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June 17, 2020

Dear WHS Students:

As members of Generation Z, you are independent thinkers, willing to voice strong concerns.  The compelling issues of racism, discrimination and the Black Lives Matter Movement have been in the forefront of many discussions, protests, and events in our country these past few weeks. Generation Z has been actively engaged.

The purpose of my letter is to share with you that there have been two preliminary discussions with several students, teachers, and counselors on the issues of racism, discrimination and social justice during the last two weeks of school.   The discussions were passionate, productive and valuable ideas and suggestions were raised for how to improve our high school. We then began to craft action steps on which we will focus for the 2020-21 school year. They are as follows:

Form a social justice advocacy group, comprised of students and faculty, whose goal is to support a school climate that does not tolerate discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation or disability. This group will promote open communication among students, staff and administration. It will provide feedback on academic programs and assist with the planning of school wide events that deal with these issues.

Communicate specific behavioral expectations and consequences to students, with clear guidance on the rules of confidentiality surrounding those consequences.  Students must understand that any consequences for their individual peers cannot be shared. To do so would be a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which is a federal law.

  • Explain clearly how students can report incidents involving discrimination and bias.
  • Incorporate more multicultural experiences into our curriculum.  Our English department piloted new texts this past school year. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, two of the units were not completed.  Expand the use of these texts at scale across courses and grade levels.  The Social Studies/History department also is developing new courses and resources.  Explore what similar changes may be possible for other academic subjects.
  • Design and integrate specific lessons that address issues of bias and microaggressions (especially hate language) into advisory and academic programs.
  • Increase the number of assemblies and school-wide programs dealing with racism and social justice.
  • Implement programs for Black History Month, and do so with the understanding that multicultural programming must occur throughout the school year.

One of my primary responsibilities as principal is to make sure that every student feels valued respected and heard so that he or she can embrace the educational opportunities that WHS has to offer.  However, I cannot do this alone and need your help.  There must be collective community commitment to challenge all forms of discrimination if we are to foster and sustain a school climate known for mutual respect and dignity.

At the beginning of the school year, we will ask for student and teacher volunteers for our social justice advocacy group via another email communication. In the meantime, I encourage us all to reflect on our actions and words, both in person and through social media, to better understand each other and support each other.  Humankind be both.

Sincerely,

Lisa Wolak
Principal

cc:       WHS Staff, WHS Families, William S. McKersie, Superintendent and WPS Board of Education