Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Day 133: Race and Safety

There is a blanket over the school.  Tomorrow is the funeral and the district is closing early so that students and staff can attend.

The district has already started receiving messages about the closing is inconsiderate to working parents.  Many of those letters have undertones (or overtones) of racism.  Since the student who passed away was white, several community members are claiming that the steps that are being taken would not have been had she been a minority.

I don't think this is true, but I don't think it's something that can be dismissed out of hand.  Regardless of the race, I think the district made the right decision to close.  The young woman has been a member of this district for her whole life.  Her mother is a teacher here and her grandmother was.  The number of teachers and students who had a connection to her can't be counted.

I believe that the same reaction would happen should a student of color also pass.

I hope that we never have to test my belief.

After school, I went to the funeral home for the viewing.  To say it was packed would be a massive understatement.  I arrived around 2:15 and didn't get into the parlour until almost 4.  The line of mourners wishing to pay their respects wound through the funeral home, out the door and around the building.  The parking lot was bursting, cars were parked on the road and busses from the school were dropping of students by the score.

I waited in line with a small group of students and we enjoyed each others company while we stood.

When we eventually made it into the funeral home, I found myself in the room with almost a hundred other people.  One of the students who spent much of the day with me yesterday, a close friend of the deceased, came out of the parlour.  Tears were streaming down her face and she was sobbing openly.

In an entire room of students, faculty, family, administrators and friends, she made a beeline for me, threw her arms around me and sobbed into my shoulder.

I stood there in the funeral home, amidst the crowd, holding my student while she wept.  I was at a loss for words, so I said nothing and just held her.

I am deeply honored and humbled that she was able to find safety with me, that I was able to provide her with that space, even in a crowded room.


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