Opinion: Hopewell Valley school community invited to take place in ‘safe space’ forums


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Like many of you, members of the Hopewell Valley school community are deeply saddened by the current civil unrest in our country. Our hearts are heavy from the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

The reactions we have seen over the last week reflect the pain, frustration and anger that many of us feel. Racism and the violation of any basic human right is a stain on the fabric of our society and directly impacts us all. We share the responsibility to speak out against injustice and allow others the space to learn, to be heard, and to grow.

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Most importantly, our young people need guidance and support as they deal with this current crisis in the shadow of a pandemic. Creating opportunities for healthy discourse around these issues can help.

Toward that end, we are providing two opportunities for our schools and larger community to participate in continued discussion:

For our students: If you would like to participate in the staff-facilitated discussions about race, racism and the events taking place in our country, sign up by June 8 at 9 a.m. Each virtual session will consist of six to eight students in similar grade levels and one to two staff members. Invitations with dates and times will be shared on June 9.

These conversations will be an opportunity to process feelings, sharing thinking/experience, and listen empathetically to each other in a safe environment. Staff and administration will facilitate these conversations using protocols from www.teachingtolerance.org to foster productive conversations.

For our community: We invite teachers, students, community and school leaders, and members of the community at large to engage in a conversation regarding the past week’s events and to seek solutions to help us move forward together towards healing and social justice as a community.

To give you a safe space to do this, we invite you to join us in a safe, inclusive environment: Hopewell Community Dialogue II will be facilitated by Lauren Kelly, Ph.D., of Rutgers University, from 10 a.m. to noon on June 13 via Zoom. Meeting ID: 976 0065 2344; password: 145906. Or, dial in: +1 646 876 9923 US

If you are interested in attending this form, fill out the required form to select an area of interest for your breakout room. This forum will not be recorded nor will it be live streamed in order to ensure this is truly a safe space for the participants. We encourage community members and students to attend and hope to see you there.

This forum will be limited to 300 participants. There will be breakout rooms where you will be able to engage in conversations around the following four topics: Electing experts and leaders in racial justice and equity to speak in the community; curating relevant texts and materials about race and equity to share with the community; sharing information and raising awareness about how to create change through local politics; and creating spaces to foster art and creativity as a source of healing in the community.

Thomas Smith
Superintendent of Schools
Hopewell Valley Regional School District

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