A Letter from the Head of School and Board Chair

June 3, 2020

Dear Close Country School Community,

At the Country School, we take pride in our number one rule to “Be Kind,” so it is important to openly state our heartfelt belief that racism does not belong in our school, our community, our country, and our world. We teach the foundations of being a leader: respecting all opinions through empathetic listening and then acting constructively. Hate is the opposite of kindness and has no place in that model.

At a time when more than 100,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, with Black Americans suffering disproportionately, it is beyond tragic that Black people continue to be killed and injured through aggressive police action and by fellow American citizens. 

In a letter to all independent schools in the United States yesterday, President of the National Association of Independent Schools, Donna Orem, wrote: 

The pandemic has taken its toll, but the horrific deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have left communities reeling from trauma, despair, and anger. Children, who are at various stages of emotional development, are trying to make sense of the anguish and violence they’re witnessing.... Adults, too, are grappling with the injustice of these senseless killings, the legacy of our country’s history of enslavement and centuries of discrimination against people of African descent. 

How do we help our children process what is happening? This letter intends to be helpful to our families and teachers as we guide our children to understand tragedy, racism, hate, peace, and love in today’s world. We include below a list of helpful resources for talking with your children about racism.

Our school Mission calls on us to empower our students to “serve the common good.” Steeped in that knowledge, our students fully understand that all children deserve to be safe and have a fair chance at a future. They know that at The Country School, no form of racial or cultural discrimination will be tolerated. 

At The Country School, we feel responsible to help young people and adults embrace the benefits that differences in race, class, nationality, and other characteristics bring to our communities. We run a program in Middle School called, “Bullies, Victims and Bystanders,” which teaches that as a leader you cannot be an “innocent bystander.” Instead, we instruct our assertive students to be supportive Upstanders, seeking ways to make their world a better place. 

Now, more than ever, our world needs exactly what The Country School teaches: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, self-control, and kindness. We will use our upcoming Teacher Professional Development days and then summer collaborative work to: 

  1. Deepen the ways in which we educate children to understand their role as leaders in making the world a safer, more embracing place. 

  2. Develop concrete steps as a school to be a part of the solution so we can break this tragic cycle of injustice and violence.

  3. Help our students move all of us, as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. described in his 1963 I Have a Dream speech, toward the “beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

With the support of our Board of Trustees, we devote our school to supporting these ideals through the education of your children: tomorrow’s leaders.

Sincerely,

John D. Fixx                    Dr. Mary Didiuk
Head of School               Chair, Board of Trustees

 

How to speak to children about traumatic events:

How students can take action:

  • Discuss current events with members of Country School’s IDEA Student Alliance, the group’s advisors, and Mr. Fixx this Thursday at a Zoom lunch

  • Author Jason Reynolds helps young people understand what led to the protests we’ve seen over the past week and what children can do to build a less racist society.

  • Participate in an online Kid Lit Rally hosted by Kwame Alexander, Jason Reynolds, and Jacqueline Woodson, authors beloved by our students.

How to teach about racism and civil unrest: