The following message was sent by Gauri Johnston Lauren Bynum (co-presidents) to the Roland Park Elementary Middle School
Dear School Community,
The members of the boards of the Annual Fund, PTA, and the Equity and Inclusion committee are issuing the below statement in response to the racial trauma incident that occurred two weeks ago.
We are asking you as parents of our school and members of the greater community to join us Monday to an action- focused meeting to discuss how the school community and greater community can come together to affect change in this community for all of the children that enter it. Please join us:
Roland Park Elementary Middle School
In addition, we invite you to join us in demonstrating for and with our kids. On Friday, February 7th, before school at 7:30 a.m., we will stand along Roland Avenue on the block from Starbucks to Eddies and across the street in front of the library. We want to show our support for all kids. Additionally, we are asking that everyone purchase a t-shirt (if possible) in honor of Black Lives Matter Week and wear it to the protest. More details to follow.
We hope to work with many of you in the coming weeks as we, as a community, formulate a plan to ensure all students and children are honored and respected.
Dear Roland Park Community,
In the late afternoon on Monday, January 13th, according to multiple adult witnesses, four sixth and seventh grade students were yelled at by a white female individual on foot, as the students were crossing Roland Avenue between Starbucks and Eddies. This person called the children “stupid” and threatened them by saying “You are being so stupid I hope you get hit by a car.” As the incident continued along Roland Avenue with the children and woman engaged in a verbal altercation, another white female individual, also on foot and walking two dogs toward Starbucks, referred to these children as “niggers,” the most hateful racial epithet in our language. The woman who instigated this situation with the children called the police on the children and stayed in front of Eddies until the police arrived. The woman with the dogs, who used the explicit racial epithet, continued walking and left the immediate area.
The overt racism of this incident has sent shockwaves throughout the Roland Park community. Its also revealed a deeper racism in our neighborhood. As the response to the incident from Principal Brown was posted to Next Door, some Roland Park residents tried to place blame on the children and also referred to the children as “thugs,” a euphemism for more explicit epithets. We are angered and heartbroken by the number of people in the community who blame the children involved, and who seek to validate the venom directed toward the children. Furthermore, we are deeply disappointed in the adults who are unable to act with maturity and compassion towards children yet expect the children to rise above any cruel behavior directed towards them.
Foremost, we unequivocally support our children – all of our children. We are deeply grateful to the parents and administrators who responded to the incident and protected and advocated for our children. We also realize, though, that this provides us with an opportunity to ask more of our local businesses, our community institutions, and our civic leaders. We are very appreciative to those in the community who have publicly denounced the use of hateful, dehumanizing language and understand that there are no circumstances under which that language would ever be appropriate. But we also know that this incident invites us to face the history of racial segregation in Roland Park and Baltimore.
We ask everyone to consider this situation with empathy toward the children. How would you react if your child was told they deserved to be hit by a car for jaywalking? How would you react if your child was verbally assaulted by an adult and then that same adult called the police on them? Any attempt to blame the school administrators or parents of these children is an attempt to shift blame away from the adults who acted maliciously in this situation. Further, members of the Roland Park neighborhood must ask themselves, would the reaction be different if these children were white? Would the police have been called? Would this even have been an issue?
Many in our Roland Park community face racism in ways we scarcely see and can hardly imagine. Many, in fact, have to subject themselves to the racism of this neighborhood just to get a decent education. The feeling of being devalued, dehumanized, unheard, minimized and targeted should not be a prerequisite of getting a good education. These are our children. And our children should not feel unsafe and vulnerable. Incidents like these take childhood away from children. Many children of color in our school, especially, feel they are not afforded mistakes, not afforded silly decisions, not allowed to behave as children, and are deemed a threat because of the color of their skin. It is well past time that we, as a community, take action to change the racial tone of Roland Park.
First, we invite the entire Roland Park Community to a discussion on race at Roland Park Elementary Middle School on Thursday, March 19th at 6:30 pm. This workshop is entitled “Courageous Conversations on Race.”
Second, we are launching a campaign to make all persons in our community feel welcome. This campaign is called We ARE Roland Park, and signifies that all students who attend our school are welcomed members of the Roland Park community. We are providing all of our students with school shirts that say We ARE Roland Park and making yard signs available to anyone in our community who wants one. We ARE Roland Park community members:
-Support our neighborhood public school
-Welcome and celebrate diversity
-Respect and honor children of every color
Finally, we ask everyone to treat all individuals in our community as peers, with respect and dignity.
The Roland Park Annual Fund
Kurt Overton, President
Jason Newton, Vice-President
Eleanor Frias, Secretary
Beth Hayes, Treasurer
Kristin Herber, Board Member
Kathy Bacon, Board Member
Nathan Connolly, Board Member
Mike Gosse, Board Member
Carol Johnson, Board Member
Brendan Lilley, Board Member
Terri Powell, Board Member
The Roland Park PTA
Gauri Johnston, Co-President
Lauren Bynum, Co-President
Nadiera Young, Teacher, Vice President
Vernise Bolden, Middle School Vice President
Beth Marshall, Middle School Vice President
Tim Barber, Elementary Vice President
Jaime Roberts, Elementary VP
Kristen Bowden, Treasurer
Craig Bedford, Assistant Treasurer
Katie Gill-Harvey, Recording Secretary
Kim Bedford, Community Outreach
with support from The Roland Park Equity and Inclusion Committee