A letter from Dr. Nerad
Most of all of the students within Birmingham Public Schools are committed to excellence and demonstrate the values that we hold dear within our community. Their academic work and quality of character reflects a commitment to achievement and to engaging with mutual respect. Yet, over the course of this school year and again most recently, we have dealt with a very small group of students that have engaged in a variety of reprehensible and abhorrent racial, cultural and religious slurs. These behaviors sadden and anger me along with many others in our community.
These students may be trying to use inappropriate humor to fit in with their peers. They may be attention-seeking. They may simply be reflecting the malicious tone that is often seen and heard on the internet. Regardless, behaviors that slur and attack other individuals are not acceptable, not in the school system or in our society.
While these unseemly acts have been done by a very small number of students, they cannot be ignored. Students that engage in these behaviors will be held accountable for their actions. We will aggressively pursue disciplinary action reflective of our policies when these behaviors occur! In addition, we will continue to educate our students and staff regarding the value of community, the importance of mutual respect, and how differing perspectives can be addressed in civil ways.
Our children’s future demands that the community also engage in this work. Schools cannot do this alone. While demeaning and intolerable behaviors have begun to seemingly creep into daily life, we must commit to conversations about character and civility in the classroom, the coffee shop, in the car, and in our homes. We must discuss what we stand for and what we stand against.
Despite our district’s long-term commitment to diversity and character education, the results have not proven to be sufficient. We must aggressively pursue this topic on behalf of our kids and the families that we serve. At the same time, it is important that you know what we are doing in this area:
- Our Strategic Plan calls for the implementation of culturally responsive teaching practices. This work is well underway and will continue with the goal that our teaching practices are more responsive to the cultural backgrounds of our students.
- Our work with character education has been long standing. We will continue this work as a priority and ask each of our schools to revisit what they have done to date, and to make additional commitments to the eleven principles of character education as developed by character.org.
- With any race, cultural and religious bias and harassment incidents, we will take a two-prong approach. We will investigate the alleged misconduct and engage discipline that reflects our policies. We will also use each of these incidents to further teach about diversity and how we can best deal with our differences.
- The incidents we have been dealing with have created shock waves throughout our district including with the Board of Education. On May 16, 2017 the Board of Education approved a resolution that makes clear their commitment to the issues of diversity and equity. In that Resolution the Board spoke to their commitment to review all policies that touch on diversity and equity as well as their overall commitment to ensure that all of our students achieve to their best potential. A further commitment was made to be sure that our curriculum, instruction and assessment practices are culturally rich and diverse.
- We will continue to nurture community partnerships with internal and external groups that help us work on diversity and equity. We will bring these groups together to support the ongoing work being done with our students and staff. We will also continue to hold forums to discuss these issues.
The Diversity and Equity Resolution recently passed by the Board of Education on May 16, 2017.
Our Culturally Response Teaching practices.
BPS Diversity Committee work.
Additionally, I welcome you to reach out to principals to learn more about what is being done at your neighborhood school to address these issues.
I also want to share my personal commitment.
I am deeply saddened and sorry about the very negative race, culture and religious based bias and harassment issues that have occurred in our district, and I accept responsibility for what has taken place. I remain steadfast in my commitment to educate our children and staff about how we can deal with differences, because they do exist, in right kind of ways. I am committed to our continued journey to implement culturally relevant teaching practices. I am committed to hiring a more diverse work force. I am committed to eliminating gaps in performance for some of our groups of students.
We must persist in standing against words of hatred and acts of intolerance; and, we must work together as a community to have the greatest impact. Please join me in this work.
Sincerely,Daniel A. Nerad, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools