How do we support our young people in the face of political divisions? Students in Bloomington Normal, IL are sharing core values on how to interact.
This election is affecting Americans on a personal level perhaps more than any election in our lifetimes. People on both sides of the political divide are taking the rhetoric and the election results to heart. Given the fact that the results are so close and our country is so divided, everyone is feeling disillusioned. Some people are very disappointed. Others are fearful of the changes that they worry may occur. Many are feeling dispirited, and in some cases isolated in their community. In Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, one of our Not In Our Schools chapters decided to do something about it.
The NIOS group at U-High, a laboratory high school at Illinois State University, is associated with the Bloomington-Normal Welcoming Initiative, a local undertaking to create a community that welcomes and supports immigrants. One of the NIOS students is a member of the group and drafted a "Values Statement," reaffirming the values of the student community. Teacher Mary Aplington, the faculty advisor for the student Senate, shared the statement with us with the hope that others will do something similar in their own communities.
"It is powerful. Some other area students, working with their schools' administrators, asked that they create similar statements of values and support prior to the election. We're encouraging the development of these statements on a district level. This is a new initiative; I don't know how far we'll get," says Mary.
Here's the statement.
Statement of Values
In response to this tense electoral season, which promises to become one of the most monumental elections of our lifetimes, the U-High Student Senate would like to affirm the below statements. These values will guide our behavior as we navigate the post-election season.
Responsibility: We have a responsibility to first individually understand and validate our own emotions concerning the elections, so that we can reduce the harm inadvertently inflicted on ourselves and each other.
Understanding: Understanding the circumstances behind others’ reactions does not equate endorsement or excuses, but reflects our desire to empathize and our acknowledgement of the stakes in this election.
Justice & Accountability: The agency granted to us as students to express our unique viewpoints comes with the trust that we do not abuse our abilities. Violating this trust requires our community to come together to address the harms and prevent future ones.
Diversity & Respect: Promoting acceptance and inclusivity is not and should not be a partisan stance. We value and affirm all identities, and understand that respect cannot be contingent upon likeability or agreement.
Initiative: The community at U-High will be proactive instead of reactive. We will take the pre-election season to affirm our bonds with one another, and stay diligent in observing, reporting, and pushing back against harm.
Peace & Safety: All students have a right to feel safe within their learning environments. Dialogue that sparks discomfort is necessary for growth, but we acknowledge the distinction between discomforting and destructive language.
At U-High, we strive to make the world around us one that is full of mutual respect and understanding towards all, regardless of difference in opinion or background. Before, during, and forever following this historic election season, the halls of U-High will be a haven for everyone seeking inclusivity, diversity, and peace.
We urge our peers in the U-High community to take these values and have courageous conversations when necessary. Consult the election-related resources offered by the counseling center, reach out to the Student Senate, or contact our Student Diversity Committee, whose values inspired this statement, for help in beginning these conversations.
The Not in Our School club here at U-High is also offering election-related restorative circles, so students of all political affiliations have a space to share their thoughts and listen to others’ perspectives.
— U-High's Student Senate
Mary also shared these great faculty resources to help prepare your classroom for conversations concerning the election.
Images: Thumbnail: Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash; Featured image: June 26, 2020: In the Not In Our School march to celebrate the black LGBTQ+ community, more than 50 protesters, many of whom were high school students, rallied at Maxwell Park in Normal before taking to the streets with LGBTQ Pride flags and Black Lives Matter posters. During the rally, high school and Illinois State University students were featured in their powerful speeches to bring attention to the police brutality suffered by the LGBTQ+ community. (Courtesy of U-High Instagram)