Response to Events in Washington, DC – 1/6/21

“Today's events in Washington are deeply unsettling and stand in stark contrast to the democratic ideals of our country and the values of the Hackley community.” Read the letter to the Hackley Community from Head of School Michael Wirtz and Division Directors Lisa Oberstein, Cyndy Jean, and Andy King.

Dear Hackley Families,

Like many of you, we watched today’s violent protests and civil unrest in Washington, DC with sadness, disbelief, confusion, and grief during what should have been the next phase in a peaceful transfer of power. We are saddened to learn of the report of one woman killed today, and although we do not yet know what may transpire in the overnight hours, we certainly hope that no more violence or damage will occur. Today’s events go beyond political views and strike at the heart of American democracy.

As a school, Hackley aspires to cultivate civic understanding and engagement through civil discourse. Throughout this difficult election season, students inspired us with their thoughtfulness, their high level of interest, and their well-informed positions and thoughts around the electoral process. Hackley’s students represented the best of democratic ideals, engaging with one another and with the democratic process, thinking carefully about issues and listening with the intent to learn.

After today, we can well imagine that your children have many questions, powerful opinions, and strong feelings. As adults, we feel similarly and we do not purport to have answers. What matters, however, is providing an opportunity for students to ask questions and discuss these events.

In an email message to employees this afternoon, Mr. Wirtz wrote the following:

“Today's events in Washington are deeply unsettling and stand in stark contrast to the democratic ideals of our country and the values of the Hackley community. We encourage teachers to speak with students as would be developmentally appropriate, particularly in the Middle and Upper Schools. Even as they are at home for classes this week, they will still feel unsettled and have questions they want to process with their peers and with trusted adults.”

As shared in the message above, we encourage teachers to check in with students and foster discussions in their classes tomorrow as would be developmentally appropriate; Lower School teachers do not intend to directly engage in this conversation, unless it is raised by a student. Although the subject of what is transpiring is well-suited for history and government classes, there are opportunities for other disciplines to engage students as well. Division directors will meet with faculty members early tomorrow morning to begin conversations with them and to offer our support and encouragement for civic engagement. We also intend to set aside time in the Middle and Upper School schedules tomorrow for optional divisional “Air and Share” meetings, where students and teachers can convene for additional discussions.

As appropriate based on the age and temperament of your student(s), we hope you will have conversations with your children about these events; your student is likely looking to you for direction and understanding. The events we are witnessing speak to the urgency and importance of understanding our history, understanding democratic principles, and promoting and teaching civil discourse. We will use today’s events as a critical, teachable moment, and we thank you for your partnership as we unite together in support of our students.

Michael Wirtz P ’29’ ’31, Head of School
Lisa Oberstein, Director of the Lower School
Cyndy Jean, Director of the Middle School
Andy King, P ’30, Director of the Upper School