An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Bernie Noe, head of school

In a letter emailed to parents and guardians on Oct. 19, Head of School Bernie Noe outlined how Lakeside is preparing for the Nov. 3 presidential election. An excerpt of his letter is included below. At the Upper School, students learned about the voting process in an assembly with State Sen. June Robinson, and are discussing media literacy and bias in a series of To Be Honest conversations — sample the curriculum with this PBS video. At the Middle School, students are engaging in a school-wide media literacy program.

I am writing to make you aware of preparations we are making at school to work constructively with what could become an unprecedented series of events surrounding the Nov. 3 presidential election. The unwillingness of President Trump, in the first presidential debate, to state that he would agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost the election, or to promise that he would not declare a premature victory while mail-in ballots were being counted, means our students, and all of us, might witness significant turmoil for some period of time following the election. This turmoil is intensified by his refusal during the debate to disavow white supremacy, which is a viewpoint inimical to our mission as a school and to any sense of justice.

We want our students to discuss the vital political issues of the day: climate change, defense policy, environmental regulation, gerrymandering, gun control and gun rights, the inequality of wealth, racism, Supreme Court nominees, and more. It is our mission to graduate individuals who will contribute wisdom, compassion, and leadership to a global society, and we cannot do so if we shy away from all such conversations. We want our graduates to be people who can genuinely hear views different from their own and find common ground with those different from themselves. I am, of course, not talking about tolerating hate speech or racist views, but rather learning about the experiences and worldviews that inform different perspectives on any issue before coming to firm conclusions about it.

Faculty have been trained in leading dialogue about divisive topics, but, as I am sure you all recognize, one never knows where a conversation is headed and it takes tremendous skill to navigate all topics successfully. Our amazing teachers will make every effort to do this but it will not always be perfect.

In the extremely polarized climate in which we all live, faculty are wary of including political topics in class, even while recognizing the importance of doing so. In the weeks leading up to the election, and maybe in the weeks following, they will, in some classes, be discussing political topics that come up, and doing their best to facilitate dialogue, and I ask that parents and guardians at home support their efforts to nurture thoughtful, respectful conversation. As an institution we strive to be nonpartisan but we are not neutral. We have a mission. We have a Statement of Community Expectations. We have competencies and mindsets, including statements about what it means to have an ethical mindset. All of these will inform how we will teach and talk about the election.

We will also do our utmost to offer the support and spaces our students need to process their emotions and reactions, whatever the circumstances following the election. We will also have a plan in place to follow if it is there is a period of prolonged uncertainty about the election results following the election. Our diversity and inclusion team is working on that plan now.

Our hope for the future, and the fulfillment of our mission as a school, is for our students to be citizens and leaders concerned with the common good and determined to create a society that serves the needs of all. Let’s all work together, at school and at home, to nurture the thoughtful, committed leaders and citizens our nation and world so desperately need right now.