July 15, 2020
Dear New Trier Families and Students,
Overnight we were informed of a number of racist posts on social media connected to a New Trier student, including a video of the student saying the N-word. To say we are disturbed or upset does not do justice to the pain that these posts have caused, particularly at a time when our school, our community, and our country are reckoning with the injustices and racism faced every day by our students, staff, friends, and family who identify as BIPOC.
The horrific slur and racism displayed in these posts do not reflect the welcoming and safe community we seek to build at New Trier, but we know that it is not enough to simply say that. Those who have shared the posts with us seek action, and understandably so. We want you to know that we are taking action. We also hope you understand that the laws surrounding school response and student privacy are complex, and that we cannot share as much specific information as you might seek.
We also know that for every incident captured on video, there are many more incidents of racism that our BIPOC students and students in other marginalized groups experience that are not recorded. Many of you have taken the time to share painful personal experiences with us, and we want you to know that we are listening. This summer we have been working as a school to advance our ongoing equity work with concrete plans and goals for the upcoming year to make our school more welcoming, proactive, and safe for all. We are working with students, staff, alumni, and community members on these important issues, which must involve all of our students and staff. You can find some information about this work and an opportunity to get involved on our Commitment to Equity website
New Trier's work will not be done until every single person at our school feels safe, valued, and heard and until our students understand and value experiences and identities different from their own. We have a long way to go, and we are strongly committed to making New Trier a more equitable and inclusive institution.
Paul Sally, Superintendent
Denise Dubravec, Winnetka Campus Principal
Paul Waechtler, Northfield Campus Principal
June, 6, 2020
This video message was sent to students, parents, and staff members. The text of the video message is below.
Hi. This is Paul Sally, Superintendent of New Trier High School, and Denise Dubravec, Winnetka Campus Principal with a message for our students. As we come to the end of the school year, we are both sad and hopeful. It was a difficult year as we all faced fear and a loss of connection amid a global pandemic. But that's not the main reason why we are sad. We're sad because of the fear, injustice, and racism that our students and staff of color along with their families experience every day just trying to go about their daily lives. Events across the country have exposed these injustices, and I know that they happen everywhere, including our school and community. Many of you have shared your pain and anger at experiences you have had at New Trier, and I want you to know: We hear you. We want to do better. We will do better.
Right now there is a video circulating of a student saying the N-word as another student recorded the slur. Both were in middle school at the time, several years ago. We became aware of the video after receiving an email from a concerned student and have since received many more emails and reports to the Trevian Tip Line, some of which have inaccurate information. The behavior in the video is unacceptable and hurtful. We are working with the students and families involved. The students and their families want the New Trier community to know that they deeply regret and apologize for the hurt the video has caused the community and our students, families, and staff of color. They want to partner with the school to move our equity efforts forward.
We also know that our Black students and students in other marginalized groups hear slurs and experience racism regularly in this community and in our school, and most of those incidents are not caught on tape. We as a community must be agents of change. We believe that the best way to affect anti-racist change is through "calling-in" rather than "calling-out". We believe that we must be both accountable for our actions and compassionate with ourselves and others. When we say or do something that hurts others, we must take responsibility for that action but also have the opportunity to learn and grow from that experience. We have implemented restorative justice practices in our school where students take responsibility and listen to understand the pain that their actions cause that they may not understand.
We mentioned earlier that we are also hopeful. We are hopeful because we have heard from so many of you - current students, alumni, and community members - who want to be part of making sure we are a community that supports our students of all races. You want New Trier to be a part of the solution to stopping racial injustice. We have read each of your messages carefully and we are invested in making sure our students feel supported at New Trier.
We care about all of you and thanks for sharing your ideas for change with us and your willingness and courage to discuss your personal experiences. Our work to address equity in our school extends beyond this single incident. We have been doing work with students, with our curriculum, and with our practices as part of our strategic plan to make New Trier a more welcoming and just place for students, staff, and families of color. But do not get me wrong, we know we have a lot of work to continue to do. I know our community will pull together as it always does to make positive change toward eliminating injustice in our school.
We are aware that sending this message to you will elicit different reactions. This is especially true when social media is involved. Some will agree with this statement and view it as a positive step. Unfortunately, there may be some others that view this as an opportunity to offer hurtful comments that run counter to our commitment to equity. And unfortunately, that is part of the state of our national conversation regarding issues of racial equity, especially on social media.
We believe that change begins at the local level, within our school and community. We know that the New Trier community supports our work to create a safe, respectful, and accepting school for all our students and staff members.
Great job this year. Have a great summer, including those in summer school. We will be in contact soon about our plans for the fall, but in the meantime please take care.
Thanks for listening. A copy of this statement can be found on our Continued Commitment to Equity page on our website.
Dr. Paul Sally,
Winnetka Campus Principal