Saturday, September 20, 2003


Has it really been since Thursday? My apologies, please.

In my defense, I've been on duty all weekend, and then there was that graffiti incident here at school which has turned the contained universe that is NMH into a diversity-fest.

In fact, I'm on duty now, and just had a discussion with the Dean of Student Life about said incident.

Of course, the school's official policy is that such incidents don't go public until the institution makes it so, for obvious and mostly-agreed-with reasons...but in order to relay the subjective, the objective needs out, I suppose. So here's the summary:

Thursday morning kids found the phrase "all niggers must die" written on the school bus stop. It was painted over quickly -- many students didn't even hear about it until after announcements about our school response had begun to flood the bulletin board system here. But by later that evening, after a day of Dean-level meetings, an entire response structure was in place. It included:

- a vent-session and support meeting for Black students hosted by the top administrators

- a letter to the community about values from the Associate Head of School

- a Friday afternoon meeting for all and any students who wanted to hear more about the school's response to this event, and who wanted to get more involved in the process of healing, which I required my Media Literacy students to go to instead of class and take notes (what is graffiti as a medium and how does it affect communities? what is a meeting, and how is it like/unlike a class? how can you be a medium for the school in its quest to support students after a racist threat?), and

- a Monday afternoon all-school meeting, for which I just saw the outline today -- a real shame, as they want to do the impossible with technology and I needed to call the Deans to let them know their plan was a bust (in short, they wanted to do a LONG powerpoint-supported thing in daylight, using old and faded pictures which wouldn't project well anyway, in a space which was build for bright light before electricity came to the school, and which thus has no window coverings and would be too bright to show even decent images with a projector during daylight hours). Not sure what's going to happen here, but whatever it is, it's not my problem and I'm determined to make sure it doesn't look like my fault.

There's a part of me that knows this whole response "package" is overkill -- that too strong a reaction to this only serves to put the community into panic mode; that it can cause a deeper rift than might otherwise have appeared; that it rewards the kid who wrote the damned phrase and lets other subversives know that graffiti is a great way to stop the entire institution in its tracks. But more of me knows that, to be true to ourselves and our student life curriculum, we can't not seize the teachable moment; can't not give real support and face-time to students both black and otherwise who might genuinely feel fearful at such a time; can't not spend real time after such an incident strengthening our resolve that "it shouldn't happen here."

Still, I wish we could just do what we do, and get on with it. We're busy enough here as it is without having to try to fold in a whole new layer of it all.

In the midst of the madness we did manage to sneak out as a family for a few hours this morning: saw Ginny at Mocha Joes, bought sale shirts and grey slacks and a yellow tie at the Van Heusen outlet sale, and it was cool to randomly bump into Shaw (of blogcomments fame) at the Farmer's Market in Brattleboro. Tomorrow we're up early to go to the Big E, so stay tuned for all the madness and mayhem the world's only five-state state fair can bring.

posted by boyhowdy | 11:51 PM |

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