On Monday night, (April 22) I had the opportunity to attend the District 112 School Board meeting where many of our residents shared their personal stories about how discrimination and racism have impacted them and our community. I want to thank these residents for having the courage to stand up and speak.
I must admit that prior to hearing these stories, and the challenges students in our school district have faced, that I was not completely aware of how much these incidents have negatively impacted our residents’ lives. It was a blind spot, and for that I apologize.
As the mayor of Chaska, I speak for the City Council and our residents when I state there is no place for hatred, bigotry, racism or discrimination of any kind in our community. It will not be tolerated, and it must be addressed.
Our children deserve to grow up in a community where they feel safe, appreciated, and where they do not have to worry about experiencing hatred of any kind. We owe that to our children and every resident.
Over 30 years ago, the four cities of School District 112 came together as part of the district’s Youth Development Plan to identify Core Community Values, which include Citizenship, Environmentalism, Generosity, Human Worth and Dignity, Integrity, Learning, Respect for Others, and Responsibility.
This set of Community Values was adopted by each of the city councils, along with the District 112 School Board. These core concepts were meant to serve as the foundation for who we are and what we stand for as a community. These values leave no place for hatred or discrimination.
Over the past several months, these values have been tested. Hateful incidents impact individuals, families, and friends in profound ways that challenge their sense of humanity and belonging. These are community issues that can only truly be addressed if we work together.
I am calling on all residents, administrators, faith organizations, local groups, and local businesses to come together and denounce all forms of hate, including racism and bigotry. It is going to take the commitment of our entire community to address these issues and be conscious about respecting every individual. We cannot allow our community to be defined by hate.
We need to take measurable action. While I will not pretend to know all the answers for how to move forward, we need to start somewhere. For that reason, the city of Chaska has already moved fo rward with three initial steps.
The city will be meeting with District 112 leadership to better understand the issues that we are facing and to discuss what steps we need to initially take to move us forward.
We are working with Twin Cities YMCA to bring an implicit bias workshop to Chaska. This excellent training is designed to address how our personal interactions are influenced by unconscious attitudes and stereotypes. The training will provide us with an opportunity to start a dialog.
We are working with a facilitation group to bring together the leaders across our community to spend time identifying root causes of these issues, ideas for how to address these issues, and the roles and responsibilities we must all take to implement real and lasting change.
An important part of these steps will be to deliberately involve our community members. We need to have voices from groups like our Human Rights Commission and a diverse representation of impacted individuals in these discussions.
While none of these steps will be “the answer,” I believe these steps will help us start building the inclusive and welcoming community we all deserve.
We must stand as a unified voice against all forms of hatred. I urge you to support these efforts and be active participants. This important work will define who we are going to be into the future.