Incident - LaFayette Jr/Sr High School - October 2021
October 15, 2021
Dear Staff Members and Families:
The district was made aware of a student situation that occurred yesterday at the LaFayette Jr/Sr High School. One student impulsively cut the hair of a Native American student . The student who cut the hair of this student was not aware of the cultural significance that hair has for Native American students and deeply regrets the actions that occurred. When our administration was made aware of the situation, administrators responded, investigated, and communicated with the families of both students. Due to privacy laws, we are unable to discuss any disciplinary action taken.
District administration met this morning with the victim’s family, clan mother, and chief. Representatives from the student’s clan were present at the school to support the victim and his family. School officials, Onondaga Nation leaders, and the families of both students involved believe that this situation should be used as an important learning opportunity for all of our students and community. In the short term, please be assured we are continuing to work with both families to address the matter, and request the community’s understanding that this work takes time.
Despite this being a matter between students, we recognize it has a significant impact on an entire community, especially one as strong and supportive as the Nation. Today, our high school principal, assistant principal, and I met with our students from the Onondaga Nation to make them aware that this situation occurred and that we are here to support all of our students. The district will plan a future student assembly to help educate all of our students and families about the cultures of the students that we serve. In spite of the numerous challenges in addressing the matter, we want to use this situation to help educate our students and families not only about the relevant safety concerns but cultural aspects that are important and significant. The Native American Liaison plans to work in small groups of students to address the impact of this incident on the community and upon individuals. In addition, the School District will continue its work on educating the community on cultural awareness and sensitivity. We ask families put in the work at home, as well: please communicate to students that it is never appropriate to touch another student, let alone cut their hair. For Native American students, hair is significant to the culture and a source of pride and connection to spirituality.
Although the District is proud of its diverse and supportive community, we recognize there is much work to be done. The District has been providing ongoing professional development to staff on Native American culture through panel discussions with Native American speakers and authors, book studies, and the use of talking circles. We have also expanded our efforts to educate students about Native American culture by reviewing our curriculum materials to make sure that curricula is culturally affirming for the students that we serve.
We will continue to have open dialogue with our partners from the Onondaga Nation, students, parents, and community members about how we can continue to model how our communities can come together when challenging situations occur. I encourage families to have conversations throughout the weekend about how we can work together to support one another through this challenging time. Please feel free to reach out with your thoughts on how we can move forward together in a positive direction for the sake of our students and our community.
Superintendent of Schools
LaFayette Central School District