Our view: Lessons on acceptance | SteamboatToday.com

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Our view: Lessons on acceptance

At issue: Diversity Week was celebrated at Steamboat Springs High School last week, and events included a presentation by the first openly transgender athlete to compete in a men’s Division 1 sport.

Our view: The school district showed courage in hosting this speaker and we commend students and administrators for finding a way to educate people about racial, religious and gender differences.

Editorial Board:

• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Jim Patterson, evening editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Steve Ivancie, community representative
• Paul Stettner, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

 

Steamboat Springs High School students and staff celebrated their differences and their similarities during the school's first-every Diversity Week May 15 to 19. The observance was kicked off with a school-wide assembly featuring a presentation by Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender athlete to compete on a Division 1 men's college sports team.

The Harvard swimmer spoke about his journey and his struggle to "fit in," and based on the response from students, which was demonstrated during the question-and-answer time after his speech, the young man's words resonated with them.

We are proud of our local school district for being courageous in bringing a topic like this into the mainstream conversation and for supporting a student-led effort to educate people about different races, religions, genders and cultures.

As Superintendent Brad Meeks and SSHS Principal Kevin Taulman shared with the newspaper in advance of Bailar's presentation, the overall goal of Diversity Week was to make the high school a more safe and accepting place. In addition to academics, high school faculty and staff have the opportunity to teach students practical life lessons. In this case, a week celebrating diversity helped students learn how to interact and accept people who are different from them and ultimately, taught the students tolerance and acceptance.

We are proud of our local school district for being courageous in bringing a topic like this into the mainstream conversation and for supporting a student-led effort to educate people about different races, religions, genders and cultures.
-- Editorial Board

In a memo to high school staff, Taulman wrote: "Our community is filled with a wide variety of races, religions, genders and cultures, all of them equal in every way. It doesn't matter if you don't understand them all or even know they exist, but it does matter than you accept them all and do not judge any of them as less than worthy."

These words are powerful, especially during a time when our country seems to be particularly divided. And it's heartening that one of strongest calls for unity within our community has come from a group of concerned students working with school leaders to plan a week of activities aimed at sparking change and positive dialogue.

In addition to the presentation by Bailar, staff members began each of their classes last week by reading facts and statistics about topics pertaining to race, gender and religion. The purpose of sharing this information with students was to inform rather than convince, and in our experience and opinion, education is one of the best antidotes for bigotry and hate.

Taulman was also quick to point out that diversity was not something relegated to just one week on the school calendar. Instead, the week-long observance was just the start of creating a culture at the school that welcomes open discussion about students' differences and makes the campus a welcoming place for students and teachers, who come from different backgrounds and walks of life.

On a side note, we were also impressed with a letter to the editor written by Steamboat High School senior Libby Lukens, which ran in the Steamboat Today last week. Her take on history, which she learned in her high school AP American History class, was enlightening and it was another indicator of the caliber of open-minded, intelligent students the Steamboat Springs School District has a reputation for producing.

We're proud to live in a community that is home to a school district that looks for opportunities to celebrate cultural, religious, gender and racial differences and prepares students to live in a big, complex world outside of Steamboat where they will need to navigate life amid a sea of diversity. And thank you in particular to individual school administrators and students who joined forces to plan such a powerful week.