Local educators suggest families have open and honest conversations about recent protests and violence

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FISHERS, Ind. – The constant and evolving news of protests around the country and here at home can be hard to comprehend at any age, but it’s especially hard for children. Schools districts are stepping up to help guide families through the important but difficult conversations.

Although school may be out for the summer, Hamilton Southeastern is speaking up by sending this message to families.

Dear HSE Schools Parents and Guardians:

As our community celebrates the end of the school year, we are also experiencing a tough reality of lives lost – not only to the global pandemic, but also to racially motivated violence. Recent incidents across the country have caused many of us heartbreak and the feeling of hopelessness at times.

I understand that my words will not and cannot undo the pain and frustration some of you may be feeling, but I also don’t feel that it is right to remain silent. I feel it is important to affirm publicly that all humans have value and that we must stand in solidarity against injustice, racism, and violence, at all times, but especially when our fellow humans are suffering.

We cannot deny the ill effects that injustice, racism and violence impose on our very own students, staff, and families. HSE is devoted to creating safe and supportive environments for all students. We hired a Chief Equity and Diversity Officer in 2017, and our administrators and educators are continuously working to develop, evaluate, and improve systems of support for students and for staff.

Though school is out for the summer, we are aware that needs emerge that do not respect a school calendar. We have attached a document that you may find helpful when speaking to your children, and please know we are always available to support you and your family and encourage you to reach out when or if you feel we can assist.

The district also attached this document for families to review and discuss at home.

“We also have a legal obligation to make sure every student in our district feels safe,” said Erica Buchanan-Rivera, the chief equity and inclusion officer for Hamilton Southeastern Schools.

She says images from weekend protests can have many feeling hopeless, and as educators, they want to help.

“We have to be immersed into critical conversations to understand not only the why behind these systemic issues, but our role, our responsibility and our call for action,” said Buchanan-Rivera. “They have to feel valued; they have to feel seen; they have to feel affirmed in their own identity and skin. It’s not only important for educational leaders to have these conversations and to make statements, but it is critical for our teachers to engage in these conversations and have those conversations translate into classroom practices.”

“If you’re noticing your child is paying attention to the news or watching what’s going on and asking them what they are thinking about it,” added Brooke Lawson, the mental health and school counseling soordinator.

She says you don’t have to be an expert, and keep in mind, adult reactions to stress can influence how kids react.

“It’s important to allow your child to guide that conversation and to be as honest about what’s going on as you can,” said Lawson, “But also just being mindful of the emotional reaction that they are having because it’s traumatic and it’s scary.”

If parents notice isolation, withdrawal from friends or bullying online, Lawson says those are warning signs and not to take it lightly.

“We know that students at the age of six months are able to determine racial differences, by the age of four they are able to have racial biases, and we know mistreatment happens to students as early as preschool, so parents especially in communities of color have to have these conversations about race at a very early age,” said Buchanan-Rivera.

Lawson added, “What’s most important is that you’re talking about it and acknowledging that this is important to our family and that we need to have some conversation about it.”

Click here to read more about how parents can talk to children about race and policy brutality.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson also sent a letter to staff and the district community following the killing of George Floyd. In a statement she said, “I’m sitting in my home trying to come up with the right words to express how I’m feeling after bearing witness to the traumatic killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and riots that have impacted our city and country.”

“My hope for TeamIPS is that we will bravely engage to set an example of the way forward.  In the coming weeks, we will share opportunities on how to participate in a conversation on racism and the impact it has had and continues to have on our community. In addition, I’ve included a list of just a few resources that I believe will help build our collective knowledge, and I hope you will take the time to read, reflect, and then determine the best way to act.  It will not be easy nor will it happen overnight.  But, we will fail our children if we leave them a legacy of racism that we can begin undoing now.”

Aleesia Johnson, IPS Superintendent

Click here to read Johnson’s entire statement and for resources.

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