Aaron: Columbia HS Condemns Bias Incidents, Will Work to Combat Racism

by The Village Green
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Recent incidents of allegedly racist and anti-Semitic social media posts in the South Orange – Maplewood School District have caused conversation and condemnation in the community. Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron sent a letter to the CHS community on Thursday condemning “any actions of students which mock, debase, or demean others through the posting of images, ideas, or words on social media” and noting that students found to violate school policies or the law will face “related consequences.”

Seemingly alluding to an incident at CHS where two students posted a photo on Instagram showing themselves with their faces smeared with a brown substance, captioned with a slang term for the “N” word, Aaron said recent events have prompted students to have “deep, meaningful, and emotional conversations with administrators and teachers about recent incidents of bias in our community.”

Warning parents to be vigilant about their childrens’ social media use, Aaron writes that student leaders have started “outreach to pair students at our middle schools with high school leaders to work together to promote better understanding and responsible use of social media, and we are excited about the opportunities for our work.”

See the full letter below:

May 12, 2016

Dear Columbia High Parents and Community,

The Columbia High School community condemns any actions of students which mock, debase, or demean others through the posting of images, ideas, or words on social media or in any other form. Students who violate our school code of conduct, Board policies, or the law encounter related consequences.

In the past two weeks, CHS students have had deep, meaningful, and emotional conversations with administrators and teachers about recent incidents of bias in our community. We value that discourse and student initiative and advocacy.

We know our students to be thoughtful citizens of our school community, kind and compassionate siblings, children, friends, and neighbors, and recognize the role that we each can and should play in calling out racist, biased, or bigoted expressions and actions.

We encourage students and parents to talk about their use of social media. Please be aware that the perceived anonymity of social media, in many cases, actually encourages and may even hide sentiments and ideas we most need made public in order to fight against them. Look at your children’s apps, emails, followers, what they are following, what they are ‘liking,’ and what they are doing online. Take steps to make sure you are supervising it and limiting it. Please and contact school staff as needed to share information or ask for assistance in helping your students make thoughtful and responsible choices.

Student leaders have begun to organize outreach to pair students at our middle schools with high school leaders to work together to promote better understanding and responsible use of social media, and we are excited about the opportunities for our work.

We also are committed to spending time, talent, and resources on building a learning environment in which all students and staff find the content, tools, and desire to combat racism and prejudice. We continuously work to address historical as well as social and emotional learning for our students to help them recognize, question, educate themselves and others around issues of bias, intolerance, and racism, and any other ‘-ism’ that privileges any one or group over any other to allow for full inclusion in our school community.

We vow to continue to keep a critical eye on ourselves as educators and leaders, and ask that you do the same at home as we do this work together.

Elizabeth M. Aaron, MAT, M.Ed.
Principal
Columbia High School

 

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