Wake County Schools

Triangle schools talk race, equality as tensions rise after Charlottesville

Posted August 17
Updated August 18

— With school starting across the Triangle, educators are trying to figure out how to talk with their students about what happened in Charlottesville and the larger questions of race, equality and respect.

Some districts are planning special workshops or other types of support for teachers to help them speak to children who have seen the violence, torches and racial slurs but don’t fully understand what they mean.

“Whether they can actually understand the impact of racism, hatred and violence is still yet to be determined for our younger students but, for all of our students, those images are clear to them,” said Wake County Board of Education chairwoman Monika Johnson Hostler.

At a Tuesday meeting, Johnson-Hostler said schools have to help students feel welcome and safe in order to have those tough conversations.

“Whether they say it out loud or not, these things are sitting with them in their seats and it’s just a reminder about why we talk about the need for more adults, specialized adults like counselors in our buildings because our kids are coming to school with those images in their heads and those triggers. We don’t know what those triggers are, but they play out in our classroom,” she said.

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The Wake County school system will hold a workshop Monday to teach hundreds of teachers how to teach inclusion and tolerance and develop a school culture that discourages racism.

“You’re already born with a clean slate, loving every person, and it is up to us to make sure that our young people hold that near and dear to them and that they don’t allow hate to come in,” she said.

Johnson-Hostler and other school board members predict there will be difficult questions that teachers will struggle to find the right words to answer, but she says it’s crucial that the school create a safe space for those discussions.

“We are indeed touching and changing the lives of young people and they are the change that we’ve been waiting for. But, we miss that opportunity if we don’t have the hard conversations with them,” she said.

School officials in Durham on Thursday announced partnerships with Bull City Schools United and the Durham Public Schools Department of Equity Affairs to support "no hate" on the first day of school.

The district adopted a "Day 1 pledge" that said school communities "will work to make others feel safe and included by showing respect and compassion." Many students are expected to read the pledge when they return to class on Aug. 28.

District officials also adopted a resolution against white supremacy, in which the district made a commitment to put social justice and equity at the forefront of operations.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools recently announced additional support and training for teachers.


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  • Rhonda Arthur Aug 18, 3:30 p.m.
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    Not so sure I want any teachers telling my kids what they should be thinking about "race" or anything else. I would be concerned about " opinions" coming through in these talks.

  • Corey Pittman Aug 18, 11:44 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    While i will admit the media has their own agenda, this has been an issue for hundreds of years. Progress was made as far as some legal rights are concerned but there is and always has been a big presence of racial inequality in this country. Most people don't understand or acknowledge it because they don't have to face it.

  • Jeffrey Derry Aug 18, 8:48 a.m.
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    How much of this is media hype?