Two things happened recently that raised concern for me as a human being and an educator. A student approached me and commented on his concern for his classmates and that he was scared for them. I prompted what was causing his fear and he responded, "my friends and neighbors may have to leave Burlington." This student had been exposed to some recent political discourse on the displacement of muslims from the United States by one of the presidential candidates. A second incident involved me having lunch with a group of muslim students in my office. They were talking about how they might have to leave this country. This conversation again, was based on what was recently heard on the news.
These experiences were both shocking and sad. Certainly in the school setting and throughout our community we hope our children feel safe, accepted and empowered. It is amazing how one statement, by one man, can send shockwaves that significantly reverberate and weigh on the minds and hearts of our youngest community members.
I felt we needed to do something that created solidarity and showed that IAA supported and cared for its Muslim community members. It was important to name the problem and discuss it openly. One small act was to remind staff and families to be sensitive of the impact of these statements and support students around the issue. Our school diversity and equity committee developed and will present a staff discussion on islamophobia. Finally, at an entire school town meeting we read the book Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors. We demonstrated the beauty and rich traditions associated with the Muslim Culture and celebrated them as an important part of our story, culture and community at IAA.
I think we need to understand that its a pretty scary year for presidential politics, for adults and for children. We don't necessarily need to discuss the political process or issues. But we do need to ensure that we discuss and nurture the concepts of equity, care, love, support and community. Part of a strong community is defending and supporting all its members. We need to be sure that students, while maybe not understanding all the context of political discourse, comprehend how much their community; parents, friends, and teachers, loves them and will ensure a safe and nurturing environment. We all need to feel that!