In the aftermath of the hate-filled violence that occurred Saturday at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, I sent this message to our families to acknowledge the pain, the fear and the impact of these events and these words and offer my condolences.

There are many in our community who are affected not only by anti-Semitism, but also the anti-immigrant and racist movements happening around the country. What can we do? How can we help? Support each other. Love each other. Look to The Promise: we believe all children should be loved. I want to extend that love to our staff, families and community. Know that you are not alone, and now is the time to double down on our efforts against hatred and bigotry.

I look forward to hearing your comments, reflections or suggestions for me and our staff and schools.

Just a friendly reminder that comments that are personally directed, inappropriate or anonymous will not be posted.

27 Comments

  1. I am touched by your thoughtfulness and reassured by your leadership. I am grateful for the inclusive climate–it takes bravery and diligent effort to foster and maintain. Thank you.

  2. I am extremely concerned about the lack of security at Whatcom Middle School. I am new here and realize there are the outside classrooms but something needs to be done. It is better to be proactive.

    • Dear Paula, welcome to Bellingham, and thank you for taking the time to comment. The safety of our students is our most important priority. You can read more about our emergency and safety precautions, including the proactive steps we take on all our campuses at our Safety Q & A page: https://bellinghamschools.org/families/school-day-information/emergency-and-safety/safety-q-a/

      If you have any questions about Whatcom Middle School in particular, I encourage you to reach out to principal Jeff Coulter (Jeffrey.Coulter@bellinghamschools.org), assistant principal Tina Allsop (Tina.Allsop@bellinghamschools.org), or to our Director of School Safety and Emergency Management, Jonah Stinson (Jonah.Stinson@bellinghamschools.org). Sincerely, Greg

    • Dear Alissa, thank you for taking the time to share this link. I agree with the author that “We were entrusted with these insights to make children’s lives better…” and I hope that our actions in Bellingham Public schools show us to be firmly committed to creating change in our community when and where we can. Thanks, Greg

  3. Yes, we love our children. Doesn’t everyone?
    This year, the Bellingham School Board adopted Resolution 9 – 18. This resolution called for Olympia to adopt gun control, expressed its unwillingness to arm teachers (what, more guns on school ground?), and asked local gun merchants voluntarily to refrain from selling assault weapons to anyone and also to refrain from selling other guns to persons under 18 years of age. Few parents and members of the public are aware of this courageous resolution.
    Additionally, it would be most timely for your office to remind everyone that they should all exercise their right to vote in the approaching important election and participate in our democracy. In particular, consistent with Resolution 9 – 18, you might urge all voters to vote YES on Initiative 1639 which would help limit the availability of weapons in our state.

  4. Dr Baker – Thank you for your thoughtfulness and expression of condolence to the Jewish community. Being practicing Jews, with extended family that endured the horrors of the Warsaw ghetto, my sons and I appreciate your message of tolerance, especially with regard to ethnic origin and religious tolerance. Bless you.

  5. Thank-you Dr. Baker for your leadership, sentiments and words. My child was touched yesterday when Ms. Yaude pulled him aside to express her condolences for what happened in Pittsburgh. That’s the Bellingham Promise at work. If she hadn’t known that we’re Jewish, she wouldn’t have reached out. You asked for thoughts about what we can do to end hatred and bigotry: I think that one way is to work harder to break down the barriers which preclude us from getting to know one another. We need opportunities to develop an understanding of and respect for our differences, and connect over our commonalities. Let’s create a district culture where students, staff, and parents are encouraged to set their screens aside for a while and take the time to engage with one other, face to face and heart to heart.

    • Hello, Else, thank you so much for taking the time to share your and your child’s story, and for your ideas around further action steps we can take here in Bellingham to build understanding and acceptance. Let’s keep the lines of communication open. – Greg

  6. I was touched after reading the article in the Bellingham Herald about the scene the police officer came upon when he found Matthew Shepard 20 years ago. He found a deer lying next to Matthew, the victim of a hate crime. When the police officer went closer the deer looked up into his/her eyes then got up and bounded away. If we only as human beings, all essentially belonging to the same human family under and in heaven could only practice the same love, compassion, empathy and acceptance that this and other deer and animals have toward us humans, what a beautiful world we would have.

  7. Greg:

    Thank you for your words of understanding and support. Yes indeed, we do love our children. As do all people.

    Perhaps you could remind everyone that in April of this year, our Bellingham School Board UNANIMOUSLY adopted Resolution 9 – 18 to enhance school safety. https://bellinghamschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Attachment-A-Student-Safety-Resolution.pdf That Resolution calls for Olympia to pass gun control, makes it clear that we do not want our Bellingham teachers to be armed, and asks local firearm merchants voluntarily to stop selling assault weapons and to refrain from selling any guns to persons under age 21.

    Just a few days short of a most important election, please remind all parents (and others) to be sure to vote! THAT is our civic responsibility. In that connection, to improve the safety of our children, it would also be appropriate to urge voters to vote YES on Initiative 1639 which would reduce the number of assault weapons and other firearms in our community.

  8. I wanted to express my thanks for a well written and thoughtful response to the hatred we are seeing played out. I hope that every school works hard to eliminate bullying and to teach empathy to the students. I looked at the resources on your page and wanted to let you know that you have missed one resource. Brigid Collins Family Support Center works with families to support them in various ways. One way is by teaching evidence-based positive parenting. That is an essential component to teaching children positive self-respect and empathy. I hope you research what else Brigid Collins does for families and include them in your resources.

    • Hi Cheryl, thank you for taking the time to remind us about another valuable resource for families in the Bellingham community. I will pass on your suggestion; thank you! -Greg

  9. Using your position in the school to allows others to push gun control and individual initiatives on your blog is a little out of place, don’t you think? Allowing people to post “vote yes on 1639” is very inappropriate. I could say the bill criminalizes self-defense, and makes it so our 18 year olds can fight and die in our military, but cannot even own a hunting rifle in WA until they are 21. They can die for you, but not own a gun. What happened was a terrible tragedy, a disgusting, devastating thing that should never have happened. But please don’t use this tragedy to push political jargon, or allow others to do so on YOUR blog. It shows no compassion to the victims whatsoever.

    • Hello, Benjamin, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. My blog is just one venue for our community to give feedback and share ideas in a public forum. I hope it’s clear that I am thanking commenters for sharing their thoughts and ideas, but not endorsing any particular voting stance. I welcome all comments that honor our commenting policy. -Greg

  10. Hello Dr Baker,

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to voice our parental concerns on your public bog. As Superintendent of the public schools my children attend, could you please expand upon the “anti-immigrant and racist movements happening at a national level” you explicitly referred to in your opening paragraph from your recent email? I am unaware of any such influential organizations pushing such a terrible agenda. My children certainly need to know the specifics of something as awful as what you alluded to. I look forward to hearing from you about this frankly amazing information you sent to me via email. Thank you for your time.

    • Hello James, thank you for taking the time to reach out. Most specifically, I was referring to the recent anti-Semitic hate crime in Pittsburgh, which was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history. This event had a serious impact on our Jewish community here in Bellingham, as you can see from some of the other parents’ comments. -Greg

  11. As a parent of three Jewish children who attending BPS k-12 I- thank you for speaking out on this tragedy. My children all did experience some anti-Semitism from peers so I am glad for the added awareness about this form of hate.

    • Hi Darcie, thank you for sharing your story, and I’m sorry for what your children experienced. We welcome any feedback you may have about making our schools even more inclusive communities. -Greg

  12. I appreciate the thoughts and hopes but there is a serious racist problem in your school district. Ive know 2 boys that were the brunt of anti-semetic and other racists remarks made on a daily basis in programs that are supposed to be training our youth for the job market. How about some basic anti-harrassment training, and how to not discriminate in the work place and what legal actions people can take and consequences. There are some irresponsible people that think the *N* word is acceptable that need to learn it is NOT. There’s a whole curriculum here that could make better citizens that could counter these ill informed students that are harrassing their peers.

    • Hi Alana, thank you for sharing your story. I encourage you to continue to communicate with our staff, because the behavior you describe is behavior we would want to address with our students. Our recently-adopted social emotional learning curriculum does address bullying and harassment. This is a big topic for our students and our schools as we work to build good citizens for the future. – Greg

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