The last few months have brought division and discord to our schools. In this new year, we have an opportunity to change course and renew our call for civility.
As educators, our most important service is to our students and our school community. Service is why we became educators and is central to who we are and what we do every day in America’s classrooms. Service transcends politics, partisanship, and popularity.
However, we are seeing threats to our education system in our classrooms and on our campuses. Some of the experiences that school leaders have shared paint an increasingly dire picture of intimidation of educators and contempt for our schools. Parents—including a state senator—confronted one principal on school property for following a required quarantine protocol. The same principal has been bombarded by hateful messages on social media and has been called a Nazi and a fascist. Some school leaders have hired additional security for school events and parent-teacher conferences. Others have paid out of their own school budgets to defend their schools in lawsuits against them for following mask mandates.
Amid such turmoil, school leaders have been facing severe teacher shortages and handling more disruptive student behavior. Young people, having experienced trauma and isolation, have been imitating their parents’ disrespectful behavior, which has emboldened them.
Throughout this tumultuous time, our priority has always remained the same: ensuring the learning and development of our students. Doing so requires that we also ensure that teaching and learning environments are supportive and safe. Now, more than ever, school leaders have been digging deep to uphold our professional obligations and to meet the new demands of our work. As adults, we must all set examples for our children of how to be kind and respectful citizens by engaging in civil dialogue even with those who do not agree with us.
No matter where we live, as Americans we must always strive to uphold our country’s values: civility, character, fairness, and free debate. On behalf of NASSP, and on behalf of school leaders everywhere, I ask everyone to join us in respecting education and the education profession by listening to one another and treating each other with the dignity and respect that every individual deserves. I sincerely believe that we can find common ground and hope for a positive future when we commit to reviving constructive discourse.
I am confident in our ability to come together.
Ronn K. Nozoe