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Principal's Letter to Parents and UC Community (3/8/17)

March 8, 2017

Dear Parents and UC Community Members,

Recently, there have been a number of reported incidents across the country involving discrimination.  Some of this has been fueled by the recent election and ongoing debates concerning immigration, civil rights, race, and religion.  It’s evident that the opinions and feelings surrounding these topics have intensified for many groups of people, including our youth. 

At UCHS, we strive to create a safe, inclusive, and respectful school community.  We believe this is a place where productive conversations can take place concerning race, religion, and different perspectives. If we discover incidents such as discrimination occurring at our school, we are committed to acting quickly to not only stop the unacceptable behavior, but also to educate our students in an attempt to allow them to learn from their mistakes and make things right.  All incidents or infractions are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and all sides of the matter are investigated thoroughly so we can be as fair and consistent as possible for all parties involved in order to determine the appropriate remedy or level of corrective measures.  When possible, we seek out ways to create opportunities for education.

There are other ways that we, as a school, address these topics at hand.  For example, I recently created a student leadership group, called the Principal’s Forum, consisting of a diverse cross-section of students that meet regularly to discuss various topics, including race, religion and discrimination.   The Forum includes a book study to use as a back drop to our conversations, and students are asked to read one of four books: "The Warmth of Other Suns," by Isabel Wilkerson, "Hillbilly Elegy," by J.D. Vance, "In the Country We Love," by Diane Guerrero, and "Muslim Girl,” by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh.  The intended purpose for the Principal's Forum is to talk about what's happening in our world and society, find common ground, and talk about how we are all more alike than different.  These student leaders are encouraged to share this knowledge and experience with their peers.

 In addition to the Principal’s Forum, we also have a student club, the UCHS ADL Club, on campus that partners with the Anti Defamation League (ADL).  Two years ago, UCHS had a number of students go through ADL trainings where our own students became the new trainers.  As a result, they have been actively leading the staff and students of both UCHS and Standley Middle School.  This Club is currently in the process of fundraising in order to purchase the instructional materials to train a new set of students who will step into leadership roles when our current senior leaders graduate this June.  We are hopeful that our Club’s partnership with the ADL will help our students become positive role models at school and in the community, and help to create a school climate based on tolerance, empathy and inclusion.

 I share this with our school and surrounding community to let you know that our goal at UCHS is to create a safe place where our students feel welcomed and valued.  We want to encourage our students to express their ideas and opinions in an appropriate way, while at the same time acknowledge and respect the differences of others.  We want to educate our kids to understand how their actions can directly impact or hurt someone else. We also strive to give those kids an opportunity to learn from what they have done, take ownership of their actions, and do what they can to make things right.  We will continue to work with our youth to build a strong school community that fosters a culture of respect and understanding, and creates an environment that is conducive to learning.

In partnership,

Jeff Olivero

Principal, University City High School