Parents-United-RI Help Avoid Student Walk-out at Chariho

by Polly Hopkins
This week (June 13), the Chariho School District faced a student planned walk out. Here’s the story…
At Chariho High School, a teacher hung a PRIDE flag in her classroom. In the corner of the classroom, our American flag was rolled up as pictured in photos that students took. Those photos were shared on my community website, Chariho Community Fight Critical Race Theory in Our Schools. This spurred many parents to call and write emails to the administrators at Chariho. We protested our American flag not being displayed properly, the presence of the PRIDE flag, (which we view as a political symbol) and the violations of school policy.
The Facebook page Chariho Community Fight CRT started over a year ago in response to several administrators and staff bending and violating our schools’ policies to promote what we define (as does a specific policy within our school) as “Political Activism”. Our parents and community members have repeatedly called on the School Committee in Chariho to adhere to established school policies; yet, without much recognition or a bipartisan community-based approach, they down-right ignored our concerns for over a year.
Now, an issue of clear Political Activism (hanging a PRIDE flag) has reared its head at Chariho and the Superintendent has rightfully enforced school policy, finally. But I want to point out what all educators should know as a basic rule … if you allow policy to slide and be ignored for so long, it sends a clear message to students and staff that policy is flexible and changeable.
Student activism has been allowed to flourish. In an email to students the Principal notes “…we recognize that student activism is part of the learning process”. When the PRIDE flag was taken down, in accordance with school policy, some students revolted. The parents of those students blamed “those ignorant parents” (me and others from the ParentsUnitedRI.com group) that influenced the Superintendent on social media and became downright vicious and emotionally manipulative. So a walk out was planned and advertised on Social Media, by students and their parent supporters
Given the heightened issue of Safety at schools, community members on my FB page seized on the obvious … how to keep kids safe if they are leaving the building and gathering in the bussing area (as busses were slated to arrive shortly after the planned walk-out time). I believe our Superintendent heard our concerns and smarter ideas prevailed. Policy was enforced. Actually, several policies were in jeopardy of violation on this topic, which I outlined on my Facebook page to inform parents.
Policy is not designed to target any one individual, but to uphold a neutral space, free of radical ideas, for ALL kids to learn. Our Superintendent, Gina Picard, stated she wanted to keep the school atmosphere “Neutral”. This is the way – congratulations. 
We hope to see more neutrality in rendering decisions that support ALL of our diverse community, not just favoring political activism, recognize that discussions need to be had, and BOTH SIDES need to be heard. After all it was a student who removed the flag, exemplifying the point that all students do not feel the same way, nor do they want politics to influence their day-to -day education.
Old Glory has been unfurled and stands proudly in the corner of that classroom once again.
Best Regards,
Polly Hopkins

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