An Open Letter to Students

January 30, 2017

An Open Letter to Burlington Students:

It is hard not to hear many adult conversations and see news reports around you regarding the recent restrictions on immigration.  Many people are struggling with questions of belonging.  Some question if everyone belongs and whether we can be safe.  Please be assured that all of you belong in the Burlington Schools.  Our commitment to educating all of you has never been more unyielding and important.

In my opinion, adults simply need to look inside our classrooms and learn from you.  I see classrooms where everyone is accepted regardless of faith, culture, ability, economic standing, and other differences.  You all believe in the best of your classmates and their intentions.  What you may not realize is that these lessons have been at the heart of public schools for a long time.

A part of the answer to the question of who belongs in public school can be seen in the Supreme Court’s decision in Plyler v. Doe (1982).  In Plyler, the Supreme Court determined that children belong in our public schools no matter how the children came to live in a community.  In other words, a child’s immigration status is not relevant.  You are all learners first.  If you live in Burlington, you are welcome in school.  You belong in school.  You are safe in school.  You are loved in school.

Moreover, nearly 75 years prior to the Plyler decision, John Dewey, a great American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, said:

“The intermingling in the school of youth of different races, differing religions, and unlike customs creates for all a new and broader environment. Common subject matter accustoms all to a unity of outlook upon a broader horizon than is visible to the members of any group while it is isolated. The assimilative force of the American public school is eloquent testimony to the efficacy of the common and balanced appeal.”

John Dewey, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education

Please know that all of you belong, and together in Burlington, we are creating a broader horizon for everyone.

Thank you, Eric Conti  

14 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Students

  1. T J Dwyer

    Hi Eric…loved your letter. So happy to see this statement in support of Human Rights and the rights of students. Retirement is great. I do miss Burlington and your leadership.
    T. Jane (Graham-Dwyer )

  2. lcestnick

    Thank you! ..for this much needed and well stated letter making students feel loved and supported. Share worthy and sharing! Thank you again 🙂 ❤ Dr. Laurie Cestnick (pediatric neuropsych/psychologist)

  3. Ruthann Covino

    Thank you for making our students feel cared for in our town. That is why Burlington is a great place to live!

  4. A Woburn Public Schools teacher

    Beautifully written. Thank you so much for helping to spread the ever-important values of love and acceptance, regardless of our differences, throughout the Middlesex League.


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