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INFORMATIONAL LETTER: 19
POLICY CODE: JICDA
TO: Superintendents of Schools, Principals, and School Board Chairs
FROM: J. Duke Albanese, Commissioner
DATE: September 20, 2001
RE: Dealing with Harassment of Those Who Are, or Are Perceived To Be, of Middle Eastern Descent
Recently, two Informational Letters were sent to you: one (#14) alerting you to the importance of, and resources for, ensuring a safe learning environment for all students; and the other (#17) alerting you to the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance, September 14, 2001, established by the President of the United States for the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This communication pertains to both of those earlier messages, offering resources to help teachers and children deal with the events of last week as well as provide further information which centers on a small, but vulnerable population of our students.
Attached are three letters written by First Lady Laura Bush, one requesting distribution, one intended for elementary students, and the third for middle and high school students. As you can glean, Mrs. Bush has requested that we do our best to get her message before our children and youth. I would request that you honor the First Lady’s desire, working closely with your respective faculties.
Dealing with Harassment of Students of Middle East Descent, or Students Who Are Perceived To Be, of Middle Eastern Descent
A most harmful consequence of the terrorist attacks is the reported increase in
hate crimes and harassment directed at individuals—both students in our schools and other members of our communities—who are, or are perceived to be, of Middle Eastern descent. As leaders in our schools and communities, we must ensure that this does not happen.
The terrorist attacks have, understandably, made us fearful. However, this is a
critical time for educators, staff, and parents—as well as other students—to guide our young people through that fear to an understanding that our Arab or Muslim neighbors are not responsible for causing the atrocious acts that inspire that fear. Rather, living here among us as our friends and neighbors, they are very likely to share our fears. Please communicate with our students that a backlash of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim discrimination, of any form, as personal retaliation for the terrorist attacks, or as a way of managing our own anger or fear, is a response that is unworthy of us as responsible citizens. Moreover, it is a response that is wrong and that is illegal.
I urge all educators, students, parents, and community members to set a strong example by refusing to tolerate any discriminatory, harassing, hateful or otherwise harmful language or behavior directed at those who are, or are perceived to be, of Middle Eastern descent. More broadly, all children from a wide range of world cultures merit the dignity and respect that all of us enjoy.
Below is a list of websites that have been provided by the United States Department of Education for helping children understand the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Also included is the address of a website established by the Center for Crisis Management at the University of Maine for students wishing to share their thoughts and feelings about last week’s terrorist attacks.
Together we must use this difficult moment in history as an important teaching opportunity, recognizing that America represents, after all, the greatest idea for governing ourselves and for a way of life that the world has known. And an integral part of that idea and our America is that all of us as Americans, here in Maine, and across the nation can trace our family’s origins to lands and cultures around the world, yet we live together here, in celebration of diversity and freedom.
* Suggestions for Adults: Talking & Thinking with Children About the Terrorist Attacks
* Suggestions for Educators: Meeting the Needs of Students
* American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
* Emergency Services & Disaster Relief Branch, Center for Mental Health
* Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
* FEMA for Kids
* Helping Children & Adolescents Cope with Violence & Disasters
* National Association of School Psychologists
* National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
* Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Trauma, Disasters, & Violence
* U.S. Government Information & Resources in Response to September 11th Events