An Open Letter to School Leaders

Dear School Leaders,

None of us is doing ok right now, especially our black students. Each horrific incident of state-sanctioned violence against black Americans intensifies the trauma for black students, already suffering disproportionate isolation and fear from the COVID-19 pandemic. And you, leaders of the learning organizations that are central to so many of their lives, are reaching out to them with solace and support.

At this point in our history, we all recognize that they—and the schools we lead—need much more from us. Words of sympathy are not enough. This moment in time calls on all of us to reject the complicit message of silence. This moment demands our outrage. This moment demands that we reaffirm our role as champions of equity. This moment calls us to loudly condemn not only overt racial violence but also the less obvious structural racism that permeates every dimension of American life—economics, health, the environment, housing, and, yes, education.

This moment in time calls on us as leaders to build our own cultural competence to recognize and address the racial disparities in our discipline policies and our academic systems, and in our use of school resource officers. It calls on us to lead conversations with all students and stakeholders that will build culturally responsive schools. These are difficult and challenging conversations, but we have to lead that dialogue in service to our schools and communities. Embracing racial equity in schools is a service, not only to our black students but to all of us. Our role is to advance our schools and influence the nation toward becoming the best version of ourselves—worthy of our highest ideals and intolerant of the idea that one man has the right to end the life of another because of his skin color.

Like you, NASSP is outraged by the recent displays of fatal violence against black people and the abrogation of our right to assemble peacefully. We echo the frustrations of peaceful protesters and the urgency for justice felt by all citizens of conscience. But we are not helpless to effect change. Far from it. As leaders who have risen to the challenges imposed on us by COVID-19, we recognize the vital role we play in building a more just future for all our students. NASSP commits to accompanying you on our shared journey of empathy and learning until one day we can finally declare the horrors that ended the lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor a thing of the past. We are better than this.

Thank you for all you do to build an ever more just future that we all—black, brown, and white—will share. And thank you for allowing NASSP to play a small part in your amazing work.

Sincerely,

JoAnn Bartoletti signature Peter Kruszynski signature
JoAnn Bartoletti
NASSP executive director
Peter Kruszynski
NASSP president and board chairman

2 Comments

  • Thank you for these words of wisdom.
    This letter applies to all schools, not just high schools. It also applies to all schools, both Public and Private.

    Eileen Dowds Minarik
    Founder/Owner
    Sunset Hills Montessori School
    Reston, VA 20191

  • Dr. Ellen Savoy says:

    While this message is needed, we have been crying out for equity for centuries! I applaud you for taking the initiative to reach out to the leaders but until true systems are put in place to RID schools and the overall culture for that matter, of biases, this will continue to be our cry and platform for times to come. An my hope is that consistency and conviction follows. We always have to get to a point of rage before action is taken. Where is our common decency? If this is something that is not possessed from the start, no change will come about. So…LEADERS’ impact need to be from the inside out!!! What we do as leaders tend to permeate. Though there might be many in number in an organization, typically the leader creates the environment. When one leads with heart, they are open to change that will only bring about equity for EVERYONE!!

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