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Response to Black Lives Matter

February 11, 2021

A response to a letter that was designed to provide strategies to address Black Lives Matter in the classroom for Hamilton Southeastern Schools faculty on Feb. 8, Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff issued the following clarification on Feb. 9:
 
Dear Faculty:
 
Black Lives Matter.
 
At Hamilton Southeastern Schools, we will not debate the humanity of any individual.

We have emphasized that Black Lives Matter, and this remains an emphasis in our equity work as we move towards creating and sustaining safe places for our students to learn and teachers to teach.
 
The intent of yesterday's letter to the faculty was designed to provide instructional strategies to discuss and teach Black Lives Matter, one of the most significant issues of our time. I understand that the impact was hurtful, and for that I apologize. The letter was designed to provide guidance for teachers to lead these discussions and to assist students as they develop their own positions on this important social issue.
 
That we have families that do not wish for us to have these discussions has been made clear. However, we are limiting our students if we do not provide them the tools to explore a social cause, research its origin, and understand its significance. We have staff that work every day to prepare our students to assume their places as local and global contributors. Anything less is breaking our compact with the community.
 
I am not requesting that teachers abandon their passion for a social cause, that social issues not be discussed, or that students not be allowed to express themselves. On the contrary, I am requesting that we affirm publicly through our instructional practices that Black Lives Matter, that all humans have value, and that we stand in solidarity against injustice, racism, and violence, at all times. When that affirmation is challenged by those who contend that we have overstepped our mission, I will be able to say that our attention has been on the development of thoughtful processes enabling our students to positively influence their community. 
 
Respectfully,
Allen Bourff
 
In addition, Board of School Trustees President Janet Pritchett read a statement in response to the public outcry during Wednesday’s board meeting on Feb. 10:
 
I want to open the meeting with a statement that is shared unequivocally by the majority of board members: Black Lives Matter. We are committed to uniting and not further dividing our school community. We thank every student, parent, and stakeholder who has written to us expressing both compliments and concerns regarding your child’s educational experience and your expectations in HSE.
 
Like any community, district leadership is not a monolith. We share different perspectives, ideas, personal values and strategies for how to advance HSE Schools. We have and will make mistakes both individually and collectively. However, we are united in demonstrating leadership by role modeling how to learn from mistakes and being as transparent as possible.  
 
We ask students to not view mistakes as failure but as an opportunity to learn and grow. We, as adults, also have the opportunity to model this critical life skill. The letter issued by our administration Monday caused harm. While we are deeply sorry, we know that our students, teachers, and community deserve more than an apology. We must commit work to repair relationships, restore trust, and prevent this hurt in the future. As HSE’s new Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Pettigrew stated when the board approved her hire last month, this work does not just belong to her, but to all of us.
 
A portion of the HSE Schools non-discrimination and non-harassment policy reads, “Hamilton Southeastern Schools will foster a culture and environment that does not marginalize, treat unfairly or disrespect any member of our school community and will recognize the uniqueness and individuality of all students, educators, staff and administrators, so they have an opportunity to succeed.”  
 
In honor of this policy and covenant we hold with our community; we must not reduce a student’s or staff member’s humanity to that of a political movement.
 
As I did in my opening statement as president, I continue to urge us to hold these difficult conversations, give grace whenever possible, model civil discourse, and find common ground in the idea that education can build community.  
 
Last but not least, I challenge us to all continue to stand in solidarity against injustice, racism, and violence and to continue the quest for equality.
 
 
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Hamilton Southeastern Schools

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  • 13485 Cumberland Road, Fishers, IN 46038
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Our Mission

Hamilton Southeastern Schools, as a forward-thinking school district, provides educational opportunities to ensure the success of each and every student, to become a responsible citizen and to positively influence an ever-changing world community.