January 6, 2020
Dear Nutley Staff, Students, Parents and Community,
I wanted to follow up with the Nutley community regarding my letter dated January 2, 2020. These past several days have been a trying time for the school district, our students, staff, and the community as a whole. I think we can all agree that the current narrative surrounding our community does not reflect our collective beliefs or values. We must take this opportunity to remind ourselves that we stand for respect and inclusion for each member of our district and community.
It is important to know that the Nutley Public Schools and the Nutley Police Department have taken immediate action to ensure that our schools and community remain safe and inclusive places for all. Our partnership is strong. Students and community members followed the philosophy of, “see something, say something,” allowing for us to quickly manage information, address, and dispel rumors. While we will not comment on or share specifics from our investigations, any discipline or consequences will be handled in a manner appropriate to the offense, based on the district policy and regulations for Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying, Pupil Discipline/Code of Conduct, and state law as determined by local law enforcement. However, please be assured that the Nutley Public School District condemns all acts of bigotry, racism, hate and bullying.
As challenging and upsetting as this situation is, it does afford us the opportunity to dig deep as a district and community and find ways to become united and maintain our schools as a safe haven for all students and staff, free from threats and discrimination. Our approach includes both short term and long term actions, designed to increase a sense of safety, fairness, accountability, and closure, as well as increased social-emotional learning, and a greater possibility for real changes in behavior.
Since students returned to the high school building last week, the administrators and staff have been acting swiftly to continue to promote a culture of inclusivity and a positive climate. The recent events have affected many people in various ways. We recognize and respect the myriad of emotions individuals are feeling. Our goal is to provide support for healing, while also working to repair the sense of community within the school and throughout the Township, as we continue to grow and learn through the process.
NHS counselors were available last week and will continue to be this week for individual counseling of any students in need. Today, the Nutley Family Service Bureau will provide a counselor during the lunch block to students or staff who might like to speak about feelings of fear, anger, sadness, vulnerability, or acceptance. Counseling is also available in each of our schools for any student or staff member in need. Working with district leadership, NHS students are also developing a survey, for all grade levels and staff, to garner ideas that promote a culture which celebrates and understands diversity. This self-assessment will provide us with a starting point, and a road map for developing programming, staff professional learning, and specific improvements as we move toward change.
Additionally, our discussions will be expanded to include students, parents and guardians, and community members at regular, facilitated public forums. In collaboration with the Board of Commissioners, our Interfaith Council and other community partners, we will seek the opportunity for multiple perspectives, and meaningful conversations about culture and race toward a deeper understanding that our diversity is a powerful, positive force. Thank you to the many students, alumni, staff, parents, and community members who have contacted us to provide resources, volunteer, and give voice to this issue. Your willingness to engage reaffirms that this is a community where all are welcome, and can thrive.
These efforts will continue with speakers, film screenings, and trainings on topics ranging from cultural responsiveness, restorative justice, and diversity, to media literacy, the impact of social media on our lives, social emotional learning, and mental health. Student/staff health and wellness resulting in a positive culture and climate for all, and social emotional learning have previously been identified as district and Strategic Plan goals including curriculum connections, culturally responsive teaching strategies, digital citizenship, and advisory groups, and those initiatives will continue. We know this is a challenging time for Nutley. Please know that we all have the same common goal in mind: to become a stronger and more united community in the aftermath of this situation. Clearly, there is a need for more work to be done. We are prepared to not only raise awareness and increase understanding around the issues raised by the recent hateful incident, but also to continue the conversation, build on the knowledge we generate with concrete actions, promote respect, and prevent further incidents.
Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Sincerely, Dr. Julie Glazer