Reinstate Mr. Locke
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Dear Dr. Perry,
It has come to our attention that Mr. Locke has been suspended as a result of his choice to hold a discussion about school shootings in his class. Our opinions as follows are based on the facts as described in the attached article from Philly.com; if there is evidence to the contrary, we ask that it be provided to the full legal extent. That being said, we as alumni of Cherry Hill East and former students of Mr. Locke urge you to reconsider your decision and to reinstate Mr. Locke.
We write to you humbly and fully aware of the tense atmosphere that high schools across this country are currently facing. It is completely understandable that a conversation referring specifically to the vulnerabilities of Cherry Hill East might upset some percentage of any group of East students. Having grown up in the shadow of Columbine and the attacks on 9/11, ourselves having participated in lockdown drills in elementary school, we sympathize with the distress that results from these conversations. This discussion was about the fate of their lives. We also understand that as an administrator and leader you must be concerned foremost with the safety of your students.
We know this is a moment for our community to address an awful problem that is undoubtedly intellectually and emotionally difficult. This is a group discussion that includes not only a diversity of opinions but also hard truths. We hope this would be seen as an opportunity to deal with disagreement and fear. With matters as dire as these, disagreement can be terrifying; especially for a teen, with an authority figure, and potentially in front of a class of their peers. But for the sake of nurturing the development of young problem solvers, confronting and managing those emotions are inevitable. We expected that the administration would have trusted Mr. Locke to be an active participant in resolving the situation. It is necessary that students learn how to have civil conversations over real, substantial disagreements. It is essential for them as individuals, and it is essential for the fabric of our society at large.
The Mr. Locke that we know and admire is a kind, intelligent, and passionate man. He was exemplary among the faculty at Cherry Hill East for the very same reasons that he has been punished this past week. Mr. Locke was the rare adult who had enough love and respect for his students to treat them as equals. To speak to them as adults. To tell them stories from his own experiences that brought his lessons to life. Mr. Locke reached the ideal for which all teachers should strive: he made his subject matter real and important, and he got us to care.
The students who pass through Mr. Locke’s class never forget the lessons they learn from him. Those who study with him now are willing to sacrifice their privileges to defend him. Most importantly, the future Cherry Hill East students can’t afford to lose their chance to work with him. School’s need teachers who are willing to level with their students. Students need the opportunity to discuss real ideas in their classrooms. Teachers need to feel safe to host these types of discussions without fearing for their jobs. And our society needs future generations that know how to disagree civilly; without demonizing each other and without shutting each other down.
For these reasons, we urge you to reinstate Mr. Locke.
Cherry Hill East Alumni
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