Open Letter to ER9 Superintendent Dr. Rydell Harrison and Tri-Board of Education

Dear Doctor Harrison and Members of the Boards,

I served on the Region 9 Board of Education for nine years. During that tenure I authored a policy affirming the school’s respect for parental rights and it was adopted by the board. Unfortunately, it seems to have been deleted.

I am writing to call your attention to the lack of such a policy and to respond to Dr. Harrison’s recent communications to the parents of students in our schools and to the public in general and to put in front of these Boards sentiments and viewpoints that I know are shared by many.

Like you, I watched with dismay as a group of citizens illegally entered and vandalized the Capitol building on Jan. 6. Like millions of Americans, I watched in disbelief as the rioting and looting of Antifa and Black Lives Matter rolled out across the days of 2020. I was frozen in bewilderment as urban mayors allowed lawbreakers to vandalize, terrorize, and even take over areas of our nation’s cities. Every one of these instances of lawlessness broke my heart.

That acknowledged, it is not the privilege of the school to politically frame these issues for students. That privilege and the responsibility to provide comfort to our children regarding these issues belongs primarily to parents and families and their churches. A glance at Dr. Harrison’s Facebook posts made it clear to me that he and I do not share a common viewpoint regarding the state of our nation.

That would not matter at all if I were confident that under his leadership, the JBHS staff would respect the rights of citizens, and parents, and families and take great care never to propagandize our school children with their particular political beliefs. In his Facebook post, Dr. Harrison seems unaware that 40% of Connecticut voters supported Donald Trump. In Easton it was slightly more at about 42%. Our leaders and our schools must respect the beliefs of those citizens.

In case it is not clear what viewpoints I am asking you to respect, let me be specific.

  • I, like tens of millions of Americans, support Donald Trump and think he was a good president. I do not believe that he is responsible for the Capitol disturbance on Jan 6, and I certainly don’t believe that I am or that my beliefs indicate that I side with domestic terrorism.
  • My family lives the multi-racial life. My husband I have a Caucasian son by birth, a Korean daughter by adoption, and for three years and many summers we had a Puerto Rican foster son. Never have we experienced racism as normalized or systemic in our country. Our experience has been one of complete acceptance in Easton, surrounding towns and states.
  • People and institutions such as the YMCA, the Discovery Museum, the Sylvan Learning Center, Camp Chewonki in Maine, and the Easton/Region 9 school systems, to name just a few, were kind and generous beyond measure. These organizations and the people who run them are the norm in America. They are everywhere and they live lives and run organizations that are the polar opposite of racist.
  • In addition, I absolutely believe, and believe that I have the right to say, that ALL lives matter — every color, nationality, size, shape, and ability from the moment of conception forward— every single one matters.
  • I believe that there was fraud in the 2020 election and find the National Geographic article you referred to parents to be openly biased in that regard.
  • I further reject the idea that our children are fragile. Listen to the stories of people who survived the Holocaust. They are a testament to the strength and resilience of even very small children under the worst of circumstances.
  • And sadly, I no longer trust our educational system to, in Dr. Harrison’s words, “prepare students to create a more just and democratic future” because I have become painfully aware over a few decades that I cannot trust that system to respect the deeply held beliefs of my family.

I’m asking all of you to hear these viewpoints and, regardless of your own, to respect them going forward.

Sherry L. Harris
Easton Resident for 42 years
Member of the Region 9 Board of Education for Nine Years

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