We must stand up for justice, equality and respect | Guest column

Dear Snoqualmie Valley students, staff and families,

It’s hard to put into words the thoughts and range of emotions evoked by events that have transpired over the past week and weekend. At a time when we were already struggling with fear, isolation, and frustration from the deadly pandemic, our country is now reeling from the horrific video of George Floyd’s death, which has sparked the outpouring of demands for justice and societal change. While this has spawned peaceful protest and a rise in the awareness of some of these unfortunate and inherent racist actions and practices, it has also resulted in violence, looting and property destruction.

As a nation, we must stand up for justice, equality and respect. As a community, we must work together to support those who are hurting, to have the hard conversations that acknowledge racism that is pervasive in our attitudes and systems. And as a district, we want to clearly voice our condemnation of all racist behaviors and practices. I know that many of our own families – including our students and our staff – have experienced cruelty and indignity in our community and schools because of their ethnicity or race.

I am writing today to share my personal commitment, and that of our Snoqualmie Valley School District, to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment for every member of our school community. The Snoqualmie Valley School District is committed to ensuring all feel they belong, are respected, valued, capable, and loved regardless of race, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, or any other aspect of their identity.

We strive to ensure that every student achieves an excellent education, focused on preparing students for college, career, and citizenship. We value individual human differences and commit to establishing and maintaining a culture that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion. These values are critical to the development, learning, and success of our students, and align with our Portrait of a Graduate goals, specifically around empathy and global citizenship.

Now more than ever, our learning community must practice our values of compassion and collaboration as we overcome the challenges of the health crisis and systemic injustice.

I encourage you to take time to talk with your students, families, and colleagues about your feelings regarding the tragic death of George Floyd and the unrest in our nation including our own Snoqualmie Valley community. To help with this conversation, the National Association of School Psychologists has helpful resources for talking with students about violence, race, and privilege.

I also want to thank many of our educators and school leaders who are hosting or creating space for students and their colleagues, to process their feelings and examine steps we can take to fight against systemic racism and injustice. For students who may need someone to talk to, we encourage you to reach out to your counselor via email.

Despite this time of chaos and uncertainly, it is also a time for hope and inspiration, as we witness stories of unity and neighborly support, of standing up for what’s right, and of unsolicited volunteerism. Thank you for your partnership, collaboration and ongoing support – as we work together to ensure all of our children have the love and support they need.

Dr. Robert W. Manahan is superintendent of the Snoqualmie Valley School District.