This statement is from the Lexington Education Association Executive Board in response to a petition challenging whether the Serious Talks curriculum, which integrates lessons on kindness, respect and acceptance for Lexington K-5 students, is age-appropriate.
We, the educators of the Lexington Public Schools, thank and applaud the members of the Lexington School Committee and our school leadership for their continued efforts to provide a safe and inclusive learning community for all students. Their trust and belief in our expertise allows us to do important work with students in a positive and productive learning environment.
Here in Lexington, we are fortunate to have families from around the world. Our students have the opportunity to learn from classmates, educators and community members who represent different cultures, religions and familial structures. Within this microcosm, we are presented with a choice: We can ignore the differences that make our community vibrant or we can serve as an example of unity and respect. As educators, we will always choose the latter.
Serious Talks came to fruition when Bowman educators began doing significant work to educate themselves about racism and how it impacts our students’ ability to learn and grow. Bowman educators realized that students need to be a part of these crucial conversations because, even in kindergarten, race-based conflicts were occurring within the school day. These young students did not have the developmentally appropriate vocabulary or understanding to navigate these conflicts with their peers, advocate for themselves or seek out adult support.
Serious Talks was created to provide all students with a safe and respectful learning environment in which they can engage in difficult conversations and resolve differences in a positive, productive manner. The goal is to address conflict before it causes learning disruptions or long-lasting harm to students.
The Serious Talks curriculum allows students to understand the power and impact of their words and actions. Students learn to recognize and respect the value of our differences, develop the skills to self-advocate and be active upstanders. They also learn to seek out adult support when needed and more accurately identify discrimination. At no point has any lesson been created to push any singular agenda. Our wholehearted focus has always been on kindness, respect and understanding of all.
It simply is not plausible to completely isolate academic learning from what happens outside of the classroom. It is our job to educate the whole child and this includes attending to their emotional needs. Students learn best when they feel safe and respected, and it is our job to adjust how and what we teach to address their ever-changing needs.
Since the curriculum’s inception, we have added lessons to help students understand their own identities more deeply, build pride in them, and begin to understand and respect the identities of others. They develop a respectful understanding of how, within our world and community, we all encounter and work with people who may look, believe or live differently than us.
This is a given. We do not teach our students that any one way of living is correct or incorrect or good or bad. We simply teach them that everyone deserves kindness and respect; this is a concept anyone can grasp and embrace, regardless of age.
Within Lexington schools, we strive to provide a respectful, safe and inclusive learning environment for all students and their families. With this goal in mind and the constant evolution of the world around us, it is crucial to ensure that our neighbors from marginalized communities are accurately represented and supported. With the wealth of knowledge we have here in Lexington, we have an opportunity to show what a cohesive, fully-inclusive and vibrant community can be.
The Lexington Education Association represents the unionized educators of the Lexington Public Schools.