Dear UCEA Community Members,
For the 8th time this year, school communities, teachers, and leaders are reeling from an assault on children going about the daily pursuit of learning. And in school districts and principal offices across the country school leaders are reviewing warning systems, emergency plans, and communication protocols. And in those same schools, parents are hugging their children while educators prepare for the questions, tears, and shrugs that accompany students’ confusion and fears.
We add our voice to those of others decrying this attack and share the heartbreak of those most affected by this tragedy. Although there are no words that can ease the pain of those who have lost loved ones, we offer this statement in tribute and as a call to action and renewed commitment.
As members of UCEA, we are reeling from this latest violence in our schools and even as we send our heartfelt condolences, we must ask ourselves difficult questions. We are a community that shares a set of values and the goals of quality leadership preparation that matters, in local and national contexts. We share the belief that our work matters. As we pursue these goals and values, together, we must ask … What did we – or will we – do differently in our classrooms this week and beyond? What different kinds of conversation did we – or will we – have with our students to help them make sense of their roles in this increasingly unstable world? What in our curriculum prepares our students to lead schools and communities vulnerable to all forms of violence – episodic or persistent? How does our research contribute to the broader discussion of trauma informed schools? How are we standing with parents and educators in response to policies and practices that we know endanger children and communities? What is our role in creating schools that are safe and accessible to all? How can UCEA support you as you face these questions?
In times such as these, it can be difficult to move outside our feelings of loss and take action. However, action is exactly what is needed. We encourage you to reach out to your local districts and lawmakers to support students and teachers. Join one of the many grassroots groups organizing to stage peaceful demonstrations in support of keeping schools and children safe. Write to your local newspaper, or blog, about what research says of the importance of a safe school climate for student well-being. Create coalitions to hold leaders and lawmakers accountable to the hopes and needs of communities. Mobilize with other educators – practitioners and scholars – to offer professional development opportunities on ensuring safe spaces for children. Meet with faculty from across disciplines to develop or revise courses for educational leaders that strengthen their ability to foster safe, just and inclusive schools and practices. Use your years of training and carefully honed tools in the service of schools, communities, and children.
There are no easy answers to the questions we have posed, but in the words of Dr. King, the “fierce urgency of now” is upon us. We must rise to the challenge and do what we can to prevent all forms of violence from invading our schools, communities, and the lives of our children. We must become the leaders – in scholarship, teaching, and service – that we want our students to become. What will you do differently tomorrow?