Veronique Meriot identified herself at the Falmouth School Committee meeting Tuesday night, June 23, as “a white woman with two mixed-race children, and a lifelong member of the community” before reading a letter during the time allotted for public comment.
In her letter Ms. Meriot strongly criticized what she sees as the school system’s insufficient response to “the protests, police brutality and information that has become mainstream regarding the treatment of Black people in the United States.”
Ms. Meriot’s son is just finishing 1st grade at North Falmouth Elementary School.
While acknowledging that it can be daunting to figure out how to address race and inequality in a vastly white community, Ms. Meriot said there is no excuse for what she sees as a “lack of direct response to these not political, but human rights, issues.”
Ms. Meriot has spoken with parents in New York City, Boston and Natick, she said, where the schools have found age-appropriate ways to address the protesting and police brutality events on the news with their students.
“So what is stopping us, Falmouth?” she asked.
“I am well aware that many of us are just waking up to the ugly truth of being black in America…but as educators, this is your time to shine!” she said. “Falmouth Public Schools have an opportunity to lead these conversations, and also provide support and tools for parents.”
Ms. Meriot expressed concern and discomfort that the only other black person her son sees when he goes to school is the janitor; that she sends her child to a school every day that is not actively supporting Black people or making an effort—not just during Black History Month, but all year long—“to directly educate its students on race, diversity, social justice and the privilege we, as white people, have in this country.”
Black, brown and minority students are often the only nonwhite children in the classrooms, she said, adding they have no teachers who look like them and they are not represented in books, the media or learning materials.
She expressed the hope that plans are being made for better “representation” among staff and within the curriculum for next year.
Because Ms. Meriot was not on the agenda Tuesday, committee members did not discuss her comments.
Before the school committee meeting adjourned, however, members requested that the agenda for the school committee’s upcoming summer retreat include discussing cultural responsiveness, anti-bias training and honest conversation on racism’s impact on Falmouth.
Falmouth Town Meeting on Monday, June 22, appropriated $84,000 to hire an affirmative action outreach coordinator.
The school committee will be responsible for reviewing the job description and approving the new position, school committee chairwoman Kelly A. Welch wrote in a follow-up email.
“We want to make sure that this is on an upcoming agenda so that we can take action,” she wrote.