Teri Orr: Educate the Board

Teri Orr: Educate the board

Teri Orr

Park Record columnist Teri Orr.

In listening this week to a KPCW story, I heard a school board member challenge proposed funding for an administrative position to support a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative within Park City School District. The board member suggested DEI is just a trend, and PCSD has done good work in terms of equity and the LatinX population. It’s worth mentioning this is the same district that failed to report multiple sexual abuse cases within the district. It took the Summit County Attorney’s office to file charges to make certain student victims would have the representation and support they needed.

Maybe the lack of self-awareness shouldn’t surprise me. Still, I was struck. First, by the absurd comedy of the statement given the multiple crises the district – a community within our community – faced this last year. Students across multiple campuses carved swastikas onto desks and spread racist hate speech. Queer students were denied representation in last year’s senior project based on their identities being too political. And LatinX students continue to talk (quietly, of course) of the discrimination they face in our schools.

And then I was stunned, given the timing. The news came on the heels of the young white man in New York who targeted a Black grocery store to shoot Black people exclusively. A website manifesto discovered shortly after the murders revealed his other targets included Hasidic Jewish communities.

I just stared at the radio.

And I wondered where such hate comes from. And up bubbled those clever lyrics in the old musical, South Pacific, that came out after World War II about diversity and hate.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six or seven or eight,

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught!

And then I wanted to know more, more about what we were teaching in our schools and who was doing the teaching and who was promoting the access to solid moral and honest information about hate groups of all stripes.

Board member Wendy Crossland invited the dismissive board member to engage with the committee and learn more about the need and the plans. He said he wasn’t sure we needed to create “some woke policy.” Are you kidding me? The world is spinning out of control right now with all forms of hate groups, and our school board isn’t unanimously behind tools to help keep children safe in our schools and “teach them well” about how to be kind?

Not all our students are college-bound. Nope. For more and more, the finish line is simply to have a successful graduation and a future that finds them being productive members of society, which is no small feat. Raising compassionate humans is really the measure of success. It takes a long time to understand all the other measures are just performance art. The football star, the academic, the musician… All great accomplishments, but if the measurement, as The Grateful Dead sang, isn’t-

“But are you kind?” the rest of the pomp and circumstance matters little.

As a district, we must insist the school board act on our behalf and children’s behalves. It is the largest bite of our tax bill. We deserve the best school district our money is trying to buy, including solid, up-to-date, and safe buildings, competitive pay for our dedicated staff of full and part-time employees, and great programs in arts, athletics, and STEM.

But none of that – literally none of that – will matter if we fail to raise compassionate humans. And the way I read what is proposed in this modest budget item (relative to the overall budget now of tens of millions of dollars with buildings and sports and day-to-day education) is that it is so basically and essentially necessary, funding it is a no-brainer. And it’s not unlike like understanding the reasons for getting vaccinated aren’t just about protecting yourself; it’s about protecting the whole community. We do the thing – not simply because of our own self-interest but because a healthy society requires some baselines of goodness.

Not everyone who grew up in the 70s was a hippie, but those of us who did grow up then believed we could make the planet different from what we inherited. We could protest to end a war. We could burn our bras and earn women the freedom to choose their own decisions about their own bodies. The fact that we are back here, after decades of fighting the same damn battles for decency, justice, and fairness- is infuriating.

Please follow this issue with the school board. Follow all the issues contributing to an increasingly hostile environment in our schools where life is already hard enough for kids. And let’s do ALL we can to make certain we are not feeding the breeding ground for the kinds of hate that spills over into hate crimes. Let’s prevent those outcomes by making certain education in Park City addresses and nurtures the whole person – heart AND mind. Let’s give our kids the best graduation present this year. Let’s show them all the ways their community fought for their rights to be diverse, to love who they choose, to be the masters of their own bodies, to be safe, and to embrace differences because they have been taught, carefully and intentionally, to love themselves AND each other.

And if you need a musical reminder, play and sing along loudly to the refrain from the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song.

Teach your children well

Their father’s hell did slowly go by

And feed them on your dreams

The one they pick the one you’ll know by…

It takes a village( or a five-star ski resort community) to raise a fully functional child. The only fight anyone should be engaged in is the collective fight to keep our students protected and well educated at all costs. The board’s compassion will matter most in the days ahead, including each Sunday in the Park…



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