February Update

Our work to build a supportive, safe, and respectful school climate continues in earnest. Below you will find our most recent updates.

Classroom Work – School Climate

Over the past few weeks, students have used video to share their experiences with hurtful speech in our school. Both teachers and students report that the videos have sparked important and powerful conversations. After February break, we will return to English classes to begin our next series of conversations. Again using video, we will ask students to share examples of when they felt included or experienced someone stepping in to support them. The goal of this next step is for students to understand the importance of “active up-standing” rather than “passive by-standing” when they see behavior that does not represent our school values.

School Climate in Hallways and Common Spaces

As I wrote to you earlier, we are especially interested in ensuring that the climate in our hallways and common areas is welcoming and safe for all students. At a recent meeting, faculty reviewed our school values statement and developed the following guidelines for hallway climate:

  • Choose Kindness
  • Show Respect
  • Take Responsibility
  • Listen First

Independently, a group of 50 student volunteers created the following guidelines for hallway climate from a student perspective:

  • Encourage Positive Environment
  • Show Respect
  • Take Responsibility
  • Be Inclusive, Not Exclusive

I was delighted by the similarity! I am proud of our students and faculty for actively participating in our school dialogue, and for standing up for each other.

Student Group Programs and Activities

In addition to our school-wide conversations about hurtful speech, several student-led initiatives are generating understanding and respect for diversity here at South.

  • The Feminist Club sponsored an Empowerment Day, which culminated in a “Speak-Out” in the cafeteria highlighting positive examples of female student empowerment at South.
  • Our Black Student Union and Students For Political Action clubs have joined together to develop a program they have named “Courageous Conversations.” In this program, older students will visit Sophomore advisories to engage in peer-to-peer conversations about race, with the goal of helping all students better understand each other.
  • The GSA sponsored a Transgender Day of Remembrance with guest speakers and discussions designed to raise awareness of the high number of trans people killed in hate crimes each year. The GSA also hosts a T’BGLAD (Transgender, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Asexual) Awareness Day in support of the wide variety of issues impacting the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Our AWARE club hosts a weekly small and friendly lunch for students interested in meeting new people and taking a break from the larger cafeteria. Later in the year, the club will host AWARE Day, featuring presentations for students and faculty on health and emotional awareness. The AWARE students are also planning to engage in peer-to-peer conversations during advisories, in which older students will visit freshman advisories (with adult support) to discuss a healthy approach to teen responsibilities.
  • The Asian Student Organization will host a cultural event this spring open to the entire community. It will be a fun evening to learn about Asian culture through cuisine, games, and conversations with peers.
  • Our Environmental Club organized South support for a rally for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Dakota Access Pipeline in Boston.
  • The Black Student Union will celebrate African-American Culture Day by hosting panels that highlight the accomplishments and challenges of being an African American in the United States today.

I am proud that our students are so active in the creation of our school culture. It is through these efforts that we will succeed in building a community that is safe and supportive for all students. Of course, we can’t do it alone. When schools and families build strong partnerships, we know students will be successful. We look forward to continuing our work together and appreciate your help and support.