Education

Somers Schools Chief Reacts to Charlottesville Clash

SOMERS, N.Y.--Moved personally and professionally by this month’s bloody clash in Charlottesville, Superintendent Raymond Blanch reaffirmed last week a commitment to diversity and inclusion by Somers schools.

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Aug. 16, he called the previous weekend’s violence “horrific” and assured them that “we are leveraging the power of education with our children to combat such hatred in our world.” 

An alt-right army of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others—protesting the removal of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Va.—fought with counter-protestors Aug. 12. A woman was killed when a car slammed into a group of counter-protestors.

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President Donald J. Trump subsequently touched off a firestorm when he found fault with both sides in the confrontation. But in Somers, Blanch said, “Know that we, as an entire school district, are unified in ensuring our children understand the lessons that history can teach us and we are dedicated to becoming more understanding and accepting of each other as our world continues to expand.” 

Asked what prompted him to write the letter, Blanch said in an email interview that he was moved as both “a father and educator.”

“I was disheartened by the most recent events,” he said.  “As the superintendent of the Somers School District, I wanted to ensure our families and children that we will continue to promote a culture that respects all. Fundamentally, I believe our children deserve a world where each and every one of them is valued.”  

While the president’s response to the violence has blurred the historic clear condemnation of alt-right white nationalism and anti-Semitism, Blanch said the response to his letter has been almost universally supportive. “I have received multiple positive comments, emails and phone calls,” he said in response to a question. “We did receive one negative phone call and the person chose not to leave his name or number.”

Blanch, who came to the district from Colorado in 2010, received a five-year contract extension from the school board in June. 

“We have been working . . . in earnest these last few years in particular to ensure that we are creating a school district that values diversity and creates a culture of inclusion,” he said.

In his letter, Blanch said that parents struggling with how to discuss the events in Charlottesville and elsewhere with their children could consult an online resource, “Beyond the Golden Rule: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Prejudice,” at tolerance.org.

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