Thursday, February 19, 2015

"let us say with our actions that every life matters"

From Trevor Clement: 
A few years ago, when my wife was pregnant, we made the decision to find a new home. We wanted to give our child the best educational opportunities, and it became clear that the Franklin school system would do just that. I ran for a seat on School Committee because I wanted to help Franklin’s schools continue their excellence and high standards. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve, and I greatly enjoy the work. 
The School Committee recently had the first of two votes on a proposed change to the policy concerning memorials. At our most recent meeting, I voiced my objections to the proposed policy. Because this is such a sensitive issue, I wanted to lay out my position in more detail. The current policy does not allow for the donation of memorials bearing the name of a person. The proposed policy would allow such individualized memorials.
The proposed policy was written with the input of Franklin resident Rita Graci. I have nothing but respect and sympathy for the Graci family. Their loss is unfathomable and their strength and determination are extraordinary. I have had several conversations with Rita, and while we may disagree, she has always been polite, thoughtful, and considerate of other views. 
I am not opposed to having memorials in the school. In fact, I favor a policy where every loss is commemorated at the district’s expense. The memorials could be paving stones with names carved into them, or plaques that the family can personalize and which hang on a Wall of Remembrance. Whatever the method, the scope and nature of the memorials should be the same for everyone. 
What I am opposed to is valuing one life differently than another. Our schools are a place where all students are welcomed as equals, where they are treated with respect, and where they are given the same opportunities to succeed. When there is a loss, it affects the entire school community, and we should grieve that loss in a way that maintains our message of universal respect and the inherent value of every life. Every student is loved, every loss is a tragedy, and everyone should be given the same honor and recognition.  
We shouldn't have a policy that allows those with means or influence to have special consideration for their loved one. To allow one family to erect a statue creates the impression that one student’s life, and one family’s loss, is more worthy of respect and remembrance than others. We should be commemorating all those whom we have lost, not just those who can afford to be remembered. No family should be made to feel like their child is less important. No child should go through school wondering why their sibling didn’t deserve to be remembered. 
Some people are going to say that this doesn’t reflect how things are usually done; that the real world selects who is remembered. My response to that is: schools are different. 
School is where we teach our children how we want the world to be, not just how it is. We are preparing our students not only to be part of the world, but also to shape it and improve it. Great schools don’t sit on the floor of how things are; they strain against the ceiling of how things should be. The world may not be fair, but in this briefest time, when our children are our students and our actions speak so loudly, let us say with our actions that every life matters, and every life is worth remembering. 
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts. I can be reached at and welcome all comments and feedback.
the proposed Kristin Graci Class of 2007 Memorial
the proposed Kristin Graci Class of 2007 Memorial

The current and proposed policy revision documents can be found here

My notes from the Feb 10th School Committee meeting can be found here

The second reading of the policy revision is likely to be on the agenda for the Feb 24th School Committee. When the agenda is published, it will be made available here. 

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