January 31 2017

Superintendent Pens Open Letter to Anxious Students: 'You Are All Welcome Here'

By: Rich Hosford

Whatever an individual's political leaning it seems likely that most people can agree that the past week has been a hectic and confusing time in our nation’s history.


And if adults are having a difficult time figuring out what is going on, what must children be thinking?


Burlington Public Schools Superintendent Eric Conti said he has heard there has been a lot of anxiety among students in the school system, mostly around on President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration.


“There seemed to be a lot of confusion as to what was happening in the country,” he said. “Some students had been expressing some fear and concern to their teachers. Some are worried about their own situation or the situation of family members.”


Conti said he believes some students are feeling anxious because they can see that the adults in their lives are also unsure of what is happening in our government.


“I don’t think anyone is getting avery clear interpretation of what is happening so students are responding to what they were hearing,” he said. “They are responding to the confusion.”


To help allay some of students’ concerns Conti wrote an open letter to them that is posted in on his blog. In it he stresses to students that all of them belong and are welcome in their school.


“It is hard not to hear many adult conversations and see news reports around you regarding the recent restrictions on immigration,” he wrote. “Many people are struggling with questions of belonging. Some question if everyone belongs and whether we can be safe. Please be assured that all of you belong in the Burlington Schools. Our commitment to educating all of you has never been more unyielding and important.”


He also spoke about the diversity in Burlington schools and praised the students for their acceptance of others no matter who they are, where they’re from or what they look like.


“In my opinion, adults simply need to look inside our classrooms and learn from you,” he wrote to the students. “I see classrooms where everyone is accepted regardless of faith, culture, ability, economic standing, and other differences.  You all believe in the best of your classmates and their intentions. What you may not realize is that these lessons have been at the heart of public schools for a long time.”


Conti told BNEWS that he wrote the letter to tell the students that “while the adults sort this out that they should feel secure in their belonging in school.”


Any other feeling than of being welcome, he said, would not be an environment for teaching or learning.


“Unless kids feel comfortable they’re not going to learn and that’s our business,” he said. “They really need to feel safe and welcomed and valued; that’s the foundation of learning.”

Read the full letter here.


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