Cultivating ‘Upstanders’ Instead of Indifferent Bystanders

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Editor,

I applaud school Superintendent Jason Viloria’s statement, “We can do better” regarding how we as a community deal with a racial incident on Dec. 27 and based on the dialogue on social media sites, the community agrees. However, I find it difficult to vilify our current administrators, most of whose tenure in the district is short. Additionally, I wonder how well equipped they are regarding policies and actions already in place to address such an incident. While it’s no excuse to not address the chaos, confusion and hurt this incident has created, this new administration seems willing to act quicker and with more self examination than this district has seen in some years.

The fallout from this incident is no longer just about the Possley family. It has rippled beyond the sports teams and into our community. While school leadership has commented that “we can’t give up on the kids,” is it the responsibility of the other students to bear the burden of the actions of a few? What is the statute of limitations on the behavior of student athletes and their privilege to represent our school and our community? Isn’t that essentially one in the same?

While I agree that we as a community have the power to use this incident as a powerful vehicle to promote cultural acceptance, it seems clear that there is a lot of work to do not just at school but at home.

Every PTA Coffee Break involving social media and cyber issues consistently comment on the responsibility of parents to monitor their kids’ phones. Social media is proving a larger influence on our kids today than even their immediate peer group or family. What kids find funny and socially acceptable may be unacceptable outside the cyber world they occupy. If we as parents aren’t monitoring our kids’ social media, are we parenting enough?

While board member Carol Normandin sees examples of students being “upstanders” there has also been years of turning the other way because dissent means “standing up against” neighbors, teammates or friends. There is fear of retaliation, of losing playing time or being cut from a team.

Media celebrates our outstanding athletes and also broke this story. Knowledge of the incident has followed our students, athletes and others for the last month, in other school’s gyms to renting a tux. If our athletes are given the privilege of playing a sport and represent our school and community, shouldn’t they be expected to uphold a certain “Code of Ethics” and if they violate that code, should they continue to be rewarded? What should the fallout be?

It is not just about the individual athlete. They represent the entire community. Isn’t that one of the reasons as a community we collectively celebrate their victories?

 

Sheri Morgan, Laguna Beach

 

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