Frank talk in Marblehead

Marblehead High School’s student protest last Thursday and a discussion scheduled for Monday show Marblehead is determined to shove racial injustice to the forefront of public debate.

Monday night’s forum on race in Abbot public library will focus on perceptions of “white privilege” but organizers promise give and take between attendees will range over a number of topics pertaining to race.

Why is race a hot topic in a small oceanfront town? The answer to that question lies in part with a strong bond forged between town residents and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). A glance at ADL New England’s website shows Marblehead students participating in “A World of Difference” training intended to spotlight anti-Semitism and focus positive debate on eliminating hatred.

That training and involvement by students and their mentors helped spark a dialogue on injustice and attitude of zero tolerance for hate acts and the passive acceptance of hate acts. Marblehead students bucked stereotypes of teenagers obsessed with social media and online banter last Thursday when they rallied outside the high school with signs and outspoken opinions about how hatred is addressed locally.

They took strong stands on calling for more education and more work on ways to eliminate racial injustice. They also zeroed in on specific hate-related incidents in the school in a manner that underscored their intelligence and passion for justice.

School administrators, in the view of students, were tardy in responding to the highlighted concerns. But Superintendent Maryann Perry and Principal Dan Bauer did not brush off student calls for action.

Perry clearly stated school administrators and students will move forward together to discuss and address hate incidents. Bauer declared “… zero tolerance for all forms of hate speech …” and mapped out in his comments a detailed approach to eliminating hate and racial injustice in Marblehead High School.

Bauer’s approach includes having “difficult conversations” and ensuring all students have a voice. His remarks and the courage and determination demonstrated by students show how challenges once largely or completely ignored by schools are now being discussed.

National movements to end bullying and champion the rights and voices of LGBTQ teenagers are firmly established. In Swampscott and other communities, student mental health has become a forefront of concern identifying the vital partnerships between students’ families and schools. Marblehead can take pride in demonstrating a commitment, led by the town’s younger residents, to identify and eradicate hate.

That admirable stance is true tribute to the town’s historic roots in the revolutionary thinking that helped shaped a new democracy more than 240 years ago.

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