December 17, 2020
Valued students, families and community members,
As leaders, we must take accountability for the failures of our system.
As such, we hereby acknowledge significant wrongs experienced by Seattle Public Schools students and families. For too long our families have experienced violence and irreparable trauma at the hands of police, security guards, administrators, educators, and support personnel. For too long our students and families have endured “misconduct” in the form of isolation, restraint, criminalization, adultification, and physical and verbal micro and macro aggressions.
These egregious events further expose a long history of racism and implicit bias in our system. Some of these wrongs the press has covered extensively. However most of them remain unheard, undocumented, unresolved and most concerningly, unknown.
While we’ve been quietly tackling these issues since we joined the Board last year, via a massive policy review and revision underway, we know it’s not enough. We humbly apologize to each child, parent, caregiver, teacher, community member who have been traumatized by the actions of SPS employees. We thank those parents, educators and administrators who continue to support and love the survivors of this trauma while we work to restructure our broken system.
We must do better. We commit to substantial systemic abolition, dismantling and reconstruction. Above all else, we want you to know we see YOU; we hear YOU and we are sorry for harm Seattle Public Schools has done to you and your family.
These are not simply “incidents” of “misconduct” or “poor judgement”. These are instances of racism and child abuse. These are systemic failures. Failures that push Black and Brown students out of our classrooms, into inappropriately restrictive educational and/or disciplinary settings, and into the margins of our schools and society. We must bring an end to this violence immediately.
These are behaviors which warrant mandatory reporting of a caregiver to children’s services. Yet the reporting standards are often lower in our schools and adults in the system struggle to identify wrongdoing and hold one another accountable.
If families are legally bound to attend our schools, we must be able to provide a safe, nurturing, environment where every child can learn and grow without fear of violence at the hands of adults. No child or family should be subject to such abuse, rejection or oppression, especially not at school. Such trauma is reminiscent of the worst of our shared histories, dehumanizing Black bodies, forced removal of Native children to boarding schools, segregation, internment, etc. Such trauma is directly connected to the ever-present school to prison pipeline.
Enough is enough, our status quo is unacceptable. We as Board Directors have no patience for anything short of a full audit, analysis and immediate plan to both prevent future misconduct and process for reporting, swift protection of children and families, and protection from retaliation for reporters, and the elimination of restraint and isolation as an accepted practice in our district. We will hold ourselves, leadership and staff accountable to clear demonstrable change. We fully acknowledge the lack of trust Black and Brown families have in our system. We will not rest until we make progress toward rebuilding that trust and ridding our district of the evil that has
allowed this abuse to persist.
This will take not only Board action and staff commitment, but external review, labor partner collaboration and community support. Yes, we all have a role to play in preventing and stopping racism and abuse in our district, and we commit to doing this work in partnership with you and are grateful for your allyship.
We must also address restoration, healing and support for our victims. We hope our acknowledgement and commitment to resolution are a starting point but understand that trust must be rebuilt, and this requires healing. Thus, we also commit to supporting your healing.
Please see our resolution in Support of Black Student Safety and keep a close eye on our policy work to see where our work started and its progression. Please support Seattle Council PTSA who continues to advocate tirelessly on behalf of children and families around these very issues and helps keep us connected to them, and you our constituents.
Chandra Hampson and Brandon Hersey
President and Vice President
Seattle School Board