In a school district that has pledged commitment to actively fighting racism and charging educators to speak up, speak out and create opportunities for student growth and understanding, there will be times when one of those educators is attacked for doing just that. Newton North Principal Dr. Henry Turner, has been the subject of a relentless attack for expressing his view that race and racism played a part in the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict. Sometimes, in these situations it becomes necessary to ask, “What does strong support from our school leaders and our community look like?” Other times, such as now, it is clear. For Henry Turner, it looks like this:
A letter to North families from Superintendent David Fleishman affirming that Dr. Turner’s comments were “consistent with the work we have taken on as a district and were reflective of his personal and professional experience.”
A joint statement from the School Committee and Mayor issued to our local newspapers defending Dr. Turner and all of the secondary school principals for holding challenging conversations as “a powerful example of how we embrace our district values and achieve our goals.”
The mobilization of the Newton Coalition of Black Residents, NCBR, to coordinate an effective response.
An email from the Newton North FORJ chapter to their distribution list rallying to assist their “fearless leader.”
We, the FORJ Newton Board, are proud that our Principals and educators have joined us on this journey towards antiracism. We applaud the response of our Superintendent, School Committee and Mayor to support Dr. Turner from attack and invite you to let them know how much you approve of their actions by email. We also applaud the actions of other community members such as FORJ North. We share their sentiments. See what they wrote in full below. Sincerely, The FORJ Newton Board
Our hearts go out to the parents and students of Oxford High School in Michigan after yet another unnecessary school shooting. Enough is enough! Schools should be havens of peace and safety. Students should be able to pursue their dreams in an environment free of guns and bullying of any type. Each one of us has a crucial role to play in maintaining schools as sanctuaries.
Recognizing the need to lead in these volatile times, Dr. Henry Turner, Principal of Newton North High School, actively used his digital leadership platform to support NNHS students and staff in discussing the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Wisconsin. It was frustrating to see local news outlets like the Patch mischaracterize Dr. Turner’s efforts to comfort the NNHS community as an expression of racism or separatism. Once again compassionate leadership is labeled as demagoguery, educators falsely accused of indoctrinating our young people. Nothing could be further from the truth! Democratic participation is not a spectator sport; Dr. Turner leads by example.
The FORJ NNHS community stands in strong support of faculty and staff, especially teachers of color, who are working to create a more inclusive and equitable school community. We applaud Principal Henry Turner’s courageous leadership, and we deeply appreciate his commitment to equitable access to quality education. His efforts amplify other fearless leaders in our Newton Public Schools dedicated to improving access for every student in our district. We believe that all students benefit from culturally responsive and antiracist practices and instruction.
This is why FORJ NNHS works to create a stronger network of support for diversity, equity and inclusion across the Newton North High School community through greater awareness, education, and engagement. Specifically:
We support students' efforts to create an inclusive and equitable community at NNHS, with a particular focus on supporting students of color
We learn from NNHS administration and staff about their efforts to promote racial equity and culturally responsive teaching, with the goal of reinforcing those efforts in our own families
We educate ourselves and the larger NNHS community about issues of racism and racial justice, with the goal of taking action to strengthen our school and community
Race and racism are prominent in our national dialogue, and we agree that these conversations are more productive when we speak about race and racism from a historically factual space and on a regular basis. Students, educators, and parents need to develop the skills to be able to discuss these issues.