Interim Commissioner Kevin C. Brown’s June 5 letter to families

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From the Desk of Commissioner Kevin C. Brown. An update for Kentucky's Families, June 5, 2020

Dear Kentucky Public School Families:

I am writing today because you are critical partners to our educational system. Your voice matters and everything we do in education is a direct response to the teaching and learning that we know is extraordinarily important to the growth of your children.

The race-based trauma and violence happening to black people and other people of color throughout our country is traumatic and heartbreaking. We must work together to remedy the underlying forces of systemic racism that result in a large portion of our fellow citizens experiencing higher rates of brutality, racism, disproportionate discipline in school and involvement with the justice system, and so much more.

We are seeing an outcry of grief and anger with many of our students, families and educators gathering to speak out about racial injustice. Communication during this time is critical, but I know that it takes more than “talk” to enact change and help our school systems and families move forward through this harmful culture we are experiencing. I am proud to see so many people in our great Commonwealth come together peacefully to say and do something to improve the treatment of people of color and differing backgrounds.

As educators, we must unite against any and all acts of racism, disrespect and inequitable treatment of persons of color. On Wednesday, I spoke about this important issue in my report to the Kentucky Board of Education during its regularly scheduled meeting. You can read my statement to the board in its entirety here. Here is a short summary:

Every student in the Commonwealth deserves equitable access to excellent educators who have unique experiences, quality preparation and are committed to their success. The Kentucky Department of Education (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 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.

Following the meeting, KDE released “Guidance on How Districts Can Facilitate Conversations about Race-based Stress and Trauma.” This document serves to help educators open dialogue between one another and with their students about this very important issue.

We are not where we need to be in the field of education, but will continue to work toward our goals of creating a more equitable education system that values and helps all students achieve their potential. We are answering the call of Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman to work on new implicit bias training and resources that will be offered to schools and districts throughout our state. We also are heeding her call by working to expand our efforts to diversify the educator workforce. Change must happen at KDE, district central offices, in schools and in our classrooms.

We can do better. KDE is committed to this work. We know that students need to be able to see and learn from people with shared experiences at the front of their classrooms, in their school counseling offices and leading our schools. It is time we work together to meet the needs of all of our students, families and colleagues and address the realities of how privilege and power are perpetuated within our educational system.

Black Lives Matter. We can no longer stand down or deflect when we hear this phrase. This statement does not suggest that others matter less. It suggests that black people are dying, being imprisoned, not receiving the same levels of education nor healthcare and are being stigmatized every single day.

We must work hand-in-hand to do something to change this reality in our state, country and world. We each have a role to play. Our community, our children and our future depend on it.

Sincerely,

Kevin

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