Editorial: There is No Place for Hate, Threats of Violence and Racism in Our Beloved Valley

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Emotions in the valley have been running incredibly high since Stillwater Area Public Schools rolled out a proposal in mid-December to close three elementary schools.

Since Dec. 17, the community has become divided — and no one I’ve spoken with disagrees with the fact that we need to heal. However, that will take time.

Trust has been broken. Many people feel those they’ve elected into office haven’t listened to them.

That said, hate, threats of violence and racism have no place in our community — it serves no one. We’re better than that. To those partaking in these actions, please stop. It makes us all look foolish.

By definition there is no such thing as reverse racism.

On Saturday morning, Stillwater school board member Paula O’Loughlin posted snippets of emails she has received since Thursday night’s vote.

Here’s a snippet of O’Loughlin’s post on Facebook:

“Like many of you, I have not slept since the vote on Thursday. Like many of you, I have been physically distressed, emotionally absent from my kids and my partner and consumed by this issue for the last several months. Like many of you, I am grieving for our district.

Like many of you, I care deeply for each and every student in all of our schools,” O’Loughlin wrote. “I am truly sorry that I didn’t show more of my grief, my anger, my profound sadness, my “struggle” on Thursday night. I have wrestled with every aspect of this proposal in the best way I know how…. I am not asking that you agree with me, I am not asking that you support me or that you like or respect me. What I am asking is to please withhold your personal attacks from me and to leave my children out of this.

I will not be bullied out of this district. I do not take kindly to threats against me or my family. Please hold yourself and others to a higher standard of discourse from which our children could listen and learn.”

Folks associated with StopBoldCold released this statement shortly thereafter.

The statement, in part, reads:

“We do not condone threats of violence, racist or classist statements of any kind. Any action taken by an individual of this nature does not reflect the majority of the community opposed to the School Board and Administration’s recent actions. To those engaging in such actions, we also ask that this behavior stops immediately. It serves no one.”

We can have a civil discourse about controversial issues in our community, in fact I encourage it, and always have. I personally do everything I can to build a platform to help those conversations take place — it’s the reason I founded Stillwater Current.

We have to move forward — together. I’m not sure what that will look like, or how that will happen, but there’s no doubt it will take time to heal the divide that has occurred since mid-December.

Working together means listening to each other. It means showing people that their diverse perspective is actually valued. It means compromising. It means leveraging the engagement and conversation that is taking place to benefit all of our schools.

For some, the BOLD proposal didn’t only bring about a feeling of loss, but it also brought forth a painful lesson in civics — and the harsh reality of how important process is in decision-making. I truly believe this was one of the worst processes I’ve ever seen in government — there needs to be accountability.

I hope that doesn’t continue. I hope we can work together. I hope we can admit our missteps. I think acknowledgement of mistakes, humility and when appropriate, apologies go a long way in the process to start the healing and rebuilding trust.

“Meeting with parents on an individual basis to passively listen to their concerns does not equate to community involvement,” a StopBOLDCold Facebook post reads. “Evaluating alternative proposals in isolation to all others does not equate to a fair and reasonable evaluation process. It is only when we allow the community and the board and the administration to collectively work together, as a group, and as was done to develop the long term facilities plan, do we realize the “magic” — the “secret sauce” — where divergent ideas and views mix together to form a plan that could never be developed independently.”

I tend to agree.

Moving forward, please be respectful of everyone. We don’t have to agree with one another, but it is important to listen to divergent opinions with an open mind.

I implore everyone to exercise kindness — and to be human — after all, we all love our community.

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