The following statement was released today by the Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Spring:
The members of the Mohonasen Board of Education, along with our superintendent, extend our sincere apologies for any frustration caused by the rearranging or cancellation of practices, games, and other school events previously scheduled on two major Jewish holidays this month, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We realize that the timing has been challenging and difficult for parents in terms of the wide range of events across the district.
Avoiding scheduling events on major religious holidays was presumed to be a practice in our district. However, upon further investigation we have learned that the application of this practice has been inconsistent across the district for a number of years. Consequently, staff, administration, and board members have discussed this matter in-depth and have resolved to be much more proactive and consistent next year when scheduling events.
While we understand this situation has caused frustration and disappointment, we would ask that our Mohonasen community be sensitive and respectful when discussing matters associated with religious holidays that are important to others. The tone and content of some of the emails received by the District administration expressing discontent with the cancellation and rescheduling of school events in recognition of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were troubling as they appeared to discount the importance of religious holidays to people of differing faiths. Further, a web forum for Rotterdam residents displayed a number of negative comments about Jewish holidays along with statements of disrespect that could easily be perceived as anti-Semitic, whether they were intended to be such or not. We don’t believe that such statements and reactions are characteristic of the accepting and cohesive Mohonasen community we know. Nevertheless, they are disappointing.
Last week, 575 Mohonasen staff and faculty spent part of their professional development day reviewing the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) – the law established to promote a safe and supportive learning environment in all public schools, free from harassment and discrimination from other students and adults. We would urge the Mohonasen community at-large to embrace the concepts of DASA as well and to be thoughtful before crafting messages on social media that would contradict the very things we are teaching our staff and our students.
There are a great number of issues that appear to divide our society today, and yet we think we can all agree we are united by this thought: It is our collective responsibility to provide a solid education for our children and to leave the world a better place for them. We believe that this is our mission as a school district. We also believe that we must do everything in our power to stop the divisive language and behavior that seem to have become commonplace in our society. In fact, it’s why we chose this year’s theme, “Modeling a Culture of Thoughtfulness: It Starts With Us.”
As the leaders of this district, we accept responsibility and apologize for any challenges created by the requested changes to schedules – the timing clearly did not model thoughtfulness. However, we do hope that this situation and the emotions that have been stirred can serve as a learning opportunity in terms of the sensitivity, kindness and respect we owe one another.