In the coming years, Hopkins Public Schools will have to tackle many complex issues. Patch asked this year’s School Board candidates about how they’d handle some of the major issues facing the district.
Today’s question is:
- Last year, Hopkins High School saw confrontations and protests arising from perceptions of racial insensitivity. What, if anything, should the Hopkins School Board do to foster an environment of tolerance and inclusiveness in its schools?
They should do all they can to build a sense of community and foster tolerance and expect tolerance from all “racial” groups. I believe in a No Tolerance policy for bullying and racial insensitivity, and a policy of consequences for such behavior should be put in and treated seriously. Violence should not be tolerated. There should be a process in place in which intolerance is addressed and communicated as an issue to the population. I believe in instituting a program at an early age that teaches respect, safety, and welcome skills in young children. Students cannot learn if they do not feel Safe, Welcome or Respected, same for teachers and employees. Lastly, ask the students what they think Hopkins should do to help foster tolerance. Recognize and reward students and staff who display and practice tolerance. Provide a safe and respectful forum for all groups to voice their concerns and then address those concerns.
Don’t know the situation. Many things can be done. I need to know what has been done before coming with new ones. But from other encounters I experienced with the district, I can sense the district might have not done what it can.
Insensitivity issues are never pleasant, but they must be addressed. Having had a student in the high school last year, I was able to get some insight as to the climate at the high school. I am a big believer of being an active participant in the educational process. By that I mean, as a school board member, visiting the various schools and seeing the day to day operations as well as talking with staff, students and families to get sense of what people are thinking, feeling and experiencing. In the end, it comes down to this community coming together on behalf of all our students.
The two major areas that the School Board controls are budget and policy. Looking at both of these areas, there are ways that we can continue to support an environment of tolerance in our schools. Through policy, we set guidelines for behavior of both our students and our staff. Through budget, we support programs that foster respectful relationships and healthy learning environments. And with the Superintendent as our only employee, the School Board can also support his work and his administration in setting positive examples for the District, such as our extensive strategic work on equity for the past several years.
My Dad went to school in a tough area where teachers were so busy dealing with disruptions in the classroom that they couldn’t teach. After hearing these stories, I know that we can’t ask teachers to monitor every single interaction between students, because they need to be focused on educating.
Our schools should allow students to have conversations about their concerns as long as they maintain a mature, constructive tone. Students need to keep in mind that we’re all in this together, and school staff can help by directing conversations toward our shared goals and similarities rather than our differences.
The best thing we can do is to teach students to play by the rules, and react to conflict in an adult manner. Administrators should continue to enforce school rules, and the school board should continue to back up teachers and school staff. As a board director, I will support the staff in their decisions, and be open to listening to feedback to resolve any issues.
I believe that the Hopkins School District is a great place to get an education. Students at Hopkins also have an opportunity to learn first hand about many cultures, but to get the greatest benefit we all need to work at listening with an open mind to the perspective of people who are different from us.