Protecting Civil Rights at TFHS

December 11, 2018

Dear TFHS Families, Below please read my remarks at today's HS Meeting. We encourage you to discuss these with your student and to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely, Principal Annie Leonard and the TFHS Staff

I want to take a few minutes before we end meeting today to talk to you again about how we as a school can continue to work on becoming a safe and respectful community that is free from racism and other forms of harassment and civil rights violations. I was in Washington DC over the weekend and had the chance to return to the Lincoln Memorial and stand in the place on the steps where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. When I am there I think about a teacher named Edward Jackson, who was there on the mall listening to that speech, and who was a mentor to me when I first started teaching. He was the one who taught me that it is not enough just to notice biased, harassing words or actions, and it’s not enough just to interrupt them - if we really want to stop the hurtful, harmful effects of bias and discrimination, we need to also question and educate. We need to ask, why would you say or do something like that? Why would you think that is funny? Do you understand the history and meaning behind those words? Ms. Zuklie, Ms. Smith and I have talked to you before about what it means about everybody in our school being free to be themselves, and not experience harassing words or actions that interfere with their right to get an education. Your teachers, Ms. Zuklie, Ms. Smith and I have talked to you about our school’s code of conduct and what it says about a respectful, positive learning environment and everyone’s right to be educated free of harassment and discrimination. And I know there are many of you who don’t just believe in these ideas - you act on your beliefs by interrupting hateful language when you hear it, and by being activists to stop discrimination on the basis of race, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. However, sadly, I find myself this morning needing to talk to you about an ongoing, serious problem we have with some students in our school making comments that are racist, or homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory. These comments are hateful, they are civil rights violations, and they are not okay in our school, whether “joking around” or serious. They are harmful, to the individuals who are targeted on the basis of who they are, and they are harmful to our entire community. It is my expectation that harassing words or actions will be addressed directly and immediately by any staff member who hears or sees them. If you have a question or need to report that you or someone else has been targeted, you can talk to any staff member here and know that you will find someone who, like you, wants to stop racism, harassment, and all forms of discrimination.