A Call for Civility in K-12 Education

Permission granted by Jeremiah Robinson, the Office of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, City of Boston

In this time of division and crisis, we, as school leaders, cannot sit quietly by. Volatile and violent debates threaten to erode our hallways and undermine our solemn promise to America’s students—to provide them with high-quality education in safe spaces. We are compelled to reaffirm what and who we stand for and to advocate for a collective recommitment to civility in our schools and in our communities.

As educators, we promise to uphold the uncompromising conviction that our most important service is to our students and our school community. These values are fundamental to our decision to become educators, and they are central to what we do and give every day in America’s classrooms—superseding our politics or popularity. 

Education is imperiled. We are seeing it in our classrooms and on our campuses. Our first priority and solemn duty is to ensure the learning and development of our students. This means creating safe, supportive environments.

As adults, we all must model for our children, in our actions and words, how to be kind humans, good citizens and critical thinkers by forging meaningful relationships and engaging in respectful dialogue. The health and success of our students, schools and society is dependent upon the investment of the whole community in creating the conditions for growth, knowledge, belonging and opportunity. Our children deserve nothing less. 

While our needs and culture may differ across communities, our country has always held the shared and sacred value that civility, character, fairness and democratic debate are core to our very moral core. We ask parents and caregivers, school boards, neighbors and fellow educators to join us in valuing the sanctity of education and the education profession by listening to one another with respect and treating one another with dignity.

If we can commit to reviving constructive discourse, we can find common ground and hope for our future.

The time to come together is now—for the good of our students, the vitality of our communities and for the health of our country.  

Ronn Nozoe is the CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Earl Franks is the executive director of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.


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