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Dear HK Families,
I am sorry to interrupt your weekend to inform you about a disturbing incident which occurred at our middle school, but families should hear from me about what happened, what we are doing, have done, and will do, and also know where the district stands.
We became aware on Friday that someone, we believe a HKMS student, anonymously wrote a racist comment onto another HKMS student’s digital yearbook page. The statement was, You are a n***** and a multi b****.
I want to be perfectly clear: Racism, bigotry, and bullying have no place in the RSD17 schools and will not be tolerated. In partnership with parents and the community, schools play a critical role in promoting healthy and respectful learning environments where every child feels welcomed, safe and proud of being who he or she is. Kids need for us all to help them understand that certain words, particularly the N-word and other words or symbols which marginalize and demean, are deeply hurtful and that kind of ignorance and disrespect needs to be effectively confronted. These types of behaviors are not representative of who we are as a school-community. Our students make great choices every day. But when these incidents occur, it is essential that everyone hears from all of us collectively that there is no place for this in our schools.
We will continue to investigate this incident. I am heart-broken for the student who had to read this on his/her page and we will continue to reach out to him/her and the family to provide support. We are also concerned for the student who wrote it. While he or she will receive consequences, all of our students, children, need our support and guidance providing for both accountability as well as a path for restoration.
Sadly, this is not the first incident of its kind in our schools. For this reason, the high school directly addressed racism through impactful assemblies and planned to have ongoing conversations with the student body throughout the spring before classes were cancelled. As has been done in the past, the high school will bring in the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) next year for their Names Can Really Hurt Us program. Similarly, over the last three years the middle school has incorporated anti-bias and bullying prevention education into its work with students through its Words Matter effort woven into student Town Hall meetings and was prepared to conduct assemblies like those at the high school just as schools closed. Prior to the closure, we had the ADL’s Becoming and Ally: Responding to Name-Calling and Bullying program at HKMS, and we plan to continue that program next year so that all middle school students have the learning experience.
RSD17 schools will continue to uphold the core values of our school system and do all that we can to have every student feel known, supported, respected and cared for. With the full commitment of our Board of Education, our administrators and every staff member, we will continue to educate and support all of our students in this pursuit. We will seek out best practices and resources as this kind of work is simply never completed. As Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I maintain this aspiration for our society and for the schools I have served in. Together, we must continue to strive to make a better world for all of our children.
Holly Hageman, Superintendent