by Bernie Noe, head of school, and Jamie Asaka, director of student and family support/director of equity and inclusion
Dear members of the Lakeside community,
This week, our community is grieving as we process the most recent deadly crime against Asian Americans: a shooting in Atlanta that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. This follows a year of attacks and hate crimes nationwide, including the vicious attack on two people in Seattle’s Chinatown International District and the vandalization of a Northgate-area church with anti-Asian hate speech.
This is a difficult and painful time for our nation’s Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. It may also be scary and triggering for others who, because of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, have likewise been targeted. We know that many of our community members are experiencing fear, confusion, grief, sadness, anger, powerlessness, and numbness.
Now, as always, we are in community. Whether your student is learning remotely or at school, and regardless of how they are processing these events, the adults at Lakeside form a web of support for them. In an email sent to Upper School students yesterday afternoon, Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion Debbie Bensadon wrote, “We understand that these events are top of mind and heart for many of you, and we encourage you to take the time and space you need to take care of yourselves and each other …. If you find yourself struggling to focus or needing some space and time, please ask for it. The adults in our community will support you wholeheartedly.”
Teachers, advisors, and affinity group leaders are reaching out to students, and we are encouraging students to connect with trusted adults. Our affinity groups are safe and affirming places to process, ask questions, learn more, and/or sit in community and connection. The PGA affinity groups are a resource for parents and guardians; even if you haven’t attended a meeting before, you are welcome. Lakeside’s PGA Asian American affinity group will host an affinity group meeting the evening of March 23 to discuss this issue. All parents and guardians who identify as Asian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander are invited; it will be an opportunity to engage, connect, and discuss ways to support students at this time. And everyone on Lakeside’s student and family support team is available to support students and families: you can contact our counselors at UScounseling@lakesideschool.org and family support team at email@example.com, and their individual phone numbers and email addresses are in the Veracross directory.
If your student is not their usual self, please encourage them to reach out to a counselor, teacher, advisor, or someone else they trust at school. Do not worry about burdening us — we can bring in additional counselors and support. We also want to recommend the Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS), which does so much amazing work in our region.
We recognize that students may want to process with their families. Parents and guardians: We encourage you to talk with your student about what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Remember that students can have a variety of emotions and thoughts about what is occurring; affirm that all their reactions (emotional, intellectual, and physical) are OK.
Here are a few resources that may help you prepare for and navigate your conversation.
- NBC News assembled anti-racism resources to support the Asian American, Pacific Islander community.
- The Stop AAPI Hate website has resources and safety information in multiple languages.
- “Responding to Anti-Asian Violence and Georgia Shootings” from Learning for Justice will provide more information about recent events.
- “Talking to Children and Youth about Racism and Associated Violence” on the Children’s Institute website may be particularly helpful to families with younger children.
- “When Bad Things Are Happening,” published by Learning for Justice, is an article we often share at difficult times.
- “Addressing anti-Asian racism with students,” from the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, is aimed at teachers, but we think parents and guardians may also find it useful.
As we reflect on our personal and institutional responsibilities today, two things give us hope. The first is our mission, with its emphasis on compassion and on helping students understand the meaning and value of community.
The second is the powerful lecture given by author Min Jin Lee on Wednesday morning, when she spoke to students about her life, her work, and the collective trauma of the past year. In an emotional response to this week's violence, she said, “How very hurtful all this is, when we are all heartbroken and afraid ... It is my belief that somehow we can face this, all of this, if we tell the truth and we figure out a better story and commit to new and innovative solutions. It is possible to expand our moral imagination and I think that we must… Why should we do so? Because all of our heart, our wisdom, and our good intentions cannot mean anything if our brothers and sisters suffer.”
To echo Debbie Bensadon’s message to our students: You are not alone. This is a time to stand together as a community, to grieve together, and to connect in solidarity, strength, and unity.
Thank you for reading, everyone.
Bernie Noe and Jamie Asaka