District Administration- August 2008 - (Page 62)
CRISIS RESPONSE • By Scott Poland Lessons from a Noose It created anger and misunderstanding as well as valuable historical lessons. A NOOSE WAS FOUND HANGING one day last April from the most prominent tree in front of a South Florida high school. It was after almost all staﬀ and students had left. The principal immediately had the noose taken down and wondered how many students or parents had seen it and if it indicated a racial problem to which he was oblivious. He doubted the perpetrators were from his school, as there had been no signs of racial tension all year. Turning the incident into a learning experience for his staﬀ and students seemed like the responsible approach, as it could not be covered up. However, at the time, he had no idea that it would result in national news coverage, intervention from the U.S. Department of Justice, inquiries from the Attorney General’s oﬃce, and an investigation by the FBI. Repercussions The principal immediately notiﬁed the district oﬃce and media department. Oﬃcials wrote a letter to parents informing them that a noose had been found, that it was under investigation, and that all students would be taught about symbols of hatred later in the week. The letter stressed that the school was very proud of its diverse student body and emphasized the need for all students to get along and be respectful of others. Facts were shared and input received at a faculty meeting organized to discourage rumormongering. Teachers were asked to be aware of student conversations, redirecting students to the facts, and reporting any new information they may hear to administrators. What they knew was that a noose was tied to a tree. No notes, words, or statements were evident. 62 August 2008 African-Americans were angry with those who appeared unaﬀected by its symbolism. They did not know who the perpetrator was or why it was put there. The principal realized that some faculty members had a low degree of conﬁdence in dealing with the issue. And most students did not understand how much the noose represented hatred. It became a subject of heated discussion for African-American teachers, students and parents who were aware of the meaning of the noose. And they were angry with those who appeared unaﬀected by its symbolism. What came of all this was a lesson used in classrooms with teachers who were best equipped to place the incident in historical perspective. The social studies department developed lessons on symbols of hatred, which included the following topics: • The noose as a symbol of hatred toward a speciﬁc population; • The symbols of hate that exist toward populations such as Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Native American Indians; • How symbols of hatred make us feel; the importance of determining the facts before reacting to any incident and before taking action; • The undercurrents of racial or ethnic tensions that may exist in the school; • The various suggestions from students in responding to this incident. • Discussions also helped students have a better perspective on what constitutes a hate crime, which is a crime that has been committed with prejudice against a protected group. SPIRIT Program Later that week, two 14-year-old students admitted to administrators that they had hung the noose. They claimed they did not know the noose’s historical signiﬁcance and said they had learned to tie knots at camp over the summer and had hung the rope for entertainment as they waited for their parents to pick them up. The students, who each had a previous disciplinary history, were suspended pending a disciplinary committee review District Administration
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration- August 2008
District Administration - August 2008
8th Annual Salary Survey
Do You Know the Drill?
The Evolution of Notification Systems
How Well Does This Web Site Work?
Calendar of Events
Understanding the Times
District Administration- August 2008