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Response to August 2017 White Nationalist Rally

The events of August 11 and 12, 2017, certainly provided challenges to the Charlottesville community, and in response to those challenges, our teachers provided incredible learning and reflection opportunities for our staff and students.

  • Dear Members of our School Communities:

    The events of this weekend were tragic beyond words and as such events always do, they extracted a heavy price.  A wonderful young lady was taken from us.  Two brave and devoted public servants also lost their lives.  Many of our neighbors suffered injuries and trauma and all of us are sharing in the pain.

    One national television reporter asked how Charlottesville will now feel to have its name linked in memory to other cities and towns across our country that have suffered from unspeakable crimes against humanity.

    How will we feel and what will we do?

    The memory of this weekend’s events should survive as a community that responded forcefully in overcoming the darkest impulses of those who traffic in hatred, intolerance and brute force.

    The message from Charlottesville to our nation must be stronger than ever before—that we are a community that values the safety of every person, the dignity of every resident, the respect of every background, the equality of every opportunity and the strength of every collaboration that promotes the common good.

    As they should be, the values of our communities are found in our public schools.  Our schools, after all, are the source of our greatest dreams and aspirations for our children.  It is where we learn about the power of ideas, the importance of history, the strength of community and the right of every child to reach their highest potential.

    Our schools are where we make acquaintance with civic responsibility.  The work we do in our schools must always bring to life our nation’s most sacred promise– “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

    There is no room in this sacred promise for hatred, racism, violence and intolerance.

    The answer to the question from the national media about how Charlottesville will be known is that we will be known as the community that rededicated itself to the promise of America and to those ideals that define our nation’s highest calling.

    We will be known as a community whose teachers and staff will continue to do what the best educators always have done—stand tall in modeling these American ideals in their work every day.

    If you would like resources for discussing this matter with your family, we have compiled a list for your consideration below.

    Dr. Rosa Atkins & Mr. Juan Wade
    Charlottesville City Schools

    Dr. Pam Moran & Ms. Kate Acuff
    Albemarle County Public Schools

  • Dear Members of our School Community:

    We are excited to welcome our students back to school on Wednesday, but we are also aware that the emotional impact of August 11 and 12 continues to be felt in our community.

    In the days leading up to school, our administrators, teachers, and staff have been working to make sure that we are ready to meet the needs of our students. Our first goal has been to support the needs of our teachers and staff so that they can in turn support our students. The good news is, supporting students is what schools do. Our teachers, staff, and specialists such as counselors and psychologists are trained and available to meet students where they are.

    We have provided additional resources for our school staff, and our web site also offers possible resources that might be helpful to you at home.

    As we do every year, we have also worked with the Charlottesville Police and the City’s Pupil Transportation Department to make sure that schools get off to a safe and smooth start.

    We know that these have been difficult times for our community, but we also know that our community is strong and supportive. Love is stronger than hate, and our schools and community will rise to this occasion. Have a good evening and a great school year.

    Dr. Rosa S. Atkins & Mr. Juandiego Wade
    Superintendent & Board Chair, Charlottesville City Schools

Convocation collage

Collage from the Charlottesville City schools all-staff convocation on August 15, 2017.

Our response to the rallies began with our teachers, who returned to work just days after the rallies. We held an emotional and healing staff-wide convocation to address the events directly. (Find link to Dr. Rosa Atkins’ remarks here.) Giving teachers time, space, and resources was one of our first priorities.

Even our elementary students have been given opportunities to process these events through conversation, counseling, community-building activities, and more. As a school division that embraces the arts, we have been heartened to see our schools bring the power of music, art, and literature to bear  as we facilitate crucial conversations about A12 itself and the deeper issues the events raised.

Musically, this includes an inspirational collaboration with Metro Nashville Public Schools using BeBe Winans’ song “Right Now (Need One Another).” (Do yourself a favor and watch the video now.) Relating to the visual arts,  our schools have organized paint-ins and school-wide art projects that celebrate both commonalities and differences.

CHS unity hate has no home here

And we have drawn upon the power of literature by organizing a One Book campaign to promote the reading of Angie Thomas’s award-winning young adult novel, The Hate U Give. In addition to classroom discussions, Charlottesville High School invited parent, activist, and UVa professor Lisa Woolfork to lead a powerful conversation about the book with all of our ninth-graders.  This Big Read was complemented by what you might call a Big See — dozens of community screenings of the award-winning documentary, I’m Not a Racist, Am I?

Two students holding the book The Hate U Give

In addition, throughout February, CHS students organized a series of community speakers who offered opt-in, in-school presentations to students for Black History Month, which concluded with the school’s annual assembly. This year’s  assembly speaker was Rashard Davis ’16, winner of a 2018 Super Bowl Ring with the Philadelphia Eagles!

Relatedly, a contingent of CHS students spent a day at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, working with the Charlottesville Youth Council  to make meaningful change as part of the community’s “Dialogue on Race.” For more on this important conversation, click here.

In November 2018, the Charlottesville City Schools School Board unanimously passed a resolution that bans students from wearing clothing that depicts symbols “associated with racial hatred and violence.” Their resolution specifically cited the violence in Charlottesville and the Confederate and Nazi imagery displayed during the violence.

This conversation — and the larger work toward racial equity in our schools and in our country — continues. At Charlottesville City Schools, we are committed to this work.