*This letter was originally posted on Dr. Conti’s blog on January 30, 2017
An Open Letter to Burlington Students:
It is hard not to hear many adult conversations and see news reports around you regarding the recent restrictions on immigration. Many people are struggling with questions of belonging. Some question if everyone belongs and whether we can be safe. Please be assured that all of you belong in the Burlington Schools. Our commitment to educating all of you has never been more unyielding and important.
In my opinion, adults simply need to look inside our classrooms and learn from you. I see classrooms where everyone is accepted regardless of faith, culture, ability, economic standing, and other differences. You all believe in the best of your classmates and their intentions. What you may not realize is that these lessons have been at the heart of public schools for a long time.
A part of the answer to the question of who belongs in public school can be seen in the Supreme Court’s decision of Plyler v. Doe (1982). In Plyler, the Supreme Court determined that children belong in our public schools no matter how the children came to live in a community. In other words, a child’s immigration status is not relevant. You are all learners first. If you live in Burlington, you are welcome in school. You belong in school. You are safe in school. You are loved in school.
Moreover, nearly 75 years prior to the Plyler decision, John Dewey, a great American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, said:
“The intermingling in the school of youth of different races, differing religions, and unlike customs creates for all a new and broader environment. Common subject matter accustoms all to a unity of outlook upon a broader horizon than is visible to the members of any group while it is isolated. The assimilative force of the American public school is eloquent testimony to the efficacy of the common and balanced appeal.”
― John Dewey, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education
Please know that all of you belong, and together in Burlington, we are creating a broader horizon for everyone.