In Wake of Violence in Charlottesville, LFA Groups Offer Advice for Educators

By Joetta Sack-Min

Resources aim to help educators and parents answer questions and assure students' safety after race-based violence in Virginia

Several Learning First Alliance member organizations have resources to help teachers and other educators deal with students’ questions on the race-based violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., this past weekend.   

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has assembled lessons and resources to help address the events in Charlottesville with students. The union is using its ShareMyLesson.com resources submitted by educators and partners from across the country, with a special section on #CharlottesvilleCurriculum: https://sharemylesson.com/CharlottesvilleCurriculum.

“This type of domestic terrorism has pilloried communities of color, Jews and other marginalized groups throughout history. We know it’s something we simply can’t be silent about, but this weekend in Charlottesville marked a turning point. Friday's torch-light march showed that white supremacists are so emboldened that they don't even feel the need to wear hoods. The violence directed at counter-protesters was meant to instill fear in the hearts of people who are fighting for a more inclusive America,” reads a joint statement from AFT President Randi Weingarten, AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, and AFT Executive Vice President Mary Cathryn Ricker.

NEA Today, a publication of the National Education Association, has written “Talking to Students About Charlottesville Violence.” The post advises educators to confront the issue and their students’ fears, reassure students they are safe, and review school safety procedures, among other things. Some of their advice was gleaned from the National Association of School Psychologists, which also has resources on school safety and crisis management.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García wrote in her blog, “Do not shy away from talking about this terrible topic with the young, I beg you. There is, perhaps, nothing harder than a conversation on race. But do it, because how we feel about race; how we react to racism informs how we feel about and react to all other forms of bias and prejudice. Children of all races, religions, all gender attractions and gender identities, of all cultures and social classes must have a safe space to speak and ask questions and wonder and think and be angry and be comforted.”

NEA also has a resource page on school safety, dealing with trauma, and talking about race and other issues in schools.

The National PTA has developed a variety of tools and resources that can be downloaded at PTA.org/Diversity to help school communities embrace diversity and inclusion. They also offer tips to help families and educators discuss hate and violence with children.

“National PTA, Virginia PTA and PTAs across the country denounce the racial violence that transpired during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville. The acts of hate go against PTA and our nation’s values of diversity, inclusion and respect. Our condolences go out to the community and the families impacted by the violence....It is urgent that we understand, value and embrace the uniqueness of all individuals, appreciating that each contributes a diversity of views, experiences, cultural heritage/traditions, skills/abilities, values and preferences which enriches and strengthens our nation," said National PTA President Jim Accomando and Virginia PTA President Sarah Gross in a joint statement.

AASA, the School Superintendents Association, provides a collection of resources on equity for school system leaders at all levels. Their Executive Director Dan Domenech noted of the events in Charlottesville and since: "The basic rights and wrongs that we, as educators and parents, have been trying to teach our children have been challenged by what we’ve been reading about or have seen on our television screens....There is no better time than now to view every public school as the most fundamental foundation of our communities. There is no better time than now to speak loud and clear about the value of public education and the positive impact educators make on the children they serve."  

In addition, the American School Counselor Association has a resource page to help students in troubling times.  

Finally, the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) released a statement condemning the attacks and supporting the University of Virginia, one of its member institutions.

“We support UVA President Teresa Sullivan’s official statement that the acts ‘…of the many groups that have converged on Charlottesville this weekend contradict [American] values of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect,’” said Lynn M. Gangone, AACTE president and CEO. “AACTE also considers an outbreak of insular behavior in the setting of an university paradoxical as institutions of higher education characterize enlightenment, progression, and democracy.”

Updated 8/18/2017
 

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