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My school was rightly convicted, but the sentence is wrong

Carolyn Shadid Lewis

I am a Mission Hill School parent. My family loves the school, and my daughter has thrived in her four years there. Yet our community must now face a cognitive dissonance — loving and devoted educational leaders failed to prioritize the safety of vulnerable children. Abuse is wrong. Bullying is wrong. Educators must lead. I cannot imagine the horror of what these children faced.

Yet should the school close? No. Closing the school will only leave an open wound for the district that will never have an opportunity to heal. The hurt will spread throughout other schools and communities.

The school has experienced trauma, the worst of which began with a very young child who was abused outside of school. He brought that pain into school and spread it to others. Trauma begets trauma. Our school leader’s failure to protect innocent children greatly increased the trauma for the school.

The school leaders, educators and students involved in these events are no longer at the school. Yet, trauma continues to beget more trauma. Closing the school will not help the victims — it fractures and displaces a community already in pain. The district’s action hurts innocent children, teachers and families who had nothing to do with the trauma from years ago.

Are there other possibilities than closure? Yes. Rename or relocate the school. Invest in the social/emotional well-being of our students and teachers. Allow time for the community to heal. Let the search committee continue its work to find a new principal. Bring in new teachers. Improve the educational and leadership models that led to these problems. Find a balance between the requirements of the district and the enriching, culturally relevant education for which Mission Hill School is known.

Is it possible to continue a school with such a history of trauma? Yes. I look to two examples from my own experience. I went to high school in Denver, Colorado and played basketball at neighboring Columbine High School. The Columbine shooters also hated us and left a bomb at my high school too. Yet, Columbine is still open with the same name. They just had their 5K Run for Remembrance, a part of the school’s continued healing process.

Additionally, I am of Lebanese descent. My family’s village, Marjayoun, borders Israel. My family visited in 2000 after the Israeli Army pulled out from a 15-year occupation of the area. Hezbollah flags adorned abandoned Israeli tanks. We visited a relative who was the principal of a thriving school. He spoke to us of the importance of keeping the school running during the Lebanese Civil War, during Israeli Occupation, and during Hezbollah presence in the area.

“A school is the lifeblood of the community,” he said. “It gives everyone hope for the future.”

Israeli bombs destroyed the school in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. The village immediately rebuilt the school, because it was the lifeblood of their community.

Boston, can we please start seeing our schools for what they are — the lifeblood of our community? We do not prioritize our children’s education in this city. Let’s learn from the trauma at Mission Hill School and transform how we approach schooling in Boston.

Carolyn Shadid Lewis is an artist, filmmaker, educator and BPS parent.

Mission Hill School, opinion