Posted on Oct. 17, 2023
Dear SFUSD Families:
This is a challenging time as we are confronted by the devastation from the Israel-Hamas war. It is heart-wrenching. As we mourn the lives lost, we recognize that the trauma is reverberating in our communities. As a school district that champions diversity and social justice, it is imperative that our schools are safe spaces where each and every one of our students feel like they belong, feel heard, and receive the support they need to process and heal.
In particular, I want to recognize the fear and concern students and their families feel at this moment. There have been acts of antisemitism in our community in recent days. Islamophobia is on the rise. At SFUSD, we take a strong stance against any type of hate, prejudice, or bias. The District’s anti-slur policy states: “Students should treat all persons equally and respectfully and refrain from the willful or negligent use of slurs against any person on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” We are committed to addressing any violation of this policy at our schools immediately.
We are aware that some SFUSD students may be participating in a walkout focusing on the Israel-Hamas war on Wednesday, Oct. 18 at 10:30am. Please note that while the district supports the right of our students to express their views in a peaceful manner, including their constitutional right to peacefully protest, the walkout is not an SFUSD sponsored activity. Safety remains our top priority, and we are taking the following steps to ensure that that we are creating an inclusive and respectful learning environment for all of our students:
- Guidance has been issued to site leaders to address safety concerns and reiterate educational focus during the school day.
- Guidance has been issued to all staff on staff expectations during demonstrations, protests, rallies and walk-outs that take place during the school day.
- Information has been shared with High School students on student rights and expectations, including attendance
Our students have exercised this right in numerous visible ways including participation in sit-ins, walkouts, taking a knee at athletic events, and marches. For more information, please see SFUSD’s Guidance on Student Walkouts.
At SFUSD, we strive to educate our students to think critically, cultivate empathy, and resolve conflicts peacefully. We hope that as adults you will join us to model the same behaviors that we want to see in our classrooms and schoolyards. Violence is never the answer. We have shared the following resources with educators to support students in our classrooms:
- Addressing Antisemitism in Public Schools: This SDCOE guide for educators to address antisemitism contains resources from educational organizations, many of which are promoted and used by state departments of education and teachers across the country.
- Countering Islamophobia in Public Schools: SDCOE’s resource guide on supporting Muslim students includes a section about countering Islamophobia in schools. Teach 9/11 with Compassion guide also contains resources that, while not specific to the war, may be helpful.
At a time when many people in our communities are hurting, and we must continue to coalesce in our core values. Students are strongly encouraged to access wellness centers and support at their schools. Please see these resources to support students of all ages during this difficult time and take good care.
- How to Talk to Kids About Violence, Crime, and War
- Talking to Your Kids About War
- How to Talk to Your Children About Conflict and War
- Handle with Care: Supporting Young People During Crises
Dr Matt Wayne