At the last minute, I was afraid no one would come. The skies had opened up and it was pouring. I worried that the topic wouldn't matter as much to others as it did to me.
I needn't have worried.
Forty people came out on a Monday evening in the pouring rain to share and listen to stories about the Howard County Schools dress code. The chairs were set up to form a very large circle. The circle was filled.
We all learned how difficult it is to listen just to listen. It is so easy to begin listening, then think, "Ooh! Yes! I have this thing that riffs off your thing" and then we have stopped fully listening. Throughout the evening it was a work in progress: a desire to truly listen to and respect the stories of others in the circle, while straining to respond and speak out on a topic many felt passionately about.
There were many stories. To the extent that they were stories where students were diminished and disrespected, I feel sad. But as a parent whose child has been shamed/"dress-coded" I feel a sense of solidarity with others who came last night. I am not alone.
Vision 2018 of the Howard County School System states, under the heading Goal 1: Students--
Every student achieves academic excellence in an inspiring, engaging and supportive environment.
We have some work to do in ensuring that environment is truly inspiring, engaging, and supportive. Last night was only the beginning.
Special thanks go to the UUCC in Owen Brown for allowing us to use their space, Jean Joklik for facilitating, Lisa Kehle for coordinating, and to the Rabid Minds Collective of Oakland Mills High School for presenting their poem from the Oakland Mills High School talent show, "27 reasons why women are never living just surviving". They were absolutely awesome.
Interested in being a part of the solution? Look for updates here.