Lincoln County Schools...strong to the core. This has been our hashtag slogan for the past few years. We recently celebrated this during our one year COVID anniversary and recognized all aspects of our community and school system for all coming together to take care of one another during this unprecedented time in our lives. We celebrated our ability to come together and make an impact together...no matter the community, race, ethnicity, or demographic.
Then, March 19, 2021 changed our community. The actions of a few have had ripple effects that are still occurring today. Individuals crossed the line by choosing to write words on a rock that separate, divide, and stir deep emotions within many people in this county and beyond. This fleeting action that took only minutes to complete, has (hopefully temporarily) divided a system, schools, and communities. Our schools and communities are better than this and this kind of behavior has got to stop.
Our job as educators (my job) is to make sure students are learning and are safe at school. Student safety has been called into question by the actions on March 19 but also retaliatory actions on March 24, 2021. Words matter. Actions matter. Silence matters.
The incidents involving West Lincoln High and Lincolnton High will not be corrected by simply those of us in the school system. Unfortunately, the incidents are an example of what is occurring on a larger scale within society. Our (school) community is better than this. We have a history of celebrating the diversity that exists within our county and schools. We have long recognized that our strength comes from our diversity and we have used this to gain perspective, insight, and empathy. We have a lot to be proud of, but we also must recognize that we have a much longer way to go than some may want to admit.
Racism has no place in our community and is an unacceptable way of communicating within our school system. These actions (and others like them, past, present, and future) should serve as a means to have meaningful dialogue with action. We have to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness that this will bring.
Moving forward, our school system will work with a group of community based individuals, our students that represent our diverse cultures and ethnic groups, and our staff, to create a K-12 action plan to make progress in how our diverse communities can be viewed, appreciated, and respected moving forward. This systematic preparation will be meaningful, purposeful, and sensitive to the variety of students and staff that make up Lincoln County Schools across multiple demographic categories. This will take time but we (I) am committed to being an active part of the change that must occur from the youngest to the oldest members of our county.
In the end, we all have our teams and school communities that we call home. We identify with a school culture that we are proud of. I am proud of 23 unique school cultures. Sometimes people in those cultures make mistakes and we use those mistakes as opportunities to grow and strive to not repeat our errors in judgement and action. We should use these moments to teach a new behavior in order to correct a future outcome. I am also proud of our school system and community for their efforts to have open conversations about the recent events. We must continue to talk it out to gain perspective, grow in our understanding of the other side, and seek to be part of the solution moving forward.
We are not rivals. We are one large community that must support each other. We have 11, 200 reasons why this matters.
I thank the administration from both Lincolnton High and West Lincoln High for their combined efforts to investigate, discuss, rectify, and communicate about this unfortunate incident. I want to apologize to our community for the division that this has created. I hope that parents have been able to have honest, open, and meaningful conversation with their child about what these actions mean, why it is not acceptable, and what to do in the future if they see other individuals participating in racial discrimination or communicating derogatory comments to others. Through this, we can all learn.
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