Dear Superintendent (Kevin) Case:
I am Dr. Aaron Lewis, human rights activist, educator, child advocate and founder of The Scribe’s Institute Inc., a dedicated literacy center in Hartford’s north end. We represent children throughout the Hartford Public School district with regards to equity, civility, and ethical treatment. After discovering such appalling and racially charged actions from Canton students during a recent basketball tournament game toward Classical Magnet School basketball players, I was deeply disturbed. Also, I believe that the way in which the Canton Board of Education and the CIAC handled the matter only proved to continue the age-old struggle of racial tensions within our communities, our state, and our country.
It has been stated by various parents and staff members in Canton that the taunting and racially charged remarks from Canton students does not reflect the sentiments and ideals of the Canton community. This cannot be true and to believe so is only gross denial. Nearly all children receive their views of life, politics, religion, and tolerance from their parents. And under most circumstances children’s views are often an offspring of their parents’ core beliefs which are openly shared in the home. This behavior is unfathomable and necessitates taking a much deeper look at the core ethics that this school district claims to embrace. Succinctly put, the students’ behavior is an open expression of what many of the parents privately believe.
The very mission of Canton High School states: To engage all students in learning by providing a rigorous and relevant curriculum in an environment of mutual respect and personal responsibility. This mission was completely overlooked with regards to the disrespect of the students at Classical Magnet. Furthermore, an apology from the students is simply not enough, as apologizing does not bear any real consequence and only speaks to the students in question and the team, that their actions where not really that bad. If nothing is loss, then the students will be proud to have acted in such a manner, knowing that the Canton Board of Education, Canton High School, and the CIAC, who has not addressed the matter as of this writing, all stand in agreement with them, that racists intimidations and bigoted rants are fully endorsed by all three entities. Something must be done.
Within the past two weeks our nation has witnessed a drastic spike in Anti-Semitic demonstrations, from the decimation of Jewish cemeteries and burning down of synagogues, to bomb threats to both our local Jewish Community Center in West Hartford of which our organization partners with, and the Hebrew High School of New England. While, I wholeheartedly believe in the free and democratic process of voting for whomever one chooses, one cannot argue that recent spikes in Anti-Semitism, racial aggression, and sexism are directly correlated to a political administration which condones rather than condemns such actions. As a result, these tensions have divided communities that were just at the onset of beginning to heal. This behavior only brings us backward and totally reverses any real progress toward creating a genuine democracy that works for all people.
The CIAC, which is a governing board for athletic high school teams in the State of Connecticut has not issued a statement concerning this incident, as rightly they should have. The overall attitude concerning this behavior is at best nonchalant. If the Canton School district truly does not endorse racially charged or Anti-Semitic behavior and does not tolerate abusiveness toward any people group, then I am asking the principal of Canton High School, the Superintendent of the Canton Board of Education and the CIAC to make a bold stand by suspending the team for one year to demonstrate to them that there are consequences connected to behaviors that your district will not tolerate. Again, an apology is not only weak, but is exactly what the students expect from authorities who may share the same perspectives toward race and bigotry as they’ve demonstrated.
This letter comes respectfully as a call to conscience and a call to action for the town of Canton to demonstrate exactly where you stand on issues such as these. After a 400-year struggle for justice amongst people of color in this country, I believe that someone needs to stand up in your administration and say we do not endorse or tolerate this behavior and prove the veracity of those words by letting the students know publicly that they will be penalized for their actions. Anything less, will only create the infrastructure for worse things to happen in the future.
A verbal or written apology does not bear any consequences whatsoever, insofar as nothing is being loss in the process. On behalf of the students at Classical Magnet and the entire student body of Hartford Public Schools we seek public consequences for this behavior, as their bigoted demonstration was not done in a clandestine manner but rather overtly. For further dialog concerning this matter I may be reached at 860-206-0024 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Aaron Lewis Ph.D., President & Founder, The Scribe’s Institute, Inc.