by Bernie Noe, head of school, and Jamie Asaka, director of student and family support/director of equity and inclusion
Yesterday, our nation witnessed a grave breach of its democratic traditions. For the first time in American history, supporters of the losing presidential candidate forcibly disrupted the official counting of electoral votes. Throughout the afternoon and into the evening, many of us were glued to our screens, taking in pictures, videos, and accounts of a violent pro-Trump mob storming the U.S. Capitol building; of our lawmakers on the ground wearing gas masks; of Confederate flags, swastikas, a noose at the Capitol. We noted the striking difference in the official response to this mob as compared to the response to the peaceful protestors at Black Lives Matter events and in Lafayette Square.
We also saw lawmakers returning to their chambers to certify and confirm President-elect Joseph Biden’s and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s victory; an election in Georgia of the state’s first Black senator; and members of the media risking their lives to document these events and place them in the context of our nation’s history.
As James Baldwin wrote in “A Talk to Teachers” in 1963: “American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it.” In our role as an educational institution committed to equity and inclusion, it is important that Lakeside shine a light on what happened yesterday and what it means in the history of our country. We need our students to understand what occurred, help them learn from it, and understand their responsibilities in its aftermath. Our students, many of whom are seeking to understand what this all means and how to prevent it from ever happening again, give us hope.
As a community, we are processing these events emotionally, intellectually, and psychologically. For many of our students and families, these events are terrifying and traumatizing. As we move forward, please remember that we are here for any student who needs support. It is normal for students to have a variety of emotions and thoughts about what is occurring; affirm that all their reactions (emotional, intellectual, and physical) are OK, as is disengagement.
Teachers, advisors, and affinity group leaders are reaching out to students. Many teachers — yesterday and today — are continuing to teach while simultaneously creating space for students who need to process or debrief what is happening. Their work in intergroup dialogue facilitation has prepared them for this moment. The members of our student and family support team are actively supporting our students and families with mental health resources.
Parents and guardians: We encourage you to spend some time talking with your student about what they are thinking and how they are feeling. Here are a few resources that may help you prepare for and navigate the conversation.
- National Education Association: Talking to Kids About the Attack on the Capitol.
- Teaching Tolerance: When Bad Things Are Happening.
- Common Sense Media: Talking to Kids About the Violence at the U.S. Capitol
- This PBS Newshour resource is aimed at teachers but may also help you prepare to talk at home: Three ways to teach the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
We are in partnership with you, as always. 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 as needed.
If you want to be part of the ongoing work to make Lakeside a more equitable school, remember that all parents and guardians are invited to meetings of the T.J. Vassar diversity and community committee. The next meeting is this coming Monday, Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. If you are interested in attending, please contact Margaret Bradford or Kelly Coleman; you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org directly to get a link to the meeting.
And, everyone: Get involved. Each one of us carries the responsibility of making our community, country, and world a better, more equitable, more just place. We need to empower students to stay active and engaged, and we adults need to stay active and engaged. As our colleague Debbie Bensadon reminded our teachers this morning, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words can guide us: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
We don’t know what will happen next in our country — events are still unfolding. Uncertainty and chaos is unsettling for all of us. Our hope is that, in the wake of this insurrection, we can emerge a stronger and more unified nation. All of us can be part of that change.
Now, in this moment, know that we are here for each other and we are here for our students.
Thank you for reading, everyone.