Message from Superintendent and School Board

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Message from Superintendent and School Board
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The following is a message from Superintendent Patrick Murphy and the Olympia School Board:

(Spanish, Vietnamese)



To OSD students, staff, families and community,

 

We suspect many of you have watched the video of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the subsequent protests that have erupted around the country and in our region. Sadness, anger, confusion, frustration and impatience are manifesting themselves in various ways across our nation. This visceral reaction throughout society is happening at the same time that we are battling a pandemic that has caused tens of thousands of deaths in the country and put millions of people out of work. And as we all know, it has also closed our schools.

 

As a result, we do not have the schoolhouse to gather. School has always been a place where our children could come and seek comfort and understanding during times of crisis. We have historically looked to our schools to bring a sense of community, a listening ear, and a place for dialogue and support when we are hurting, or angry, or scared.

 

In lieu of the physical gathering place of school, we wanted to use this message to share some important steps taken by district leadership and our school board and comment on our commitment to the ongoing fundamental work of Olympia School District to actively address bias, dismantle structural racism and ensure that all students and families are equitably supported in our schools.

 

This February our school board once again passed a resolution in recognition of Black Lives Matter at School Week. That resolution references Olympia School District Student Outcome #4 when it states that school systems have a responsibility to their students and the communities they serve to nurture young people so they will have the courage and skills to “confront personal, systemic and societal bias.” If we expect that of our students, we must have the courage to model that as adults. It further states that the work of dismantling systems of oppression requires an open and continuous dialogue between all members of our community.

 

The statement that “Black Lives Matter” in and of itself can cause a variety of emotional responses in people. For some, the phrase is an affirmation of their lived experience as an African-American within an unjust society. For other people of color and white allies, it is a call to action to fight for the rights of our African-American friends, family members, students, neighbors and colleagues. Still others might view it as perhaps unnecessary or even divisive, because after all, don’t we all believe that all lives matter? Why should we single out any one particular race?

 

A review of historical statistics would loudly and clearly suggest that intentionally or not, we are sending a message as a society that not all lives matter the same. African-Americans have experienced disproportionate and disparate impacts due to structural racism and implicit and explicit bias. When African-American males make up just over 6% of the population and nearly 40% of the U.S. prison population; when graduation rates and disciplinary suspension rates in public schools also continuously show disproportionately higher negative rates for students of color, and especially African-American males; when another black man dies, this time from asphyxiation at the end of a non-violent, minor incident call to police — could it be that all of these things are sending a message to our communities of color, and African-American men specifically, that while we say it, we really don’t put the same value on all lives?

 

For some of us, critical conversations about race can be hard and uncomfortable. There is fear of saying the wrong thing, or making something worse. Silence has not worked. Without honest dialogue, reflection and self-examination, we won’t be able to get to the better version of ourselves and our society. We want you to know that we are committed to continued work with our staff moving forward that will lead to a more culturally responsive and welcoming school district in partnership with our families and students, especially our families and students of color so we can be more effective at confronting and dismantling inequities in our system. It is the only way we can end the distressing disproportionate outcomes that have plagued our schools for too long.

 

For our students, families and staff of color, in the face of historic injustice you have been strong and have fought for too long, and that burden is not yours to carry alone. You have the right to a just society and to live without fear and systemic oppression. Your racial identities, cultural knowledge and experience are woven into the very fabric of our nation and make us who we are. We are all stronger because of you. Through not just our words, but through our actions we will work tirelessly to better prove our collective worthiness to receive those gifts. Your patience is not deserved, but humbly requested.

 

Lastly, talking with our children about what is happening is important. Below are some resources that could be helpful with that:

 

 

Even in this virtual teaching and learning environment, be assured that school counselors and social workers are available for any student who needs help processing their emotions. Please email the OSD Communications and Community Relations department at communications@osd.wednet.edu. Your email will be directed to our Student Support team, and someone will connect with you.

 

Thank you,

Olympia School District Superintendent Patrick Murphy
Olympia School Board President Hilary Seidel
Olympia School Board Vice President Scott Clifthorne
Olympia School Board Director Leslie Huff
Olympia School Board Director Maria Flores
Olympia School Board Director Justin McKaughan