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Standing Together as a Community in the Wake of Intolerance in our Country

Dear Lang School Community,


I am sure many of you have heard in the news of the tragic passing of Nex Benedict, a student in Oklahoma who identified as ‘gender-expansive’ (an umbrella term for people who don’t align with traditional gender categories, or who expand ideas of gender expression or identity). For many years Nex was bullied due to their gender identity and just recently they were attacked by a group of students while using a bathroom at the school they attended. According to current reports, it appears that Nex eventually passed away due to the injuries sustained in that assault. I am deeply saddened by this act of hate at another school, but I am reminded how lucky I am to be at Lang and leading a school community that is filled with such love, acceptance, and affirmation.


I shared the following letter with our middle and upper school students:


I want to talk to you about something really sad that's been in the news lately. You might have heard about Nex Bennedict, a student in Oklahoma who identified as 'gender-expansive.' That means they didn't fit into traditional boy or girl gender categories and they preferred not to use the term non-binary. Nex faced a lot of bullying because of who they were, and recently, they were hurt by some other students at their school.


It's heartbreaking to see someone hurt because of hate, but I'm grateful that here at Lang School, we have a community that's all about love and acceptance.


At Lang, we believe that every single person deserves to be loved, accepted, and supported, no matter who they are. It's up to each of us, as part of this community, to make sure that everyone feels safe and valued here, regardless of our differences.


In times like this, it's super important that we remind ourselves to be inclusive and understanding. We're going to keep learning about different people, whether they're from different races, religions, sexualities, genders, and more. By learning together and talking openly, we can make our community even stronger.


Let me be really clear about something: The Lang School will always be a safe place where everyone is welcome, no matter what. We won't stand for hate, discrimination or bullying of any kind.  If you have questions about something you do not understand, please ask a staff member or teacher for support.  If you are experiencing conflict with peers at Lang because of who you are, please inform your advisor or come see me directly, so we can intervene.  All of you are loved at Lang. 


I also want you to know that our staff have already begun our own learning with the support of an organization called PFLAG and another called Facing History and Ourselves so that we can continue to build a school community that embraces difference and opportunities for learning.  We know that even as adults we will not always get things right but we are open to your feedback and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure a safe space for all. 


Let's keep supporting each other and spreading love in our community.


At the Lang School, we hold steadfast to the belief that every individual deserves love, acceptance, and unwavering support. It is incumbent upon each of us, as members of this community, to uphold these principles and ensure that everyone, regardless of their background or identity, feels valued and safe within our walls.


In light of this tragedy, I must reiterate our commitment to fostering a culture of inclusivity and understanding.  At Lang, we will continue to actively engage in learning more about those who may differ from one another, whether it be in terms of race, religion, sexuality, gender, or any other perceived difference. Through empathy, education, and open dialogue, we can build bridges of understanding and compassion that transcend barriers and unite us as one community.


Furthermore, I urge parents to engage in critical conversations with their children at home about the importance of respect and acceptance towards others. We can cultivate a future generation that embraces diversity and champions equality by instilling these values from a young age.


Let me be unequivocally clear: The Lang School will always be a sanctuary of love and acceptance in every sense of the word. We will never waver in our stance against hate, bigotry, or discrimination of any kind. As I have shared in the past few “Looking Forward” messages, the faculty and staff are continuing to engage in our own learning to support our collective ability to share culturally responsive pedagogy and curriculum on a variety of topics and we do this in collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves and PFLAG.


I ask all of our families to engage in their own learning at home and through those opportunities available through the school. Members of the cis-gender and straight communities must engage in this work. They often have the most to learn and can work with their children to help us grow our safe learning community at Lang. 


In collaboration,

Mark

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