ROCK ISLAND, ILL (KWQC) – The following statement was issued by Dr. Mike Oberhaus regarding a recent student athlete protest:
The United States of America is a great country that enjoys many freedoms. These freedoms have been fought for and preserved by the many men and women that have served valiantly in the armed services.
Last Friday, six student athletes independently chose to exercise their freedom of speech, as allowed by the First Amendment, to show local support to a message that there continues to be inequalities that exist in this country and locally. This peaceful protest, taking a knee during the national anthem, was begun by a National Football League player several weeks ago and has been evidenced at many sporting events. Media continue to highlight these activities during sporting events. The students will not be reprimanded for their rights to peacefully protest and engage in social justice issues.
The young men did not intend to dishonor or disrespect the veterans or current military personnel with this peaceful demonstration. They believe they live in the greatest country, which allows them to peacefully protest. There have been meaningful conversations with the students regarding the reactions of citizens feeling the protest was very disrespectful toward the country and our military forces, past and present. They have been encouraged to consider alternative forms of peaceful protest and to engage in activities to begin to address the concerns of inequality. However, they maintain the right to peacefully protest.
This peaceful protest is a call to action. As a part of the community, the school district recognized that there are ongoing disparities in discipline and academic achievement among different segments of the student population. As it is a core belief in our district that all children can achieve, we have taken an introspective look at ourselves and laid a course of action to reduce and eliminate the disparities in our outcomes so that every child will succeed to their potential.
To begin to address the disparity in student outcomes this fall the District adopted a new English Language Arts curriculum that includes culturally relevant materials. A second strategy, begun last year, is to improve relationships with all. Within the relationship strategy there are three areas being addressed. The first is to develop understanding and awareness among our staff members on the diversity of culture, beliefs, customs, ethics, and experiences within our students, families and others. As the plan continues to be implemented, the strategies will be expanded to students, families and the community. A second avenue is to understand how experiencing trauma (loss of a child, drug abuse, child abuse, etc.) impacts individuals and how that informs our work with students and families. As the understanding and awareness in these areas is built, it will inform changes to policies and practices. Finally, we want to engage our parents and community as partners in our work.
While many may be upset with the student athletes’ actions last Friday, which is your personal right, it is also the students’ right to peacefully protest. Let us use this moment to make a positive difference for our community and country. There is much work to be done to achieve our goal that every child succeed. I thank you for your past support of the district and encourage the community to be partners with us in this journey.