Over the weekend, we watched peaceful protests call for justice and equality after the killing of George Floyd. We saw thousands of people engage in nonviolent peaceful protests. We also witnessed media images of violence in our communities and across America. As the Superintendent of Schools for Los Angeles County, my thoughts embraced our young people.
Today, our children will seek to understand these events. They will turn to us with wide eyes and questions. As adults, we must teach them to peacefully stand up against injustice, racism and inequity. Violence is never the answer.
As young people turn to adults for answers, it is important that we listen and respond with honesty and empathy. The images they have absorbed on the news and social media may result in an array of emotions, including anger, fear and anxiety. We must address those feelings. Helping students recognize and acknowledge their emotions can be a powerful tool in turning these events into a learning experience.
Ultimately, we must look out for each other, continue to create safe spaces for our youth and teach and protect our vulnerable, impressionable young people. My hope is that we shift our focus as a community and come together as one LA County in support of a brighter tomorrow for our children. This week, I will reach out to education leaders and philanthropic supporters to develop ideas to help us move forward.
Today, I call on our educational community to rise and support equity for our children and our county. Last week’s death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis Police custody must be a turning point in our approach to race and equity. Persistent inequalities in our nation and neighborhoods have also been exposed by the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people of color – particularly African Americans. Enough is enough. We cannot continue as we have been. We must use this moment as a turning point to bring about real change. Our children’s future depends on the actions we take today.
Please see the following resources to support our youth:
National Association of School Psychologists: Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Helping Youth after Community Trauma: Tips for Educators
National Association of School Psychologists: Understanding Race and Privilege
Media Smarts: Talking to Kids about Hate in Media
Anti-Defamation League: 5 Tips for Talking with Children about Hate Incidents
SAMHSA: Tips for Talking with and Helping Children and Youth Cope After a Disaster or Traumatic Event
Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health: Headspace mindfulness and meditation app
Facing History and Ourselves
Tips for Talking to Your Children About Current Events:
- Reassure them that they are safe
- Listen with your full attention
- Inform through age appropriate conversations
- Acknowledge feelings
- Watch for signs of distress
- Model self-care