Our country and our Commonwealth are hurting. So many of us have been shaken over the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Louisville’s Breonna Taylor. We are seeing an outcry of grief and anger with many of our students, families and educators gathering to speak out about racial injustice. Yesterday, I received a text with pictures of my sister and my teenage niece peacefully protesting with hundreds of others in Roswell, Georgia. And I am so proud of them for doing so.
The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) is committed to its core values of equity, achievement, collaboration and integrity. Racism has no place in our society. As educators, we must stand in solidarity against any and all acts of racism, disrespect and inequitable treatment of persons of color. We must speak up about the injustices that are scarring our world, our communities, our friends and families. We must commit to listen to those seeking to be heard and ensure that our young people of color are valued and safe in school and in the community.
KDE has been working and will continue to work extremely hard to fix the inequities that exist in our educational system so that each and every student is empowered and equipped to pursue a successful future.
Every student in the Commonwealth deserves equitable access to excellent educators who have unique experiences, quality preparation and are committed to their success. KDE is committed to helping our schools and districts close achievement gaps and create more inclusive campus climates, and to helping our students and educators learn how to deal with racial trauma. We also acknowledge the important and essential role law enforcement plays in a free and democratic society. There are many examples of healthy, trauma informed partnerships between schools and law enforcement agencies across the state.
KDE already has released a COVID-19 guidance document that addresses planning considerations for the social and emotional well-being of students and staff when schools reopen as it relates to the pandemic.
KDE also believes that critical conversations about racial trauma and implicit bias are needed across Kentucky regardless of the racial makeup in our schools, districts or communities, because such events impact us all and we must address their emotional and traumatic consequences.
Later Wednesday, KDE will be releasing a guidance document on how districts can help facilitate conversations about race-based stress and trauma and how to help caregivers, students and staff.
I spoke with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman Tuesday. She reiterated – and I fully support – the importance of increasing the diversity of Kentucky’s teaching force, as well as efforts to promote implicit bias awareness throughout our public schools.
Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Dr. Aaron Thompson released a statement Tuesday that said, in part, we have an opportunity to emerge from this moment as a more just and equitable society. I agree.
Not only do we have the opportunity, it is our obligation to do so.
We each have a role to play. Our community, our children and our future depend on it.