Silence is Not an Option

Posted on: Thu, 02/01/2018 - 09:00

Recent events at a girls’ basketball game have sparked many reactions from community members. For me, I stand in harmony with what our Board of Education has clearly articulated: Our school system cannot tolerate disrespectful labels related to a person’s race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socioeconomic status, familial status, physical or mental ability, or disability.

The events surrounding the girls’ basketball game between Linganore High School and Frederick High School may never be made completely clear. Accounts and allegations of what happened and how people acted vary. But when multiple independent accounts indicated that disrespectful labels were directed at FHS students from the stands, we needed to address the situation.

While context matters, there are some absolutes. As our Superintendent, it is imperative that we as leaders, as adults, and as responsible citizens firmly state that it is never okay to disparage another person with disrespectful labels related to that person’s race, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, ancestry, physical attributes, socioeconomic status, familial status, physical or mental ability, or disability. This is clearly stated in our Board of Education’s Policy 437. It is the expectation they have set for all of us, and that we should set for ourselves.

It is also important for me as Superintendent to clearly reiterate that our school system does not tolerate disrespect. When the spectator hurled a disrespectful racial label, it was wrong and goes against what FCPS stands for. If one stays silent on the matter, that silence can be interpreted as condoning the behavior. As Superintendent, it is important for me to state that I am not okay with what occurred; and when something like this happens, an appropriate action is required and taken that aligns with our school system’s belief in the value of each and every student and member of the FCPS community.

This incident has created so many emotional reactions. I met with students from FHS who are hurt by the label, and hurt because of the continued stereotypes about their school which they work so hard to overcome. I read a compelling letter from an FHS student that I hope to share in a future blog post. I met with girls from the LHS basketball team who gave their best in a challenging athletic contest, and who now feel that they are being blamed for the actions of others. Social media has not been kind; and now students at LHS feel their school is being labeled and stereotyped too.

My message to both student bodies was that we must be true to the values we hold as a school system. We must show respect to every person. We must work to lift others up. We must choose to do what is right. We must not stay silent when disrespectful labels are applied. These conversations are hard. These conversations hurt. But, these are some of the most important conversations we can have with our young people!

Our students represent the future of our country. I hope the lessons we teach them about this incident will inspire them to build a future where disparaging labels disappear.

How can we do more to lift our students up and bring communities together? Share your thoughts on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And, as always, please feel free to share this post on Facebook or Twitter.