Dear Baldwin-Whitehall Students and Families,
It was recently brought to our attention that a student in our District is being bullied online. Whether it takes place online or in person, bullying is unacceptable, will not be tolerated and subject to the established disciplinary policies governing students' online behavior.
When incidents also involve the use of racist slurs, attacks on individuals' genders and sexual identities, and threats of violence, it becomes a very clear sign that our community must have a bigger conversation about these underlying issues, not just in our schools but also in our homes and within our families.
Prior to the pandemic shutdown, the District had planned a 36-hour vigil to remember victims of identity-based violence and to create meaningful education on empathy and inclusivity. Such programs may not change the way people think and act overnight, but we believe these are the kinds of difficult conversations we must have both in and outside of school — as individuals, families, and as a diverse community — to ensure that our children grow up expressing healthy values rather than hate.
No one is born racist, sexist, or homophobic. These dangerous biases are observed, mimicked, and adopted by children who grow up in situations where such hurtful behaviors are regularly expressed by others, both overtly and indirectly. When no one speaks out against this behavior — or if it is considered to be a show of power and intimidation against others, rather than the defensive and insecure behavior it actually is — these harmful habits can take root and lead to a lifetime of destructive and corrosive behavior that also infects future generations.
Children learn their beliefs and behaviors from trusted adults, peers, and role models starting at a very young age. If you are not already discussing these topics in your home, we encourage you to do so. If you need help finding the words, or you're not sure where to start, visit the Smithsonian's resources on Talking About Race: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/
Just as we ask parents to be reflective of their ongoing role in guiding their children's values, we also know our administration, faculty, and staff must continue to do the same. During our first summer administrative meeting, we discussed where we need to focus more effort to address these challenges in our classrooms, online, and all other aspects of the student experience.
It is our responsibility as a community to talk about more than just what constitutes appropriate online behavior for students. Our discussions must address the underlying values that inform our behavior both online and off, because those values — or their absence — can last for life.
Dr. Randal A. Lutz
Superintendent of Schools