RFSD News: Roaring Fork schools are a sanctuary for all | PostIndependent.com

RFSD News: Roaring Fork schools are a sanctuary for all

Rob Stein and Dave Smith
RFSD News

In the aftermath of the presidential election, the national news has reported night after night about harassment, violence, vandalism and other appalling incidents across the nation motivated by racism and hatred. Unfortunately, our small and diverse valley is not immune. In the last few weeks, we have seen children coming to school in tears worried for their safety, stability and future; heard community members express fear and uncertainty; and had local playgrounds and community spaces vandalized with symbols of hate. As a school district, we maintain our commitment to remaining nonpartisan on politics. However, knowing that our primary responsibility is to take care of our children, we want to respond to the surge of fear and anxiety many are currently experiencing.

First, we want our community to know that schools and classrooms are safe and inclusive places for all students and all families. In our Roaring Fork School District nondiscrimination policy, we commit to providing a safe environment where all are treated equally regardless of race, sex, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, ancestry or disability. This means that all children are embraced as full members of our school community, and that all students have a legal right to an education, regardless of any differences, including immigration status.

An important part of our schools remaining safe spaces is that we do not collaborate with immigration enforcement agencies or share information that could put a student's security at risk. In this way, all of our schools are a place of sanctuary for our students and community members, free from the threat of intimidation, hostility or violence, including threat of deportation.

Second, in addition to safe spaces, we work hard to ensure that our schools are supportive and positive environments. As educators, we aspire to model the behavior we teach, including listening before speaking, seeking mutual understanding, treating one another with respect, communicating honestly and avoiding inflammatory rhetoric. At the same time, when children use unkind language or act out with impulsive behavior, we do not ostracize or marginalize them. Rather, we seek to educate and reintegrate these students back into the school community.

To ensure that the Roaring Fork Schools continue to be safe, inclusive, supportive and positive environments for all students and their families, we commit to the following:

• We will continue to advocate for all of our students.

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• Our schools will remain safe spaces for our students and community members, free from the threat of intimidation, hostility or violence, including threat of deportation.

• We will continue to listen to the needs of all of our students and families by hosting meetings and engaging in conversations so that we can learn from those who are impacted before we assume what actions to take.

• We will continue to teach tolerance and inclusion in our schools, set clear and high expectations for how we treat one another, and encourage our educators to address issues around race, discrimination and other challenges with students.

• We will not base our decisions on speculation or rumor about what may or may not happen.

• We will continue to create a sense of belonging for all — building a larger circle of "we" and a broader understanding of our commonalities and differences.

• We will act where we have influence and make a difference wherever we can.

This conversation extends beyond our schools. We must work together as a community — families, teachers, law enforcement, elected officials, local businesses and nonprofits, and citizens — to do what is best for all children in our community. We invite you to engage with us in tough conversations, to reassure, and most importantly, to help us provide safe and nurturing environments where children can dream about their futures. Our schools belong to the entire community. On behalf of every teacher and staff member in the Roaring Fork Schools, we hereby reiterate our most fundamental commitment to you, our community — that all schools shall be safe havens for our children.

Rob Stein is superintendent of the Roaring Fork School District, and Dave Smith is executive director of the PreCollegiate Program.