Dear OPRF High School Community,
As I heard the news about George Floyd and that he had been killed in Minneapolis at the knees of the police, it took me back 20 years, to my then 19-year-old son and my constant fear that he would be pulled over. He used to get stopped so often by the same officer asking where he was going that I would follow him to work and his dad would follow him home to make sure he was safe.
The fear that he might not return hit me full force all over again. The dread that something could happen to my son and my grandsons simply for walking or driving while being black--that they can be targeted simply because society can’t see them for who they really are--is with me every day.
I am devastated for George Floyd’s family, whose same fear became their reality. And now my son weeps at what is happening in our country, saying to me, “Mama, I’m so tired.”
Enough is enough.
As a school district and as a community, we have to, we must do better for our black and brown young people. We have to remove the barriers of racism that we mask by saying we are liberal and we are accepting.
Our young people are weary. They are worn down. They want change. They want to be respected as the individuals they are. They want to walk out of their homes and know that they won’t be targeted.
The change begins with us. As a school district, we strive for racial equity as a fundamental belief. But it is all of our responsibility to speak out against the injustices that lead to racial disparities in our country, our community, and our school. To remain silent is to be complicit. We need to lock arms and make sure our kids are heard and received in their full humanity, as their authentic selves.
We have to change. And it needs to start now. No more rhetoric. No more posturing. We need everyone in our community to act.
Learn how you can be part of the change from these resources:
- Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice
- How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism
- How to Talk to Kids about Race
- 10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids about Race
- Resources from the Oak Park Public Library
For students who need emotional support, our counselors are still in the building through tomorrow, June 3. Then we have a summer counselor on duty each week through July 30 (schedule will be posted on the website). Thrive Counseling Center and Riveredge Hospital are local resources for help and support.
Black and brown people are suffering. I worry not just about our students of color but our staff of color as well and how this must be impacting them. I encourage staff seeking support to reach out to Perspectives Employee Assistance Program at 800-456-6327.
This is the time to take care of each other. This is the time to take a stand.
Dr. Joylynn Pruitt-Adams