Advocating for children in school

August 11, 2017

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In preparation for the school year and the Jewish High Holy Days, it’s important to be proactive in communicating with faculty and administrators about these holidays so Jewish students have the opportunity to observe without penalty. While schools may try their best to be sensitive to students from many backgrounds, they have a responsibility to acknowledge and respond to concerns. Methods for parents to advocate for students in the classroom include:

• Talk to teachers at the beginning of the school year about concerns or issues. Offer to partner with the teacher in creating a positive learning environment that respects the identities of all students. Work in a constructive way to get the teacher invested in your child.
• Bring teachers a copy of CRC’s Five-Year Calendar of Major Jewish Holidays, found at JewishVA.org/CRCHolidayCalendar. As soon as possible, make note of the holidays when a child will be absent from school and request make-up assignments. Although all superintendents, heads of school, and principals in Tidewater middle and high schools have already received this letter and calendar, it is still a good idea to share the calendar or dates with the principal and assistant principal.
• Share resources with teachers and administrators. The CRC can provide recommendations of websites, articles, workshops, and programs for teachers and families on issues of cultural sensitivity and discrimination.
• If an issue comes up in the classroom or the school that requires attention, start by going through the appropriate channels: Teacher or guidance counselor, then assistant principal, followed by principal, and then if the issue is still unresolved, assistant superintendent/superintendent of schools or school board.
• Contact the CRC for assistance. The CRC can help to ensure positive results with the least amount of outside intervention.
• In the most serious cases, where anti-Semitic threats or racist graffiti are involved, contact the CRC who will contact the appropriate offices to ensure the incident is recorded and handled properly.

For a downloadable version of CRC’s Five-Year Calendar of Major Jewish Holidays, visit JewishVA.org/ CRCHolidayCaldendar.

The Community Relations Council is the public affairs arm of the organized Tidewater Jewish community. It represents area synagogues and Jewish agencies on issues impacting the rights and protection of Jews as individuals and as a community. The CRC works to educate the community on public affairs issues and translates these issues into community action with the greater community, public officials, other faith and ethnic communities, and the media.

For more information, contact Wendy Weissman, assistant director CRC, at WWeissman@ujft.org or 757-965-6107.

- Wendy Weissman

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