feel safe, and to have the opportunity to learn will not be tolerated and will be subject to applicable district bullying/antiharassment policies and/or state or federal criminal law.
Our schools are not disconnected from our community or the nation. Discussions and feelings about the violence in Charlottesville, VA and the subsequent reactions around the country, will make their way into our schools – whether we are ready for them or not. As we have done when other tragedies present themselves, we will work to ensure that we meet the social/emotional needs of students impacted by this event.
While this presents challenges, it also brings the opportunity to engage students in an authentic and timely learning experience on issues relating to free speech, tolerance, race, leadership, and historical context.
District curriculum and instructional staff have prepared resources to support our teachers in deciding how they will engage with students on this event and related topics. We entrust our classroom teachers and building principals to make professional decisions about the age-appropriateness of these discussions, as well as when and where activities related to this learning might take place. Instruction will be within the Board-adopted content standards and curricula, and will follow the usual district processes related to teaching controversial topics and alternative learning activities.
We encourage you to consider speaking with your family about these matters, considering your own family values and context.
On behalf of all of us at Jeffco Public Schools, we are grateful for the opportunity to serve your family, and to be part of this wonderful community.
Jason E. Glass, Ed.D. Superintendent & Chief Learner