June 18, 2020 – In the communication below, Executive Director of Family and Community Engagement, Tia Leathers, shares a conversation she had with her daughter and how that helped motivate the creation of an Unconscious Bias training for families. (This letter is currently being mailed to Duval families.) The training sessions begin July 1 and are being offered through the district’s Parent Academy. Please RSVP by Friday, June 26. Full schedule and registration info is available here.
As I reflect on the past several weeks, I am faced with the reality that my daughter and I will have totally different memories as they relate to our respective time in second grade. Second grade for me was the year I met my favorite teacher, Mrs. Perkins. My fondest memories involve me constantly telling my parents about this amazing educator and how “she looks just like me.”
My second-grade daughter also had an amazing teacher this year, but she never got to give her a hug goodbye as she completed the year. A wave from the computer screen will have to do. Second grade is truly not the same. The immediate need to be socially-distant was already a strain, but while amidst those changes, our uncle passed away from COVID-19. While our masks worked to cover our noses and mouths, they certainly couldn’t hide the tears. As emotionally taxing as that was, I was definitely not prepared for this…
“Mommy, sometimes I wish daddy were white.” With a look of confusion, I turned my head toward her as she explained with worry in her eyes, “I don’t want him to get hurt.” It broke my heart. I did my best to keep it together with a quick “Daddy will be fine,” but my thoughts quickly turned to the reality of what is happening in our community and nation today, and the impact it is having on our children.
Am I safe? Is my father, mother, brother, cousin in danger? Why is everyone so angry? Why does skin color matter so much? These are among the questions I know our children must have. How do we answer these? I know there are many families struggling like mine to answer these questions from our little ones and calm their anxiety, even as we work to struggle and acknowledge our own unconscious biases.
As I reflected on this, I realized there was something that I could do in my role as a liaison between the school district and our families. That’s why I am writing you today.
Beginning Wednesday, July 1, we will be hosting virtual “Wellness Wednesdays: Family Edition” with hour-long workshops on “Managing Unconscious Bias.” This training will be through our Parent Academy and is available thanks to one of the Parents Who Lead program graduates. I hope you’ll join me in taking steps to determine how we best support our children, our families, and our community.
Tia M. Leathers
Family and Community Engagement Duval County Public Schools