by Bernie Noe, head of school, and Jamie Asaka, director of student and family support/director of equity and inclusion
Over the past four weeks, we have been talking and listening to parents and guardians — in our administrator Q&A webinars and our “Parenting in the Age of COVID-19” series. It’s clear from the questions we heard there, as well as the many one-on-one conversations we’ve had with students and families, that we are, as individuals and as a community, facing a sometimes-overwhelming amount of challenge and pressure.
And, as Jamie and Debbie Bensadon shared in an Inside Lakeside article last month, some groups are more negatively impacted by COVID-19. In that article, they shared ideas about ways that students, parents/guardians, and families can engage in and strengthen Lakeside’s commitment to global citizenship and equity and inclusion during remote school.
Yet COVID-19 is not the only overwhelming challenge we face as a nation. While we are in the middle of a pandemic, life keeps rolling on. It’s easy during this time of self-isolation to isolate ourselves from other realities such as racism and the continuing violence against Black people in our country. But we cannot and must not turn away from it. We must maintain and grow our equity and inclusion mindset if we are to make Lakeside — and by extension, the world — a better place.
In late February, two men gunned down Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in Georgia. In March, a police officer shot Breonna Taylor in her home. This past weekend, Christian Cooper was a victim of a woman's racist attempt to weaponize feigned distress in a New York park that went viral. And on Monday in Minnesota, while other officers stood by, a police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck until he stopped breathing. Floyd later died. All four people on the receiving end of these actions are Black.
Members of our community are deeply impacted by these acts of racial violence. Even though we have been physically distanced, that has not stopped our students from connecting with adults at school and with each other. Over the past several weeks (with an uptick over the past few days), many of our students, in particular, Black, African, and African American students, have talked to trusted adults about their concerns with the attacks mentioned above. The statement, “It could have been me.” has been shared many times. In a recent Black Student Union affinity group meeting, there was lengthy discussion about the emotional toll these events are taking on our students and their families.
Our affinity group program and our student and family support program are working to support students and families, as are all our faculty and staff. Even though we are nearing the end of the school year, we are putting together opportunities for students to discuss and take action in support of racial justice and equity in our community. Additionally, our Middle School and Upper School student equity program coordinators will be working with students who want to continue their efforts this summer.
Every member of our community can be an ally to those facing hate and discrimination. Because of Lakeside’s mission and our commitment to equity and inclusion, it’s important that we, as a community, continuously educate ourselves on these issues. We need to empower students to stay active and engaged in making our community, country, and world a better place — and we need to stay active and engaged ourselves. Parents and guardians, we encourage you to review ways to “learn, connect, and reflect” shared last month, and talk with your students about what actions you can take as a family. We’ve added some additional resources there to help families navigate these conversations.
We wish everyone peace and resolve as we navigate a challenging time.
Bernie Noe is Lakeside’s head of school. You can reach him at Head'sOffice@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2714. Jamie Asaka is Lakeside’s director of equity and inclusion and director of student and family support. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.