Letter: Brenda Bengtson, Hamilton

Editor: Maria Montessori stated that “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” 

We may not understand their lived experiences, but all LCPS students deserve an inviting and welcoming atmosphere at school. Imagine walking into class where an adult refuses to identify a child by a chosen name. Imagine that honest discussions about history are discouraged because of discomfort in talking about racial disparities. Imagine that civility is denied to students exhibiting cultural mores.  Can we view those situations through the eyes of children and youth? Freedom of speech and expression don’t mean freedom to discriminate or license to threaten those with whom we disagree.

Students and school employees should expect to be treated fairly, equitably. By honoring basic rules of respect and safety, with parents and teachers as allies and advocates, all students can celebrate their humanity, uniqueness, and achievement. We hope that teachers and students alike do not reinforce confirmation bias, whether intentional or not.

However, negative role modeling has been on display and social media amplifies it.  At the June 8 School Board meeting, I watched in horror as a Fairfax teacher/reporter harassed elementary-aged children who spoke about equity. Video of the proceedings indicates talking points, buzzwords, and loud disruptions. How are threats perceived through the lens of a child? 

I signed up to speak on June 22, to express support for all children. The School Board added three hours for public comment into an already tight schedule. Although I sat up front, it was difficult to hear. Hundreds of us were unable to speak because of unruly audience interruptions. People stood on chairs and shouted at the superintendent. The room was cleared and an arrest made. What does that signal to children about rules of decorum? 

Afterwards, I spoke outside with a woman carrying a clipboard, presumably for signatures. She seemed sincerely disturbed by the events, as was I. We agreed that a large group forum was not the most productive for discussing complex issues.   

Later, I found out that a retired teacher was solicited to fund the recall. She asked, “why would I do that?” Notably, 90% of voters have not signed petitions. Imagine how those funds could directly benefit Loudoun’s children: $130,000 could go far to support summer programs in STEM or coding, visual or performing arts; meals for the food insecure or Backpack Buddies supplies; assistance for internet connections or help for homeless youth; or “early back” programs for students needing extra support.  

I’m grateful for LCPS teachers and colleagues who demonstrated a belief in me. My wish for current LCPS teachers, administrators, and School Board members is to enjoy a productive 2021-22 school year, continue the necessary dialogue about equity and diversity, and send students this message: You are all welcome here.

Brenda Bengtson, Hamilton

7 thoughts on “Letter: Brenda Bengtson, Hamilton

  • 2021-08-02 at 12:48 pm

    “Freedom of speech and expression don’t mean freedom to discriminate or license to threaten those with whom we disagree.”

    Does the writer mean the secret online hate group made up of teachers, administrators, and elected officials who worked to threaten families, mothers and their children, who questioned public policy?

    Save the ‘holier than thou’ routine for somebody who falls for it.

  • 2021-08-03 at 8:21 am

    Brenda, I don’t have to imagine any of the events you mentioned as I saw them and heard of them over 8 years on the school board and via my three children who attended LCPS. Why don’t you ask where is the report of bullying events by school by day? Which adult in any school has been held accountable for repetitive bullying following a formal complaint? Now imagine how awful it is for any child to come into a school KNOWING none of the staff will be held accountable for an unsafe atmosphere that THEY are victimized by. It is all about the kids but don’t blame parents for expressing well founded complaints in the only forum they have access to. When parents obtain direct and formal input rights to staff performance evaluations I would expect much less of the frustration you apparently witnessed. Another example is that policy mandates only homework which has already been covered in class is justified and that should never exceed certain time limits. Do you think this mandate is actually followed by EVERY teacher? Please tell us which teacher was fired “ever” for violating it yet one teacher recently was fired for expressing an out of school opinion. I don’t agree with his opinion but he had a basic right to express it without losing his career didn’t he? Where is the equity in that? 🙂

  • 2021-08-03 at 9:31 am

    Maybe the group was kept secret because they were afraid of the overly aggressive response from the dying vestiges of “me first” population.

  • 2021-08-03 at 10:51 am

    Imagine a teenage girl walks into a shower to find a biological boy there.

    Imagine public money actually following the students so parents can get their children a real education and not be stuck in a school system they don’t want to be in.

  • 2021-08-03 at 4:28 pm

    I agree. All of the money spent on LCSB’s pet projects should instead support in class/lunch needs of the students. Teachers shouldn’t have to buy supplies for their classrooms. This includes money spent on a headhunter who recommended the guy already in the job. Money that could have filled back packs, offset lunch cost and provided other suggested items.

  • 2021-08-03 at 4:51 pm

    Boys are going to subject themselves to the brutal bullying that currently occurs to transgender youth just to get a peek at a naked girl. Makes total sense.

    • 2021-08-04 at 4:51 pm

      While I agree that nobody is going to subject themselves to the bullying just to get a peak. However what happens when the bullying stops, which is the goal of the writer.

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