Bullying, harassment, racism, sexism, and hate speech have NO place in Community High School District 117.

I want to use the metaphor of two sides of the same coin to explain the complexities of education in Community High School District 117.

On one side of the coin, the start of 2019-20 school year has been strong and positive.  In recent months, U.S. News and World Report and Niche have both recognized Community High School District 117 as among the top school districts in the state of Illinois.  Similarly, both Antioch and Lakes Community High Schools achieved the summative designation of Exemplary, as measured by the Illinois State Board of Education.  Given the district and school performance criteria employed by these organizations, Community High School District 117 appears to be doing very well, and I agree we are trending in the right direction.  Beyond student academic achievement data, our fall athletic teams are doing very well and are highly competitive, the District’s Fine Arts programs continue to produce amazing performances/products, and our extracurricular activities afford rich and unique experiences to our students.  We should be proud of the opportunities and experiences students have at both of our community schools, and the incredibly dedicated staff that afford those opportunities and provide those experiences. 

On the other side of the same coin, Community High School District 117 does have challenges and certainly has room for growth and improvement.  Recently, the Administration had the opportunity to discuss with some families their views and perceptions regarding policies and practices that directly impact the school environment and ultimately, the experiences of our collective students.  The open, honest, and rich dialogue revealed some potential school shortcomings and possible opportunities for improvement.  The exchange of stories and ideas was moving and helpful, shedding light on a variety of topics.  We learned that while most of the student body appears outwardly happy and well adjusted, privately, some are hurting deeply.  The source of their hurt stems from hateful comments made by their peers and by some adults, the inability to see parts of our learning environment as safe spaces, and a lack of an authentic and genuine sense of belonging.  Being seen, heard, accepted, safe, and cared for are human rights that every single student deserves.  I know and trust that we all understand that a school environment that is not welcoming or safe does not allow for optimal learning.  Moreover, most people want and expect the school learning environment to protect students from negative or damaging influences.  Surely, we all can agree that our most valuable and vital resource is our students.  Educating them to understand right from wrong, respect from hate, and good from bad is a fundamental responsibility of us all. Community High School District 117 is committed to creating a rich, equitable, and respectful learning environment for all.  We believe in our mission statement: Ignite passion and discovery in every student.  We will continue to develop ways to extend the thinking, learning, and opportunities for all of our students, staff, and families.  To that end, it is critically important that we are explicit in stating that bullying, harassment, racism, sexism, and hate speech of any and all kinds are not acceptable and have NO place in our District.  Please work with us to discourage, report, and address these hurtful behaviors. 

Yours for better education, Dr. Jim McKay