I was born on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. While I was too young of course to realize it, 1968 was a remarkably traumatic year for our nation and families of seemingly unending division, violence and hopelessness.
While many of the wounds from that time remain unresolved, and while we have since endured 9/11, a pandemic, recessions, and escalating racial hatred and injustice, we have not witnessed an assault on our nation’s most cherished values that struck at the heart of our democracy like the events of yesterday.
School divisions have values too. Ours are excellence, young people, community, and respect, most powerfully expressed this year through an anti-racism policy that says in part, “The Albemarle County School Board and School Division reject all forms of racism by respecting and championing the diversity and life experiences of all community members.”
I don’t pretend to know what was in the heart of those who stormed our nation’s Capitol yesterday, smashed windows and destroyed property, waved Confederate flags in the halls of Congress, overpowered public servants and law enforcement officials, precipitated death and injury, and sought to overturn a democratic election by means of force.
Current events are always teachable moments, often powerfully so. In our classrooms, our goal is for all of our students to become successful learners, have successful careers, and to be successful citizens.
Yesterday’s events must not go unchallenged by the conscience of any one of us. As we process what happened, this must be a time for self-reflection, for deciding what we believe and cherish about decency, fairness and racial justice, about equal opportunities in education and in life, about the values that long have made us the greatest and most admired nation and people on earth, about the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., who said before he died, “Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”
Each of us is called upon to cut this chain. The strength of our nation has been built upon education, devotion to the highest ideals of human history, and the rejection of racism and hate. After yesterday, this truth speaks to us even more loudly, calling each of us to do our part.
As you process yesterday’s events and your own path forward, please keep in mind the resources of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Also, I’ve recorded a 6-minute video to share some additional thoughts with you, and I hope you will take a few minutes to watch:
Please stay safe,
Dr. Matthew Haas
Superintendent of Schools