An open letter to the Lakeville Area Public Schools community Dr. Lisa Snyder, Superintendent of Schools

On Feb. 27, 2017, racist, anti-Semitic written and image-based graffiti were found inside a bathroom at Lakeville South High School. Thankfully, staff members saw the graffiti and reported it, but not before it was widely on social media. (Read the original message that sent to LSHS families online.) Our staff members have removed the words and images.

 

Our district has conducted a thorough investigation of this incident, and the student behind it has been identified. Per district and school policy, the student will be disciplined. (See the message.) To protect student privacy, we cannot disclose any additional information.

 

We are working with students and staff to identify next steps as a school community.

 

On March 1, student leaders read an announcement voicing how the incident troubled them and how they want the school, its students and staff to move forward. (Click to see the story.)  That same day, district and school staff held listening sessions to allow students to share their concerns, fears, frustrations and suggestions to begin healing and moving forward.

 

While there are some extenuating circumstances in this specific incident, we know there have been other incidents of racism and sexism. We also know that while this incident happened at one of our schools, these issues affect our entire school community. Many parents and community members have contacted us to ask questions, provide feedback and to be assured that we are taking action to provide a safe, respectful learning environment and to voice their concerns. They also want to know how we plan to address these issues.

 

Here’s what we’re doing:

Our district has taken steps for many years to address equity. We remain committed to this work and are prepared to engage fully in this conversation for the benefit of all students.

 

Over the past six years, we’ve provided training to help staff better incorporate strategies for racial equality and to provide culturally responsive instruction to help them identify and respond to influence of race and culture on learning. So far, all of our elementary teachers and those at Lakeville North High School have completed the foundational level of training with Dr. Sharroky Hollie, a nationally known expert. Teachers at our middle level and Lakeville South High School are expected to complete training soon.

 

This is not enough. We will continue to provide professional development to better equip our staff to work with our students and engage in productive, respectful conversations about race.  We will continue to engage our students in this work as we believe their voices and ideas are critical and important.  

 

We are committed to fully addressing all racist and other intolerant behaviors.

 

Moving forward

Our schools reflect our community, including positive attributes and those that are negative, such as racism. This event has occurred at a unique time in our country, when issues of intolerance have become a prominent part of public discourse. We will work to build relationships with community partners to engage in deeper conversations about race. Look for additional information in the coming months.

 

I want you to know our staff members are dedicated to helping each student feel safe, respected and welcome at school. I am committed to continuing our work to create a school community where we can have productive conversations about race that honor multiple perspectives. Our equity plan, created with input from our advisory councils, calls for continuing our training and implementation of culturally responsive teaching practices and mentoring. One example of mentoring is professional development that our instructional data support specialists will provide for our staff starting in 2017-18. Another such example will be reviewing our teacher observation process using an equity lens and providing coaching opportunities where needed. Our plan also calls for providing continued equitable academic opportunities and support for our underserved students, and we want to increase family and student engagement.

 

Racism and intolerance did not start overnight, nor can they be solved overnight. By working together, we can make progress toward making our school community more welcoming and inclusive for all.

 

P.S. A word about communication:

 

We have heard concerns from a number of people about the wording of our second message that provided some information about the student, with the parent’s permission. Our intent as a district was to quell fears running through the school community and beyond that this incident was tied to white supremacy. In no way did we intend to offend members of our community or perpetuate stereotypes.

 

We have learned a great deal from this experience and appreciate the candor with which it has been offered.

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