A Moment for Education Leaders

By Amber Arellano

Like you, my organization is deeply troubled by widespread reports of racially charged bullying, intimidation and harassment that have been happening in Michigan public schools. Racially – charged chants, immigrant children breaking down in tears at school … This is not what public education stands for in our state.

Yet I’m also heartened to see the many leaders stepping up to ensure their school communities are not only safe for all students, but they’re also communities of equity-minded inclusion.

At Royal Oak Middle School, for example, Principal Todd Noonan has made clear,  to his students that racist acts and hateful speech would not be tolerated. And he did much more: he called on his community, colleagues and students to their better angels.

“… This is not who we are,” Noonan said. “Everyone is welcome in our community of learners. We build bridges; we work together. We push each other, respect each other. We help each other. This is who we are.”

He added about the incidents emerging at his school: “It … requires an unequivocal response from all of us.”

We could not agree more. We stand with educators and leaders across Michigan who are working in small and big ways to make sure their schools are welcoming all students, no matter who they are, and no matter the counter messages that they may be hearing or incidents they may be seeing crop up in their schools. We stand by to support them in the hard work of addressing these deeply troubling acts and sentiments.

These incidents provide a critical leadership opportunity for leaders in our schools and communities to initiate a renewed conversation about tolerance and respect for different viewpoints, backgrounds and experiences – and lead the narrative for who we are as Michiganders and Americans based on one of our greatest assets: our diversity.

Much of my own family came from the Bajio de Mexico – the Midwest of Mexico – for work in Michigan’s auto factories and a better life for their children. As a first-generation college graduate, I’m grateful every day for the difference that public education has made in my life – from K-12 to Michigan State University to grad school at the University of Michigan – and I’m deeply aware of how important public schools are to ensuring that every child has access to the American dream of equal opportunity.

We must make sure that every Michigan public school, in every grade, in every space, is a warm and welcoming, inclusive and safe community of learning. For every immigrant. For every child of color. For every student of everybackground.

That’s what our country stands for – and that’s the Michigan that my family came for, and continues to believe in. That’s why I believe in our home state. I believe in the best of Michiganders. As Mr. Noonan said, that is who we are. Let’s live up to our great promise and potential.

To those leaders who have stepped up to fill the leadership space, we thank you.

From the granddaughter of immigrants, muchas gracias, many thanks.

Keep up your voices. You matter. #EdtrusMidwest #Voices4Ed #ChoiceIsOurs

Tweet your thoughts to us at @DSchoolsRock.

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