To: Dr. Tommy Chang, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools and Boston School Committeee

Tell BPS To Apologize to Christiaan Summerhill

To Superintendent Dr. Tommy Chang and the Boston School Committee:

We the undersigned want to express our support for Christiaan Summerhill and to protest the treatment he has received from the Boston Public Schools.

Teaching students how to participate in a democratic society has been one of the main reasons for public education from the start. Christiaan Summerhill not only taught about it, he showed his students how it is done. He led by example. He should receive a commendation, not a layoff notice.

All over the country, people of all races are talking about police shootings of Black men. There is plenty of debate about who or what is to blame but everyone agrees it is important.

This issue is especially central to the lives of many of Christiaan’s students.

Christiaan took non-violent action on this issue – exactly what leaders of all ideological stripes say citizens should do.

He was arrested despite having done nothing wrong. Rather than make a deal to be released, he took a stand for democratic principles – again, exactly what we hope all citizens would do.

He was exonerated, showing that the legal authorities agreed he was in the right.*

And finally, he talked about what happened with his students. They could have learned a valuable lesson about how to deal with problems in a democracy. Instead, they learned that exercising democratic rights can get you fired.

It was a teachable moment and the lesson BPS chose to teach was that young Black men had better not seek peaceful, democratic solutions to social problems.

This is more than sad. It is dangerous.

The decision to excess Christiaan will also make it more difficult for BPS to recruit the staff it needs to successfully educate children in the Boston Public Schools. Christiaan was a department head and one of only a handful of Black men teaching at English High. BPS is already struggling with recruitment and retention of Black male teachers, which mirrors a nationwide problem.** Excessing Christian for taking part in a non-violent demonstration can only make it less likely that other Black men will want to teach in Boston.

We ask BPS officials to issue a public apology, and to commit to ensuring that nothing like this happens again by creating a supportive environment for Black male teachers like Christiaan.

* https://www.aclum.org/news_2.24.15
** http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/04/28/black-male-teachers-there-arent-enough-of-them/

Why is this important?

Christiaan Summerhill is a friend and colleague to many of us in Boston, and we want to support him and other Black male teachers who teach in the Boston Public Schools and around the country. Please contact info@tagboston.org with questions or comments.

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