Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA Statement on Racial Inequities and Injustice

The deaths of George Floyd and too many others weigh heavily on all of us, including the PTSA
at Hazel Wolf. We are also in the midst of a pandemic crisis that is also impacting our
vulnerable communities disproportionately during this time. This is a time to pause, to listen,
to contemplate, and – most importantly – to stand up and take action.

Generally, the work of the PTSA is not controversial: it’s about fundraising to support tutoring,
playground equipment, overnight camping trips, and pancake breakfasts. We are proud at
Hazel Wolf to have funded grants for art, music, PE, and engineering; to have helped with the
Read-A-Thon and Back to School Nights; to have held annual auctions and restaurant nights. All
of this work, which involves hundreds of hours and dozens of volunteers, is directed to
enhancing the quality of life for students and teachers, as well as to providing valuable
community building.

Sometimes, we are called to step up our efforts at community building in more complex ways.
The Hazel Wolf PTSA last year decided that “increasing awareness of racial equity” would be
our primary area of focus for the 2019-2020 school year. We publicly declared that we would
focus on making decisions using a racial equity lens, by listening to students and parents of
color and by offering community, staff, parent, and student education opportunities. We meant
it, even as we acknowledge that the focus, if it is to be meaningful, requires stepping out of
traditional comfort zones, and taking actions as well as saying words.

Last October, the students of Hazel Wolf K-8 E-STEM School in north Seattle held a peaceful
protest. The students, supported by the PTSA’s Racial Equity Committee (REC), were protesting
the use of the N-word and other racial slurs at school, and asking for accountability around
what happens to those who use the slurs. Our principal, Ms. Nelsen, and other administrators,
teachers, and staff, as well as dozens of family members and siblings, listened to and cheered
for the students who spoke out. The peaceful protest lasted about 15 minutes in front of the
school and received some coverage in Seattle media.

The protest and the coverage evoked a lot of emotions. There was shock that racist incidents
happened at Hazel Wolf. There was dismay that the protest was mentioned in the news. For
some, the students’ descriptions of racist incidents were a wakeup call. For others, it was
nothing new. The recent murder of George Floyd, one in a tragic series of similar events, has
brought great grief to our community. As parents and as PTSA members, we work hard for the
betterment and safety of our beloved children.

Among 46-year-old George Floyd’s words while dying were a call for his deceased mother, a
wrenching reminder of the bond of family that we all share. We also know he leaves behind a 6-
year-old daughter who has lost her father in a public, painful way.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery are all names in the news these days due to
racist violence—they are also folks like us with moms and dads and children. The recent
protests not only here in Seattle but across the country and the world have reminded us in
daunting ways of the work to be done to heal our community from the trauma of racism. As
happened after our peaceful October protest, the recent deaths and reactions are shocking to
some, old news to others.

We know that a PTSA cannot solve these problems. We at Hazel Wolf also know that we cannot
look aside. We cannot shrug our shoulders. We will continue to do the work we have done
successfully in the past: supporting the needs of our teachers and students, through the
traditional and valuable events and grants. More than that, though, we will take seriously our
responsibility to create equity for our black students, our immigrant students, our students of
color. We will continue to support Black Lives Matter at School and Black History Month, as we
have done every February. We have also offered to support professional development for our
teachers (who, as is true at most schools, are predominantly white) around racial equity
trainings. We will support efforts to bring in more black and other teachers of color, who are
role models for all our students. We will fund our Family Support programs, which provide food
and other supplies to our low-income families. We will recognize that many of our low-income
families are families of color, due to the systemic and entrenched history of racism that has
created tremendous disparities in health care, education, employment, and more.

The REC has created an online Community of Practice for white women to focus on anti-racism
work. The REC is also offering an online Community Gathering and Healing Space for black
parents and caregivers. As we learned from Erin Jones, our guest speaker at the January
General Session, we have so much more in common and we must continue to make progress as
a united front – with authenticity and appreciation for each other as human beings. We, as the
REC and PTSA, are grateful for the way our whole school community has not just talked (though
talking is important) but is also walking the difficult path toward racial justice.

Sincerely,

The Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA Board and Racial Equity Committee

Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA Board Response to the Peaceful Protest

The mission of the Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA is to facilitate opportunities for family involvement in the school community, and we work to enhance the learning experience for every child – in a way that fosters whole child wellbeing and success. We recognize the importance of a safe and welcoming school environment for all students, where today we have a concern about racist language being used toward children at our school. We encourage the school to address racial bullying and inequities that exist. We also seek to ensure that any actions taken on this matter, and that involve our children, are done in a developmentally appropriate way. As a PTSA, we continue to keep students and their wellbeing at the center of our efforts.

Our understanding of the peaceful protest that took place on Friday, October 25th in front of the school was that it was meant to give a voice to our students’ experiences with racism and how hurtful language should not, and does not, have a place at our school. The PTSA board of directors and members did not have oversight of the way the protest was conducted, though we were informed the day before – as was the school administration. What was at stake here as we understood it – addressing racism at school – was and is a shared priority by all. PTSA President Adrienne Kortas, along with Principal Debbie Nelsen, voiced support to the PTSA Board and school staff for the student-centered demonstration and offered our communication channels to help get the word out to the community as quickly as possible.

We have learned a lot from this experience, including how parents and families need to be informed about and involved in things that concern the safety and wellbeing of our children. We are committed to improving our communication about this work while continuing to move forward within established processes for our Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA.

We also know our work is just beginning. At the start of this school year, the PTSA Board agreed that increasing racial equity was a key area of focus for us, and we know this to be true for the school as well. We all seek to move in the same direction and effect change. Together, we will lead the way in our school district for implementing key policies that dismantle racism and increase equity. Together, we will do hard, messy, and uncomfortable work. And we will do it all for our kids.

Sincerely,

The Hazel Wolf K-8 PTSA Board

Peaceful Protest – Friday, Oct. 25

Students of Hazel Wolf K-8 E-STEM School, with the support of the PTSA Racial Equity Committee (REC) and school administrators and staff, will hold a Peaceful Protest at the school at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019.

The protest will be held because of concerns about several incidents at the school involving the use of the N-word and the word “monkey” against black students, some of whom are
immigrants.

The REC and student-led protest will speak out about the following:

  • the need to educate the school and the larger community about the harmful impact of
    racial slurs on black and immigrant students,
  • the importance of reporting and documenting racist incidents,
  • the value of transparency in communication regarding racist incidents, and
  • the empowerment of and support for black/immigrant students and their families
    after racist incidents have occurred.

We invite community members to join us and bear witness against racism. We will not tolerate racist incidents in our school.

If you are able to attend the Peaceful Protest tomorrow, we ask you to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt or black clothing, if possible. If you can, bring signs that say Black Lives Matter, Immigrant Lives Matter, Racist Bullying Is Not OK, and We Reject Verbal Violence.

For further information, please contact the Hazel Wolf Racial Equity Committee Communications at ptsa_rec@hazelwolfk8.org.

Thank you!