When public events happen as Superintendent of a large public school district, I’m not certain when I should add my voice to the conversation or when I should stay silent. Over the past few days, our country has been shocked by the death of George Floyd, a Black American in Minneapolis. After those videos have become public there have been public demonstrations and rioting in many U.S. cities including, here, in Columbus, Ohio. I could never condone property destruction. Martin Luther King Jr. said that “a riot is a language of the unheard” and as hard as that is for some of us to relate to and understand, some things have to change.
Growing up my dad was in federal law enforcement. My uncle was a Columbus Police Officer. In Worthington Schools, we have deep relationships with police officers in Worthington, Columbus, and Perry Township. I have great respect for those who choose to put their life on the line to protect us and work to keep us safe. I’m proud to call many in law enforcement my close friends.
But, we do have a problem in America. As a dad raising three white daughters I never worry about how my daughters will be perceived when they walk into our local retail stores or if they are stopped by the police. I don’t worry about what clothes they wear when they go out for a run. My nephew is black. He lives 1.4 miles from me and I worry about him every day. I worry about how he is perceived when he walks into a store. I worry about him doing something similar to what my girls might do and the consequences being much greater. We’ve had to talk about things that I never thought I’d have to talk about. As a white male, I just didn’t understand. Now I do. The difference in what our white students experience and our black students experience is real. Even in Worthington, Ohio.
In Worthington Schools, over 2,000 of our students are black or multi-racial. Clearly, I am not black, but I am outraged. I am sad. We stand with our Worthington students and families of color. We care about you and we love you. Our school district must be a place where everybody is safe. Everybody, always! We’re not there yet, but we aspire to be there. We’re committed to getting better every day. To listening, learning, and creating environments that are safe for all of our students.
To our families in Worthington, I would say:
Hug your kids.
Teach them to love others.
Teach them to be people of goodwill.
Teach them to show goodwill towards every person they meet regardless of their background or the color of their skin.
Teach them to reach for justice whenever justice is within their reach.
- Trent Bowers, Superintendent