Fellow Members of the Lakeland Federation of Teachers:
I am writing to you as the President of the LFT, as well as an educator who has taught thousands of Lakeland’s students for over 28 years.
We are all aware of the difficulties presented during the public comment period at the school board meetings in recent months. At last Thursday’s meeting, things escalated to an entirely new level that, quite simply, cannot be tolerated.
At the end of the meeting – when Dr. Norman and Dr. Gagliardi were leaving – members of the audience outrageously abused them by hurling racial epithets. It pains me to write this, but sunlight is the best antiseptic. Dr. Norman was called “uncle Tom” and Dr. Gagliardi was called a “n****r lover.” In addition to these despicable comments, Dr. Gagliardi had to call the police on her way home as she was being followed to her home.
I am sure that you, like me, are sickened to hear this. As educators, we teach our students to speak up when something is wrong. Well, this is wrong, and it is our moment to stand for what is right. This Thursday, February 17, at 7 PM, there is a school board meeting at Lakeland High School. I am asking you to join me at the meeting in a show of support for Dr. Norman, Dr. Gagliardi, and the entire Board of Education.
It has been 25 years since the LFT asked its members to attend a school board meeting. I can think of no reason more important than to stand up for decency. Disagreements around education are more than fine, they are expected; this is why we have school boards in the first place. Please note that we will not be taking a position at Thursday’s meeting concerning any of the policies being discussed, but will be standing in defense of civility. We need to speak in one voice to say that racial abuse will not be tolerated at Lakeland. We owe this to our students, as there is nothing less than the future civility we expect in our schools at stake.
President, Lakeland Federation of Teachers