June 5, 2020
Dear Prince William County Staff, Parents, Students, and Community Members:
Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is proud of our diversity; we celebrate it, and we believe it makes us a stronger community when we listen and learn from one another. Recent events, locally and nationally, have shown that the voices of many in our community are not being heard.
As a majority-minority school division, we must not simply celebrate diversity and equity, we must actively pursue it for all of our more than 91,500 students. Furthermore, we must be vigilant in promoting antiracism. In so doing, we must ensure that employees who work in our schools are aligned with these practices. If they are not, they must be removed from our classrooms.
Words matter, symbols matter, and actions matter. So today I am calling for the following:
We can no longer represent the Confederacy in our schools. To this end, the renaming of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School should begin immediately, pursuant to the policy of the School Board. It is an insult and an affront to our students, especially in schools where the majority of the students are students of color.
Additionally, I will be proposing to the School Board we amend our Code of Conduct to prohibit the wearing, or flying, of the Confederate Flag on school grounds. This behavior is often meant to intimidate students of color, and as such, it is a disruption to the educational environment. Incidents in the past have made students extremely uncomfortable, the opposite of my vision for our schools.
Our law enforcement partners are critical to the safety of all our students and employees and we thank them for their service. We recognize, however, that the relationship between police and all the members of our school community is not always perceived positively. In order to promote a greater understanding and relationship between our community and our police department, I will be establishing a community panel to review our current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Prince William County Police and make recommendations if changes are needed.
Beyond these specific actions, we will continue to pursue equity across our Division in a multitude of forms, from access, to curriculum, to individual and group behavior. The ongoing work of our Superintendent's Advisory Council on Equity will continue to assist in this effort.
Additionally, all PWCS staff will continue to complete mandatory training in Culturally Responsive Instruction.
We must all understand our own mindsets and recognize the viewpoints of others, in order to provide effective learning across a diverse student body, and promote a culture of respect and understanding for all.
I recognize this is only beginning, and we have much more work to do. As educators, we must continue to find the means to lend our voices for those who cannot be heard. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Superintendent of Schools
Prince William County Public Schools
Dr. Steven L. Walts
Superintendent of Schools