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1/18/22: NTPS statement regarding MLK Day presentation at NTHS

January 18, 2022

As part of North Thurston Public Schools’ commitment to increased opportunities for student voice, the annual recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day is often celebrated in our high schools through assemblies organized by our BIPOC students.

A video presentation organized by North Thurston High School’s Associated Student Body on January 14, was an example of such a student-led effort. It was originally planned as an in-person assembly but due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in our community, the decision was made to make it a virtual presentation shown during advisory period.

The video included an embedded MLK Day video by the Association of Washington Student Leaders. It also included testimonies and poems from North Thurston High School students, including members of the school’s Black Student Union, sharing their reality of being a young person of color in America today.

While we understand that some of the student messages shared may have made some people uncomfortable, we support the voices of our students to share experiences of racial injustice in the context of American history and MLK Jr. Day. In fact, much of what the students shared aligns with many of Dr. King’s own beliefs and speeches around racial injustice in America.

During his famous 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, the line most often quoted is "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." However, a major theme in the speech is the continual denial of freedom for Black Americans promised to them through The Declaration of Independence, and later the Emancipation Proclamation. “Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’ ”

The NTHS student presentation provided an opportunity for internal reflection as we ask ourselves hard questions about the beliefs that are entrenched in our society and how we can work together to become more literate about race, history, stereotypes, and socio-political factors that impact our students and families. However, we acknowledge that there was not time provided for student discussion after the presentation. We have a responsibility as educators to provide time and space for pre-teaching of a subject like this, as well as an opportunity for students to discuss their thoughts and reactions. North Thurston High School will be providing a follow-up conversation on this topic during February, which is African American History Month.

It is our duty to teach students to be respectful of all human beings regardless of race, ethnic origin, gender, social class, ability, religion, or sexual orientation. We must be better, and we will be better, with love and humanity leading the way.

-North Thurston Public Schools