I take issue with Dr. Ed Hightower’s statement that “far too many facts are unknown…” since what’s happened in the St. Louis area is part of a larger pattern of discrimination and oppression rooted in history. There are methods of teaching that locate events within a context that illuminates current developments in Ferguson/St. Louis. I’m comfortable asserting that the administration of the schools in Edwardsville, IL fears backlash from the majority of the community to charges of biased presentations; presentations that view current events through the lens of those who feel they’re being deprived of fundamental rights. Here is the email Dr. Ed Hightower sent to me recently:
To: Bob Hudgens
From: Ed Hightower
Date: August 21, 2014
Subject: Discussion of the Ferguson/Florissant Incident
Thanks for your recent email. Please find information sent to all parents of District 7. Please don’t hesitate to contact me in the future.
On Friday, August 15, 2014, and Monday, August 18, 2014, Dennis Cramsey, EHS Principal, and I were inundated with calls from parents complaining that some EHS teachers were biased and injecting their own opinion regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, an 18 year-old African American student, by a Caucasian police officer in the Ferguson/Florissant community. The general consensus of parents who called was that if the administration did not get a handle on this situation, there might be violence among students occurring at EHS.
As Superintendent, I will take full responsibility for not preparing administrators and staff members how to deal with this volatile situation. As a result, on Monday afternoon, the decision was made to cease discussion of the event because of the tension, emotion, and anger surrounding the Ferguson/Florissant events.
It was not our intent to ignore the educational relevance of these events. However, we felt it was important to take the time to calm a potential situation at the high school and to prepare administrators and teachers to approach this critical issue in an objective, fact-based manner. Everyone has an opinion – the sharing of which can be polarizing. Far too many facts remain unknown, and without these facts, none of us is in the best position to moderate between opposing views.
As a result of many interventions by local, state, and federal officials, the atmosphere in the Ferguson/Florissant community has begun to calm. On Friday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, the administration worked with the students and parents who voiced their concerns. We also addressed parental concerns with the teachers involved.
We have begun to work with the teaching staff to develop a framework for discussing these important issues. Some of the topics will include, but not be limited to:
• Fairness and the importance of due process in our Judicial System
• Race relations
• Challenges in improving diversity in our society
• Social justice
• Media Sensationalism
Finally, as more facts are reported regarding the shooting of Michael Brown, teachers will be able to incorporate those items into their discussion.
It is not the goal of this District to prevent classroom discussions of current events. However, as a result of concerns relating to comments made in several classrooms, it became necessary to take preventative action to ensure that EHS students and staff are able to work in a safe and orderly environment.
The District will continue its commitment toward diversity, positive race relationships, due process, and social justice. The high school expects to have the framework completed during the week of August 25.