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KIPP charter schools mourn parent shot and killed by police in Oklahoma


The shooting Friday evening of an unarmed motorist by police in Oklahoma is more than a news story for the KIPP schools. Terence Crutcher, the 40-year-old motorist killed by Tulsa police after his car broke down, is a KIPP parent. He leaves four children.

KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) is a national network of high achieving charter schools with eight metro Atlanta schools — three elementary schools, four middle and one high school -- serving 3,250 students.

KIPP CEO Richard Barth addressed Crutcher's death in a letter to staff and parents. He is asking all KIPP families to mark Crutcher's death this Friday. Here is the letter:

Dear KIPP Team and Family,

By now, many of you have heard about Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African-American male who was fatally shot by police in Tulsa, OK., on Friday. As news outlets have reported, Mr. Crutcher was a beloved father and brother, a college student, and a singer in his church choir.

What you may not know is that Mr. Crutcher was also a KIPP Tulsa parent.

This is beyond a tragedy. It is an outrage. While Mr. Crutcher’s death hits home in the KIPP community, it is part of a pattern of violence that has gone on across this country for far too long. In my view, this is about fear – the senseless killing that can result from fear. Fear is what makes a police officer discharge their firearm on an unarmed person. And if a police officer is that fearful, they either need more training or they should not be a law enforcement officer. Full stop. We must demand this, for fear cripples us – all of us. For many of our KIPP families and students, the threat of police violence is a constant worry. There is a very real sense that no place is safe for black and brown bodies.

Before I share some thoughts on our collective response, I want to share a quick update on KIPP Tulsa. There are grief counselors on campus this week, and staff from the KIPP Foundation and KIPP Oklahoma City are on hand to lend support. School staff met this morning to start processing their reactions, and tomorrow students will read and talk about an adapted version of a CNN article. On Friday the school community will gather on the lawn and release balloons in a show of solidarity with the Crutcher family.

Andrew McCrae, our fearless leader of KIPP Tulsa, wants to thank all of the members of our nationwide KIPP team and family who have reached out in support. If you would like to reach out to the school, please contact KIPP Foundation Senior Relationship Manager Quinton Vance at qvance@kipp.org.

Now, for how we can harness the power of the KIPP community (and our own personal influence, for those of us in positions of privilege.) In my opening remarks at KIPP School Summit 2016, I said that we need make this part of the fabric of our work—to engage with it every day. Part of that is showing up on issues of social justice, of equity, and of equality.

In that spirit, I ask all of you to consider two things:

Act in solidarity with KIPP Tulsa this Friday, Sept. 23. This could involve releasing balloons, holding a moment of silence, posting on social media, or any other actions you see fit.

This is a systemic issue and will require public officials stepping up and promising to protect black lives. I support NAACP’s Pledge to Protect and Preserve Our Lives. Will you support it? What will you do?

And I would like to repeat what I said at KSS, and what I shared last week: get out and vote. And join the 12 KIPP regions hosting voter drives to get others to vote. If we don’t like something in America, we need to exercise our right to change it with our vote.

As a Team and Family, we laugh and we cry together. We live and we learn together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And we show up for each other, and with each other. KIPP is about learning and growing, moving toward a better world. We use education and schools to accomplish that lofty aim. And to do that, we must advocate to create safe and secure environments for our students to develop, and to achieve the better world we all want to see.

Onward,

Richard

 


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.