I know how you have struggled these past few months to keep your communities together through periods of frustration, pain, and grief. The pandemic has taken its toll, but the horrific deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have left communities reeling from trauma, despair, and anger. Children, who are at various stages of emotional development, are trying to make sense of the anguish and violence they’re witnessing. Adults, too, are grappling with the injustice of these senseless killings, the legacy of our country’s history of enslavement and centuries of discrimination against people of African descent. Many people are looking for the path forward and seeking to understand the role they can play in breaking the cycle of systemic racism in our country and reinforce that Black lives truly matter.
As independent school leaders, you guide your communities in leaning into your missions every day. Those missions call forth your hopes and dreams for your students and for the world they will inherit. Today, you must lean into those missions even harder to ensure you are building communities where all members feel that they belong.
I have read incredible and heartfelt letters some of you have sent to your communities, assuring students that, above all, each of them deserves to be safe and to have a fair chance at a future in a school that will not tolerate any form of racial or cultural discrimination. I applaud your leadership. Similarly, many adults who work in your school will be looking to you for guidance and support to help them take real action to create physical and psychological safety for vulnerable children, youth, and adults; this safety is one of the foundations for belonging in a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. For those who are struggling with what to say and those who are searching for ways to help your communities, NAIS has compiled a list of resources below.
The NAIS Board recently adopted a new vision, mission, and values for the organization, with the goal of a more equitable world at its very core. Through these statements we envision a world where every learner can find a pathway to success. I believe that it is through our independence and resolve that each school will find a way forward today. As you do this important work, I pledge that NAIS will be here to support you.
How to speak to children about traumatic events
- Talking to children after racial incidents (Penn GSE)
- “George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?” (USA Today)
- Talking About Race (National Museum of African American History & Culture)
- Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice (Teaching Tolerance)
- Understanding Race and Privilege (National Association of School Psychologists)
- Author Jason Reynolds helps young people understand what led to the protests we’ve seen over the past week and what children can do to build a less racist society.