Greetings Shattuck-St. Mary’s Community,
The death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Officer has had a profound impact on the students and employees of Shattuck-St. Mary’s School. As a boarding community with students and employees from around the country and the globe—including many from the Twin Cities area—we were left collectively aghast at the inexcusable manner in which former Officer Derek Chauvin conducted himself as one sworn to protect and serve.
Even using strong modifiers such as “profound,” “aghast,” and “inexcusable” is an understatement. We have seen the video with Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. We have heard Floyd say, “Please, I can’t breathe.” We waited, as did the entire nation, for Chauvin to be charged with Floyd’s murder—and that wait was punctuated by peaceful protests and uncontrollable riots and looting. We watched our Twitter feeds and the evening news to see the protests, both peaceful and violent, spread across the country. We have witnessed the destruction of large swathes of Minneapolis and know that there has been violence and extensive damage in other major cities as well. And, like everyone—including the protesters—we want the violence and destruction to stop.
What we also know is that for that violence and destruction to stop, people in power need to be willing to listen and work swiftly to initiate institutional change. George Floyd is not the first person of color to be unnecessarily murdered by a police officer, and despite movements such as Black Lives Matter and others, we as a nation continue to add names to that heartbreaking list. We want that list to stop growing. Our students, both those of color and those who do not identify as such, deserve to graduate into a world where being “citizens of integrity for an ever-changing world” means something.
Students in our EDPA group (Educating Differences and Promoting Awareness) have actively worked to make Shattuck-St. Mary’s School a more welcoming place for students of color—and they have not done it by staying silent. EDPA leaders have voiced their concerns about the number of faculty of color on staff and the microaggressions they face as students of color in a predominantly white school; we now have a consultant who works with SSM specifically to identify candidates of color and we have bolstered our empathy training strands in our Health and Wellness and advisory curricula. In addition, EDPA has hosted Mix-it-Up lunches and sponsored monthly themes to increase awareness about the challenges people of color, people who identify as non-binary, and women continue to face—not simply in our community but the country (and world) at large.
Today, EDPA posted a collage on its Instagram page of community members taking part in a virtual candlelight vigil in memory of George Floyd. This was an idea that emerged from their meeting late last week—a week after school had officially ended. Their connection and eagerness to continue to support each other and better our community and the world is not just applaudable, it is necessary for change. I am proud of these young leaders in our community who continue to speak out and take action.
I know I speak on behalf of our EDPA leaders, our students, and our employees when I advocate that our government leaders listen and expeditiously work to ensure changes to any policy that intentionally or unintentionally targets minority groups. That is the way to honor the death of George Floyd.