(KFOR NEWS  August 12, 2019)  It’s the first day of classes in Lincoln Public Schools.  LPS Superintendent, Dr. Steve Joel sent a message to all staff and administrators:

Welcome to the launch of the 2019-20 school year.   We hope this was an invigorating summer for you: A time of journeys and relaxation, of discovery and study, and of preparation for teaching and learning in the year ahead.  Thanks to everyone who works at Lincoln Public Schools, I am grateful for your passion and dedication to the children of our community.

As we begin this school year, please join our leadership team in reaffirming our commitment to respecting all the children of LPS – making sure each and every student is accepted and valued.

We must be honest.  The political climate of our country continues to be increasingly emotional as hot-button issues result in contentiousness and highly-charged conversation. Inevitably, as our students return in August, this incivility could easily seep into our schools, presenting educators with potentially formidable challenges as well as opportunities.  Indeed, I know from spending time in our schools that we will continue to honor and welcome all children who attend LPS: And all means all.

I ask that you please be particularly vigilant this school year: Be aware. If you witness any inappropriate language or behavior – do something to address the situation. Nothing is as frightening to students as the feeling that they are unsafe and nobody is watching over them. I ask that you join me in remembering: There is no room at LPS for harassment and derogatory language based on national origin, ethnicity, race, religion, political beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability, family background, socioeconomic or citizenship status.

We don’t ask kids how they got here. We don’t ask them why they got here. When they show up, we give them all we have – we cannot ever lose sight of that.

If there is a problem with inappropriate language or behavior, the LPS Second Step curriculum outlines the following four-step process.

  • Affirm a student’s feelings: “You were right to report/get help from an adult.”
  • Ask questions about the situation: “Tell me more about what happened.”
  • Assess the student’s safety: What does the student need to be safe now?
  • Act: Report to a counselor or administrator and tell the student what will happen next.

Please remember we have plenty of support at LPS. If you need support or if you have a concern, consider the many resources we have, including counselors, social workers, school psychologists, bilingual liaisons and members of the Youth Development Team.  These experts can offer advice and counsel, as well as information about community resources and support. Safety continues to be a top priority at LPS and remember: It is always Safe to Say .  If you have questions or concerns, please ask your supervisor for guidance.

I believe we are each entitled to our own personal views and opinions, and we need to respect one another in those views. But as professional educators, we also need to continue to leave those opinions behind when we walk into our classrooms. Our mission is to create a space that is safe and supportive. We owe it to our children to do our jobs with objectivity and care.

This coming year – as in every year – LPS remains focused on doing what we do best, teaching and learning.  As long as we continue to build a trusting community in our schools – creating classrooms where our children feel visible, heard and treasured – we will have a successful year.

Keep loving your work, keep enjoying the wonder of our students. And take care of our children. That’s our obligation, our commitment and our moral imperative. LPS is a space where we come together peacefully and calmly in the interest of learning – where we come together in a place of care, connectedness and civility. As educators we must continue to uphold – and hold one another responsible – to our philosophy of honoring and educating students of all nationalities, ethnicities and religions. Every child at LPS is a child of promise who deserves to be cherished and valued.    

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