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To the Editor:

An Open Letter to the Director Bill Spurlock, Principal Clark Blair and the Rutherford County Board of Education:

The recent incident at McFadden School of Excellence, where a boy was permitted to dress as Hitler, departs from Rutherford County Schools’ tradition of empowering students to become the good citizens of tomorrow. After reading the news reports, we believe that several issues need to be addressed.

We are concerned that this incident perpetuates hate speech in schools. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the country, and condoning impersonations of Hitler is an anti-Semitic act. Further, we are troubled by reports that the 11-year-old girl who attempted to stop other students from declaring “Heil Hitler” in the hallways for several days was bullied by students for her ethical acts of conscience. That her concerns were dismissed by school officials suggests ineffective leadership at best and agreement with the student actors at worst.

Because the male students in question were allowed to stay in the classroom and the female student was removed by her teacher, her right to an education was eclipsed by the boys’ rights to hate speech. In addition, we know the threat of violence in our schools today is real, and any action that appears to condone violence should be questioned.

These unfortunate acts must be addressed. We invite you to a meeting with representatives of our organizations to discuss what resources you might need to address this situation and to ensure that the difficult lessons of the Holocaust and World War II are adequately addressed with all students at McFadden.

We have four specific concerns:

1. The school system is ill-equipped to discuss genocide in an ethical and compassionate manner.

2. The school has inadvertently perpetuated hate-filled acts by its approach to this difficult topic.

3. The school has likely trampled the female student’s rights under Title IX and potentially under Title VI.

4. As a selective enrollment elementary school charged with preparing Murfreesboro’s best and brightest, McFadden is responsible for setting an example for future leaders. We are concerned that the school is not taking its mission seriously.

At AAUW, we support equity for all. Our mission requires us to work to advance gender equity for women and girls, and to ensure that educational and workplace environments are free of prejudice and bias.

The undersigned organizations also support equity and equality and decry hatred in all its forms. Our organizations have a long history in Murfreesboro and in the region, and we support our schools’ commitment to fostering an environment of equal opportunity in education for all children.

Knowing the atrocities of history provides important lessons of how not to repeat them. These lessons must be taught in a reasonable and responsible way.

By meeting with you, we hope to elevate the best that Murfreesboro has to offer.

Dia Cirillo, President

American Association of University Women, Murfreesboro Chapter

Letter also signed by Jason Scales, pastor, Believers Faith Fellowship; Laurie Rice, rabbi, Congregation Micah; Philip “Flip” Rice, rabbi, Congregation Micah; James McCarroll, pastor, First Baptist Murfreesboro; Joshua Kullock, rabbi, West End Synagogue; C.A. Johnson Sr., bishop, Zion Christian Ministries International, Inc. Also attached to the letter was a note from AAUW Murfreesboro Media Relations Chair Michelle Willard indicating that the group of community and faith leaders in Rutherford County has requested a meeting with administrators to discuss the actions of several students and the response from the school.

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