Message from the CEO/Superintendent
Embracing values of equity and respect to celebrate
our diverse community, stand against racism and violence
On the heels of a second mass shooting in less than a week, our country and many in our community are reeling. Our condolences and thoughts are with the families and friends of all of those affected. These senseless, violent acts raise questions and concerns for us all, and heighten our society’s sense of vulnerability.
While the exact motives in the two shootings are still unknown, one of them does hit closer to home as family members and friends of some of the victims from the Atlanta incidents reside here in Gwinnett County. Of particular concern is that six of the eight victims here in Atlanta were women of Asian descent. This, coupled with the fact that acts of violence against Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in our nation have escalated over the past year, is deeply troubling and has sparked concern throughout our nation.
Individuals of Asian descent have experienced “coronavirus racism,” which includes scapegoating for the spread of the virus (which is simply untrue) and other xenophobic reactions. As a result, there have been reports across the country of children and adults being the targets of harassment, microaggressions, avoidance, exclusion, and, increasingly, physical attacks.
As a school district, we have a role to play in countering racism and in reassuring our students that they and their families are valued and safe. As stated in our Strategic Direction for 2020-2030, our schools work hard to create positive school climates where we take into account students’ backgrounds, social experiences, prior knowledge, and learning styles; where we cultivate respect, empathy, and kindness throughout the learning community; where we focus on what people have in common and build bridges across our differences; where we connect families with resources that can assist with social and emotional issues and concerns that have an impact on students’ well-being at school; and where we provide a welcoming environment for all children and stakeholders.
In Gwinnett County Public Schools, equity and respect are among our core values and we expect all students and staff to embrace these values as we celebrate the diversity of our community and stand against racism and violence. More than 11% of our students and 7.5% of our staff are members of the AAPI community. More importantly, they are members of our greater Gwinnett community... they are our classmates, our students, our staff, and our families.
We realize that these recent events profoundly touch our AAPI community. However, these types of violent acts affect us all, and, especially our students. If your child should need assistance processing these events and other issues that impact mental health and their sense of well-being, please be reminded of the resources available at our schools. Our school counselors, social workers, psychologists, and other trusted adults are caring and dedicated professionals who are here for our students.
Let’s never forget that working together—families and schools—we are stronger, making Gwinnett great for our students!
J. Alvin Wilbanks