Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Letter March 1, 2019

March 1, 2019

Dear Friends of RSU 21,

We would like to continue to keep the community updated as the district facilitates learning opportunities for students and community members. Kennebunk High School’s movie and Middle School of the Kennebunks “Step Forward” activity both helped to increase awareness and continue conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Yesterday at KHS, the Civil Rights Team and Film Club hosted a movie and discussion on I am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin. After the showing, members of the Civil Rights Team and Film Club held a facilitated discussion. Also, students and their advisors met today to work through the high school survey distributed this morning. Further discussions will continue next week with a “Step Forward” activity on Thursday to help define some of the issues that the high school students identified on their surveys. The event will be followed by another advisory conversation. The following week, currently scheduled for Tuesday, March 12th, the students will participate in a student-led forum. More details on the forum will be forthcoming.  

This morning, nine MSK Civil Rights Team members stepped forward in a profoundly courageous way to engage the school community in thinking and talking about issues related to race and skin color, national origin and ancestry, religion, disabilities, gender, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation in an age-appropriate manner. These dedicated students collaborated to shed light on the impact of hurtful words and their prevalence in and around our school by leading the entire school, including more than 600 students and staff, in a “Step Forward” activity around hurtful language. Today we saw first-hand the impact hateful words have on our students and our students witnessed how their words and actions affect those around them.

As the vast majority of our students stepped forward or stood for each statement, it was clear that nearly all of our student body believes that insults, hurtful comments, and jokes about gender, religion, sexuality, gender identity, national origin, ethnicity, and race are common in their daily life experiences. This part of our student culture has been largely hidden from staff and today we shined a light on it. It was a powerful, visceral experience.  

Afterward, students met with their advisories for a facilitated discussion about how they felt, what they noticed, what they heard, and how they can take part in changing our school culture to ensure that all students feel a deep sense of safety and belonging in our schools and throughout our district.

We all know we have significant changes to make, and I encourage you all to take the opportunity this weekend to step forward alongside our students to effect that change.

Respectfully yours,

Katie Hawes