Open Letter to Shenendehowa Schools

Dr. Oliver Robinson, Superintendent of Shen
Mr. Donald Flynt, Principal of Shen High School
Mr. Jonathan Burns, Principal of Acadia Middle School
Mr. Greg Pace, Principal of Tesago Elementary School

In the wake of the election of a US President whose campaign was an outpouring of racism, sexism, bigotry, and xenophobia and a VP who believes that LGBTQ people are in need of "curing," I feel it is urgently important that I write to you about incidents at Acadia Middle School and High School West.

On Thursday, November 10, a number of children were chanting, "Build a wall! Kill 'em all! All hail Trump!"

Of course Shen students have a right and even a responsibility to start exploring political ideologies, learning about our elections, and choosing candidates to support, but in a free, democratic society, "kill 'em all" is never acceptable. It is hate speech, pure and simple. It is an affront to civil discourse, it violates Shen district rules, and it is illegal.

Less drastic, but more personal, at High School West, my son Antonio, whose father was born in Mexico, has been told by fellow students that he is going to be deported. Antonio was born in California, holds an American passport, has never lived outside the US, and is only now learning to speak Spanish through Shen's LOTE requirement, but he was made to feel that he does not belong here because, though he is a natural-born citizen with fair skin and blue eyes, he has a Hispanic name.

What's more, his algebra teacher expressed shock during Open House that she had two students named Antonio in a class, while two students with "normal" names like Jennifer or Madison was to be expected. Your history teachers could use this as a teachable moment to point out that her distinctly Polish last name would have been cause for discrimination 120 years ago when Poles were the most recent immigrants, facing prejudice and gross, hateful stereotypes from the xenophobic citizens who were lucky enough to have been born here.

The election outcome has emboldened people with latent or explicitly prejudiced sensibilities, and it is incumbent upon everyone else to stand up to the acts of intimidation, discrimination, and even small-minded ignorance, to make them understand that we will not tolerate hatred and we will always defend those who are singled out.

I expect that you will treat all incidents with the seriousness they deserve, disciplining students appropriately, making parents aware of the outrage among students and parents, and most importantly, reiterating to the entire student body and staff that Shen should be a safe and welcoming place for ALL students, as mandated in the Dignity for All Students Act. From the Shen website:
Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) protects students from harassment, discrimination and bullying by other students or school employees. It provides that no student shall be subjected to discrimination based on his or her actual or perceived race, color, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, disability, weight, sexual orientation, sexual identity, or sex. DASA explicitly states that the harassment is the creation of a hostile environment through bullying, taunting and intimidation.
Acadia is holding Respect Week this week, starting off with a day to celebrate cultural diversity and unity. I hope the message sinks in with ALL of the students and staff this time. If it does not, you will be hearing from me again.

Thank you,
Jessica Córdova

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