Award-winning Conestoga High School’s newspaper ‘The Spoke’ recently ran an anonymous op-ed Letter to the Editor, titled ‘A Sign of Intolerance’. An interesting editorial, the writer discussed the recent decision by TESD middle school principals not to post the sign,“This classroom [or office] is a safe learning environment for all students regardless of ability, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation.”
This diversity sign is found in all of the high school classrooms and offices but the two middle school principals (T/E and Valley Forge) decided against posting the sign in their school classrooms. I’m not quite sure why? Manuevering through the early teen years can be difficult for many children, and for their parents. Peer pressure of the middle school years can be overwhelming; our children are acutely aware of what their friends think, and that can affect their self-perception and values. Not that I think a posted sign in middle school classrooms would automatically change attitudes and create acceptance, but what is wrong with reinforcement that school is a safe enviroment regardless of your differences?
The School Board has a Diversity Committee so I wonder why this decision to ‘not post’ the signage was left to the middle school principals; and further why did the middle schoold educators made this choice? Or, does the school board not make this type of district policy decision? For those that may better understand the rationale for this decision, I’d appreciate your comments. Below is the editorial that appears in the recent edition of The Spoke.
A Sign of Intolerance
Anonymous Letter to the Editor
The Spoke, Conestoga High School
As they walk through the halls of Conestoga, students of different ethnicities, sexual orientations, religions and races can feel like they have the chance to be accepted. They know that once they enter any classroom, their teacher will offer them a safe environment in which they can grow and develop.
This automatic sense of security is provided in each high school classroom by a sign bearing the words, “This classroom [or office] is a safe learning environment for all students regardless of ability, gender, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation.”
On Dec. 9, the school board’s diversity committee recommended that these signs be included in both T/E and Valley Forge Middle Schools, where they would have provided assurance to those in fifth through eighth grades. When the decision was brought to the education committee, however, the middle school principals were given the final say as to whether or not to include the signs in the schools. Here, they ultimately decided to reverse this forward-thinking protocol.
This decision directly followed a diversity committee meeting where parents and students in attendance spoke out in favor of the sign. Regardless of a Conestoga student’s first-hand testimony about her harsh middle school career as an openly-bisexual student, the middle school principals decided to ban the signs, thereby restricting openness among their students.
Despite any reasoning that these administrators might offer, we on The Spoke’s editorial board believe that the middle school principals’ actions only serve to limit progress in the areas of tolerance and acceptance for students.
Let us be clear that we make no presumptions that such a sign can prevent the formation of personal prejudices that many students already hold. We recognize the need for further initiatives to help instill this greater sense of acceptance yet, as a starting point, the sign is a step in the right direction. It is one of the simplest ways for students to gain a better understanding of the diversity that exists in our society.
The educators that made this decision must realize that the sign, though it may simply be a piece of paper bearing inspirational words, is also a symbol of the tolerance that students of all ages deserve. By removing this emblem, the district shows a decided lack of interest in the development of diversity and acceptance of various groups of individuals.
In light of recent budget cuts, T/E has been forced to make tough decisions for the future. Throughout this process, the district’s rationale has been linked to a desire to “develop students who will be prepared to excel in the 21st century.” However, there is little chance of this happening if administrators continue to implement such regressive policies.
The school district leaves us with no other option but this: we, as students, have to do what those signs will not. We have to make sure that our fellow students feel safe and accepted when they walk into a classroom. We have to reject the indifference of our higher ups and counter it with acceptance, tolerance and belief. Belief that we can be the change that they refuse to give us.