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Posted on: December 15, 2017

Superintendent's Letter to Parents and Staff 12-12-17

Over the past week, several incidents of anti-Semitism have occurred in the form of swastikas being drawn on desks in multiple classrooms.  We find these acts abhorrent, because they are antithetical to the climate and culture we take such pride in—both in our schools and in our community. And we find this behavior heartbreaking, because we know that nearly all of our students demonstrate daily by word and deed that they value the diversity that is a hallmark of APS.

These incidents are very disturbing to the entire APS community. I assure you that we are denouncing them, along with all forms of hate speech and acts of bigotry, and are addressing the situation with the utmost level of immediacy and gravity. Specifically, we are joining hands with the Anti-Defamation League of New England, local houses of worship, student and parent leaders, and the Andover Police Department. Together we will raise awareness of the negative impact of symbols such as swastikas and Confederate flags, develop proactive educational programming and community forums to prevent the spread of discriminatory attitudes, and design effective responses to any actual incidents.

We had originally hoped to approach this problem quietly, so as not to alarm any students or staff or make individuals feel unwelcome. However, we found that this restrained response was apparently emboldening the perpetrators, exposing even more students to intolerance. So we are implementing a more direct plan. Phil Conrad, Principal of Andover High School, has already sent the attached letter to all of the AHS parents. On Wednesday morning, he is addressing the entire AHS student body. The intent is to shine a light on the issue and engage the student body in a proactive effort to prevent any further acts of hate.

Our School Committee is equally serious about taking a strong stand on this issue. In the fall, they passed a resolution opposing all forms of hatred in our schools. On Thursday's School Committee agenda, they will consider formalizing their position by adding the following statement to Policy AB:

The School Committee therefore affirms and declares its intent to:
Formally and unequivocally oppose bigotry, racism, violence, and hate, wherever such may occur and in whatever form such may take. We will remain steadfast in our defense of tolerance and our commitment to the values of respect, inclusion and empathy. We strive to be a place welcome to all races, religions, creeds, genders, and orientations.

As I stated in a message to parents and staff last February, it is our expectation that APS will provide an unequivocally safe environment for all staff, students, and visitors. Hate speech and hate symbols are inappropriate and unacceptable. I'm confident that all staff members join me in affirming that Andover Public Schools—every campus, every facility, and every event—will continue to stand as a place of not just shelter but active welcome to children and adults of every nationality, race, faith, gender, and orientation. We take pride in the diversity of our student body and our community, recognizing that it reflects the history of America even as it embodies its promise for the future.

Sincerely,

Shelley Berman
Superintendent of Schools

Attachment

AHS Hate Incident Ltr
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