Nov 16, 2016

#OneWaltham against hate

Address to the School Committee for Waltham Public Schools during the public comments period of their bi-monthly meeting on  16th November, 2016.

Good evening.

My name is Chandreyee Lahiri. Our son Oyon Ganguli attends 4th grade at Fitzgerald Elementary.

First of all, thank you for all your hard work in determining the future of our high school. An updated building is key to a strong future for our kids. Before you proceed with this important work tonight, I'd like bring up anti-hate programming in our schools so that we're strong on the inside too.

Since last week's presidential election the Southern Poverty law Center has tracked over 300 hate crimes nationwide. Against Muslims, the LGBTQ community, people of other ethnicities and other minorities. Many of these hate crimes played out in schools. Some were even directed at the winning party, proving how ill is this wind that blows. We in Waltham have been safe so far (I think), but I can’t help but worry. 

So I reach for Hope.

I reach for hope that anti-hate programming in our schools will help make Waltham stronger and better able to resist these dark forces.

believe Waltham students can become stronger so good-hearted kids won't get swept up in social trends they don’t understand but feel compelled to mimic.

believe Waltham students can become stronger so that passing trends of adolescent cruelty won't direct them away from the solid, moral grounds of kindness that school tries so hard to inculcate.

believe Waltham students can become stronger so mean words in the hallways do NOT get normalized because they are uttered quietly to kids who have not learnt how to defend themselves against them.

believe Waltham students can become stronger  so that taunts by the water fountain won't rain destruction on innocents because bystanders with the power to change outcomes, lack the scripts that will empower them. It's hard to stand up to your enemies but even harder to stand up to your friends. The strongest of us needs help to learn how to do that.

believe ALL these things for my city standing in the shoes of an immigrant parent, looking at the faces of my son and his ethnically diverse friends.

And I'd like the School Committee and other Waltham citizens to believe with me but even more, to act.

Because this is my community too. My husbands and my son's and everyone else's who may not look exactly like the founding fathers (who by the way, came from some place else too). It has been our community since we "breezed" in from Calcutta, India decades ago. We have worked hard, given back and hopefully, enriched the communities that we have melded into. 

Just this August our family was invited to a City Council meeting where our son was honored for a national achievement. Proclamations from Mayor McCarthy, Councillors McMenimen and Waddick and others embraced him (and us) into the fold. Their words of encouragement held him responsible for the hopes of this community...HIS community. 

Waltham has an excellent Bullying prevention plan that mandates that schools MUST be - I quote - "safe and caring learning environments". Yet current circumstances threaten that promise from applying to everyone. I must believe that you like me, insist that THAT stop outside the doors to our schools. And hopefully when the kids leave school, they'll carry that resolve with them.

Please help make it so.

Make it so by providing our children with the guidance they need to truly be #OneWaltham, to embody the values of Dignity and Kindness that are at the core of our community and to stand by one another. Make it so by enhancing the Bullying program to incorporate response to hate and discrimination. I have a few ideas that I've shared with Dr. Echelson and I'm sure there will be many others from good people who hate what is happening around the nation as much as I and do NOT want it here in our city.

Lastly, I'd like to say that personalities are not just forged at home but also in classrooms, cafeterias and playgrounds. Lets forge them strong.

Thank you for your time and hard work.

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