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Leaders of the Los Angeles Unified School District and local schools are offering support and words of encouragement to students, families and staff following on the heels of Donald Trump’s presidential election win.
LAUSD board president Steve Zimmer said Wednesday that the district — which reportedly has a Latino student population that measures 74 percent — will be offering counseling to students.
“We know there may be feelings of fear and anxiety, especially within our most vulnerable communities,” he said in a statement. “The District is providing additional supports to those who need it. With emotions running high, our schools will continue to be the anchors of our neighborhoods. We ask our teachers and school leaders to continue their amazing work of listening to our students and striving together to assure that public education is the great civil rights engine of democracy.”
LAUSD superintendent Michelle King echoed Zimmer’s comments: “Because fears and emotions may be running high after the election results, we directed school-based staff to talk with students, and if necessary, identify those who may need support. In an abundance of caution, district staff also has initiated conversations about student rights. At L.A. Unified, the safety of students and staff remains our highest priority.”
King said the election offers “many teachable moments” and said students are allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations that don’t coincide with class time.
The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, posted on its Facebook page that students at various schools around L.A. have been walking out of class in protest of the election results.
Zimmer emphasized that the district is continuing to take “all necessary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, staff and schools. And the work with our families to fulfill the American Dream continues today.”
Leaders of individual schools also are weighing in.
Elizabeth English, head of school at the prestigious Archer School for Girls in Brentwood, sent an email to families titled “Leaning In Together After the Election,” noting that the students had watched Hillary Clinton’s concession speech Wednesday morning “and took pride in her dignity and graciousness.” English added that staffers, including a peer support team, were offering their support to anyone who needed it.
“Today our faculty and staff were heroic as they tried to put their own emotions aside and create a safe and hopeful space for your daughters,” she wrote. “Little could have prepared us, even as educators, for the waves of emotion that swept the school first thing this morning. We gave the girls time and space to process their feelings and fears, regardless of their position.”
Ilise Faye, head of school at Hollywood Schoolhouse, sent an email to families letting them know that she’d spoken with the students in kindergarten through sixth grade Wednesday.
“I shared that I felt lucky to have been part of history in witnessing the first woman to run for president,” she wrote. “Many of our young girls shared that they hope to do the same someday. I spoke about the need to be respectful of the democratic process and operate from a place of kindness here at school and everywhere. I shared that it is more important than ever to strive to be our best selves and be kind to others, no matter how we may feel about their opinions.”
L.A.-based Alliance College-Ready Public Schools CEO Dan Katzir sent a note to staff urging them to “be strong” for their students, as quoted by L.A. School Report.
“I share your distress at the hateful and mean-spirited discourse of the campaign, the exposure of the deep divides in our country, and the scapegoating of the very communities we serve,” he wrote. “Despite our own possible distress, now is the time for us to be strong for our scholars and families, many of whom are feeling more vulnerable than ever. Our mission has never been more urgent. Our daily work has never been more important.”
L.A. School Report also quoted an email sent by Caprice Young, the CEO of L.A.’s Magnolia Public Schools, to teachers asking them to help unite their students.
“Helping students make sense of politics is especially difficult when we have difficulty understanding it ourselves,” Young wrote. “No matter where you stood in this election, today our job is to come together. As Magnolia leaders, we work to create socially responsible global citizens who make decisions based on evidence. Ignorance is ended by education. Enmity is stopped through understanding. Reach to teach … listen to your kids. Use this confusion as an opportunity to rise together.”
United Teachers Los Angeles added on its Facebook page: “[W]e have challenging times ahead. But, we have been through hard times before, and we have nurtured seeds of crucial social movements during difficult times — the seeds for the civil rights movement, the movement for language rights, environmental justice movements, movements for LGBTQ rights, and more, were planted, nurtured, and strengthened during some of the most challenging political times in U.S. history. We will continue that history, no matter what lies ahead. Our work is more important now than ever, and we will support each other as we take the next steps in the movement for the Schools LA Students Deserve over the next weeks, months, and years.”
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