March 29, 2023
Waverly Community Members,
Some reflections about what happened in Nashville on Monday. I can never accept mass violence and witnessing such acts is exceedingly difficult. I know it’s hard for teachers, students, and parents. This event also reminds us that we need to maintain our practice of supporting each other. It’s essential that we remind everyone that while violence pervades our society, we can’t turn to violence to solve our problems. Witnessing violence means we need to work for peace. The question of how to embrace and foster peace at school is something we are considering and will take action to develop.
While we can make the school physically more secure, we need to be certain to provide emotional safety to our peers and family members. Respecting other people’s differences, listening when they say they are having a hard time, and understanding that many of us need mental health support are all important practices and understandings. Students who need help or support can reach out to their teacher, advisor, or division director or another trusted adult. We recently hired a part-time counselor in the elementary school, Malcolm Miller (Malcolm.firstname.lastname@example.org), who can be available via email for people with questions while he transitions into a more regular presence at school. We also continue our search for a full-time middle and high school full-time counselor.
It is also essential to remember that joking about violence at school is never funny. Because we live in a society where guns, violent films, and games are central to how we entertain ourselves, it can be hard for students to understand that making jokes about these things is not appropriate and is actually very scary for others. Reminders about this should come from teachers and parents, knowing that students will make mistakes in this regard and may do so to test boundaries and be provocative. We can remind students in order to help expand their empathy and communal awareness. Both are essential skills.
I am also deeply concerned about how the issue of mass violence is being conflated with anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the broader society. This is stressing out many students and parents. I want to remind everyone of our commitment to equity and safety for everyone. We ratified our Gender Inclusion Policy last year with the aim of making school safer and more inclusive. The events in Nashville and conflation of these issues can make it hard for students and families to know where we stand. We stand with all our students and families and want everyone to know and practice inclusion and support for all. Gender expression and identity for our families and students is about knowledge of self, self-care, and personal safety and not something we are politically debating at school.
Finally, a salute to all of our teachers who remain steadfast in their commitment to nurturing and supporting their students. Thank you to all of you who send your students to us each day. Our partnership with you is invaluable. We will get through this together.