- East St. Louis School District 189
Superintendent's Message on Racial Injustice
June 5, 2020
Dear East St. Louis School District 189 Community:
The nation is unraveling, deeply saddened and devastated by the killing of yet another black man. George Floyd’s brutal and senseless murder is the latest in a continuous tide of deaths caused by police brutality and indifference. His name is now added to a growing list including Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and many other unarmed black people who have been killed because of overly aggressive behaviors of police officers or vigilantes across our nation. This trend has continued because the criminal justice system has allowed the human rights of the victims to be grotesquely violated without significant consequences. Feelings of outrage, shock, despair, and heartbreak cannot begin to express the deep range of emotions that most of us have experienced during this painful time.
I know we believe that black lives matter. Each of the black lives we have lost nationally due to police brutality or racism matter. Each one of the black lives that have been lost due to homicide, gang violence, robberies, drugs, alcoholism or abuse also matter. Systemic changes in the criminal justice system and police reform must take place with fierce urgency to eradicate structural racism. I believe the current political unrest demonstrated nationally by people of all races and from every socio-economic status will be the impetus necessary to bring about essential changes in systems, programs, people, policies and practices. One of the most effective things we can do to facilitate change is to vote in local, state, and national elections. Evaluate candidates for their commitment to equity and social justice, then give them your vote.
Racism is a societal plague that is not limited to law enforcement and the ideology of individuals. It permeates society, including within the educational system. George Floyd’s death has caused us to take a hard look at our institutions and how they serve us. Racism needs to be understood, addressed, and ultimately uprooted in schools, houses of worship, workplaces and beyond. Educators and parents play a central role in the perpetuation of racism and in breaking its cycle. We must be committed to confronting biases, openly and honestly, despite how uncomfortable it may make us feel. Social justice must be modeled in our schools and expected outside of them.
It is imperative that our leaders speak out against racism and brutality and do everything possible to fight these injustices. These egregious human rights violations are not acceptable, and I support those using their voices in peaceful protest against the brutality we have witnessed. Our actions must match their commitment, and those who make decisions must make them through the lens of equity and excellence for all. We must commit to listening, learning, growing and acting to realize a future in which every child has the opportunity to flourish unhindered by racism and racial injustice.
As Superintendent, my commitment moving forward includes:
- Integrating new curriculum lessons designed to explore and discuss issues of racism and the struggle for racial justice.
- Continuing to focus on professional development for staff that ensures high quality and culturally-appropriate instruction.
- Encouraging youth voice and equipping youth leadership so they are ready to lead our communities and country.
- Continuing to advocate for funding equity in education within the state of Illinois to ensure black and brown students have adequate funding and high quality instruction.
Extremely horrific and troubling times such as these often bring about traumatic experiences and pain from our own personal past. Let us know if there are supports you need from us now or in the future by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our student text helpline is always available as a resource: 618-249-4443. Additionally, individuals who want to speak with a mental health professional can text the word “TALK” or “HABLAR” (for Spanish speakers) to 552-020. Within 24 hours, you will receive a call from a mental health professional employed by a local community health center.
I began this statement by acknowledging it has been a devastating week. Yet the past week has also been inspiring. On Monday, we celebrated as 346 young adults, the Class of 2020, graduated from East St. Louis Senior High School. These graduates and all our students are our future. I encourage you to tell them that they are valued - that they are brilliant - that they are powerful - that they matter. I fully believe they will lead us toward a future where the lives and the dignity of black people carry the same value and importance as others.
I remain hopeful that our collective strength will allow each of our students to find success in our schools, our community and in their own personal lives. I encourage all of you to consider how your actions can contribute to making equality and justice a reality for all. Together, we can create a better future for our children and end the pandemic of racism.
Arthur R. Culver, Superintendent