Now that a few days have passed since ….I’m hoping it is safe for me to share a few thoughts. First and foremost I want to thank all of you who have reached out and expressed your support and concern. I am both amazed and humbled by the enormous love shown to me by family, friends, acquaintances and total strangers.
A Message to Those Whom I’ve Upset
Many have asked what I expected would come of my letter that first ran in the papers July 3rd.
I expected some disapproval but I had hoped that compassion and concern would prevail over whatever emotions were sparked.
I didn’t expect my fellow council member, who had equal access to much of the same information as I, to stage a press conference and rally citizens to our council meeting later that evening.
However, as the day progressed, I still expected that something positive would come of it all.
As people packed our meeting that evening, I expected many would express anger but I also expected a small few would ask me to explain myself. I had hoped they would ask me questions indicating some concern for the potential validity of my characterization of our schools’ problems.
In the end, no one did. In fact, as I reflect back on the day, I realized that none of my detractors, not a single BOE member, not a single member of the school administration or any of the three council members who publicly denounced my concerns bothered to approach me and ask, “Why did you do this? Are kids really being hurt? What kinds of stories have you heard? Is there really a ‘Fight Club?’”
Had they asked, I would have told them about my interactions with various parents, students and staff over the last year. I would have told them of the hallway at the high school that students avoid. I would have told them that I knew of three different children who are dreading the end of summer because they are genuinely fearful of returning to school. I would have shown them some of the videos of fights that have been sent to me. I would have pointed them to the Facebook comments in which so many brave people are sharing their personal stories.
I was pretty accessible in that crowd of 65 at the press conference and at our council meeting which was attended by well over 100 people who all had the opportunity to approach me either at the mic or during our break. My email and phone number are widely published. Yet, here we are ten days since my letter ran and they have not bothered to ask me these questions.
Please understand, I am not admonishing anyone. But I do want to caution those of you who are publicly expressing your frustrations with me to be aware of the unintended messages you are sending. I know that you know that there are children and adults who’ve been hurt in our community. I beg of you to consider them when crafting your responses. We need to strive to create an environment in which ALL people feel safe to express their views and concerns. Without it, we will never know the true scope of our problems and we will never adequately address them.
Notes of Encouragement/How You Can Help
Finally and most importantly, I want to share some words of encouragement. Be assured that positive changes will prevail and we will make our schools safer. The meeting between our police chief, Jim Akagi, and the school superintendent, Dr. Bruce Borchers went extremely well. I am assured that workable solutions were discussed and am hopeful that the MOU will be signed shortly.
More and more people are engaging in positive discussions. I hope you will join them at places like this and keep the conversations solutions-focused.
The Knoxville Police Department will hold an Anti-Bullying Summit on July 30th. It is an all day, free event and you can register here. I hope to see a large crowd of Oak Ridgers in attendance. For other ways you can get involved, click here.
Again, thank you all for allowing me to serve you and for lifting me up in your thoughts and prayers this past week. Now, let’s all direct our energy and attention to listening to one another, working towards understanding the scope of our problems and implementing long-lasting, real solutions. May God Bless Oak Ridge.