Principal's Message October 2016
Dear Homestead Parents and Guardians,
As most of you are aware, during the Labor Day weekend students at both our school and Fremont High School received some disturbing and threatening messages on Instagram. The messages sent by a student were directed at many of our Jewish students, used Anti-Semitic words and images, threatened violence at our schools and were labeled as a hate crime by the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. Fortunately, the SDPS was able to work very quickly with cooperation from our students and families, as well as the court system and Instagram, to identify, locate and make an arrest the night before we came back to school.
This situation, while resolved quickly and efficiently, still has some lingering effects and has given our district time to pause, reflect and strengthen our resolve to not only educate your students, but to help them become better citizens that will contribute positively to the world we live in. This situation could not have been resolved without the brave and thoughtful students and parents who came forward to speak up and inform administration and police about the threats. This is a healthy sign that our students have the maturity and trust to break that invisible wall that sometimes prevents students and adults from working together.
Homestead is a very diverse place, and as a public school we absolutely do not tolerate any bullying, harassment, bias or violence towards any student or staff member. It is our obligation as educators to not only make that statement, but to also act upon any hint of those behaviors. In all of the successful resolutions to situations of bullying or harassment, the main factor has been the cooperation of victims or witnesses who come forward to help us get all the facts. To educate our students about their responsibility to speak up when they are witness to incidents of bullying, harassment or hate in an effort to try and prevent potential issues that might arise, we provide learning opportunities over the four years that students are with us. Starting freshmen year, we partner with the Santa Clara Sheriff’s Department to provide Cyber Safety training. We also meet with every student during class meetings to discuss campus rules and expectations for behavior. Challenge Days are held twice a year, where students and adults come together for an entire day to “tear down the walls of separation, and inspire participants to live, study and work in an encouraging environment of acceptance, love and respect.” We also hold events throughout the year that are designed to encourage inclusion such as our Multi-Cultural Week, Sapnay and various other events held by our clubs.
This event has given us reason to pause and reflect to see if there is more that we can do to better educate our students and staff. In an effort to continually explore ways that we can increase inclusiveness within our school communities and ensure a safe space for all students, the FUHSD is beginning a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League. Jacqueline Regev, Director of Education, Central Pacific Region, will visit HHS and conduct a needs assessment to determine activities and trainings that would meet the identified needs. We are looking at the No Place for Hate Initiative and trainings will likely include Becoming an Ally workshops for students and Anti-Bias workshops for teachers. We will also be using our freshmen homeroom program to reach out to students to begin discussing a variety of topics, including how to build a respectful and inclusive campus where everyone is safe to work and learn. October is also National Bullying Awareness month, so we are designing events and messages to be delivered on the theme of ending bullying and uniting in kindness, acceptance and inclusion.
I like to consider myself an optimist and have always thought our students and staff are a truly amazing group of people. When something like this happens, it does make us think and fear the worst, but even in this incident there are many things to be thankful for and to celebrate. Again, those who came forward are the true heroes of this story. The fact that many have reacted with anger, frustration and sadness also shows that our moral compasses are working. We have even had outside groups as well as Homestead families reaching out to us and asking what they can do to help. This incident has created opportunities for conversation and collaboration as our stakeholders come together to help make our schools better, stronger and safer. I am truly thankful to be working at a school and a district where we can learn from every situation and work to improve.
Thank you to everyone who has played a part in this, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to make Homestead a great place to work and learn.