‘Our children are watching’: DC-area schools grapple with addressing US Capitol attack

As history unfolds in the eyes of the world, D.C.-area school systems are beginning the process of discussing the significance of the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday with students.

In a letter to the community, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson said that educators have an obligation to discuss the events, answer students’ questions and address their anxieties.

“Today, we wake up without words to adequately explain the events of yesterday at the U.S. Capitol. No words to explain why thousands were allowed to breach this storied symbol of American democracy — destroying property, risking lives and desecrating the very institutions that we teach our students to respect each and every day,” Goldson said in the statement.

“The painful truth is that teachable moments are harder when our children see a lack of moral leadership at the highest levels of government and society.”

Goldson said that educators in the county have been given materials aimed at teaching Wednesday’s mob violence at the Capitol in the context of social justice.

“This is not about one election. How we respond to yesterday’s events in classrooms and communities across this nation will create effects that ripple into our student’s futures,” Goldson said. “Our children are watching what we say and what we do.”

Sandra Rose, the K-12 social studies supervisor for Prince George’s County Public schools, told WTOP that the school system was providing teachers the tools to nurture civic spaces.

“What that means is giving students an opportunity to debrief and debunk what it is that they see that comes across their newspaper feeds, the radio, the internet, so that they can make meaning out of what’s happening in society,” Rose said.

She said one important thing to remember when teaching civics was to place everything in context, and not just list off dates and names.

“You’ve read about insurrection in your textbook, but here you’re now living down the street from it,” Rose said. “So how does that affect the way that you think about government and its impact on how it deals with competing interests in society.”

Montgomery County Public Schools said they would be offering students support and the opportunity to discuss their views in a safe space.

“Civic engagement is the foundation of our democracy. MCPS respects and supports the right to demonstrate and peacefully protest. We strongly condemn all attempts to incite violence and will not tolerate acts of hate that counter our shared democratic principles,” the statement reads.

The school system asked that parents discuss the events with their children and provided a list of resources to help parents frame the discussion.

Anne Arundel Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto said that schools would be making a space with a “network of support” for students and employees to discuss their feelings about Wednesday’s events openly, and that the support network would remain in place going forward.

“In our classrooms and our offices, we continue to infuse the values of diversity, equity, acceptance and inclusion, and to reinforce that critical thinking and the genuine consideration of a variety of perspectives can lead to rich conversations instead of reckless violence,” Arlotto said. “We must not and will not ever apologize for focusing our efforts on getting to a place where every single student we teach and every single adult we employ feels like they hold a place of value and respect not just in our school system, but in our society.”

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