For educators across the country, this weekend’s eruption of racism and violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, offered yet another painful opportunity to communicate their values to families, colleagues, and community members.
Many decried the white supremacists who convened in the college town and clashed with protesters who had come to oppose their message. Some used social media to outline ideas about how to turn the distressing news into a teaching moment.
And others took issue with President Donald Trump’s statement criticizing violence “on many sides,” largely interpreted as an unwillingness to condemn white supremacists.
One leading education official, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, followed Trump’s approach, criticizing what happened but not placing blame on anyone in particular:
I'm disgusted by the behavior and hate-filled rhetoric displayed near the University of Virginia in #Charlottesville (1/2)— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) August 12, 2017
It is every American's right to speak their mind, but there is no room for violence or hatred. (2/2)— Secretary Betsy DeVos (@BetsyDeVosED) August 12, 2017
DeVos’s two most recent predecessors were unequivocal, both about what unfolded in Charlottesville and whom to blame:
I used to say this is not who we are. I can't say that anymore- it is.— Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) August 13, 2017
And it's government sanctioned.
We must change.#charlotesville
Leaders of the nation’s two largest teachers unions responded directly to Trump:
The American Federation of Teachers, Weingarten’s union, is supporting vigils across the country Sunday night organized by chapters of Indivisible, a coalition that emerged to resist the Trump administration. The union also promoted resources from Share My Lesson, its lesson-plan site, that deal with civil rights and related issues.
“As educators, we will continue to fulfill our responsibility to make sure our students feel safe and protected and valued for who they are,” Weingarten said in a statement with other AFT officials.
Local education officials took stands as well, often emotionally. Here’s what the superintendent in Memphis, which is engaged in the same debate about whether Confederate memorials should continue to stand that drew white supremacists to Charlottesville, said on Twitter:
Teachers in Hopson’s district return for the second week of classes on Monday. They’ve helped students process difficult moments before, such as a spate of police killings of black men in 2016; here’s advice they shared then and advice that teachers across the country offered up.
We want to hear from educators who are tackling this tough moment in their classrooms. Share your experiences and ideas here or in the form below.