OUR POSITION: Principal Lou Long uses controversial decision to reform decision-making with emphasis on inclusion and respect for diverse perspectives.

Awhile back, we suggested the Charlotte County school district’s handling of the Kaepernick display controversy presented an opportunity for a teachable moment. Either good or bad.

As it turns out, all good — very good, it seems. That’s our takeaway from a public letter from Port Charlotte High School Principal Lou Long printed in the Sun Friday.

In his column, which he titled, “Life lessons: The reflection of a high school principal,” Long takes responsibility for his decision to order teacher Alissa Perry to take down the Black History Month display featuring the controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Long’s order came a day before the end of Black History Month, after social media posts has stirred up a viral controversy. Perry, who is African-American, later said she saw Kaepernick as a hero in the mold of Dr. Martin Luther King. Like King in his day, Kaepernick is a controversial figure, and his likeness in a public school brought push-back from some parents and students. And, eventually, Long’s directive.

In his letter, the principal avoided taking sides pro- or anti-Kaepernick, or his decision on the display itself.

“Whether or not one agrees with that decision is something that can be debated and remain unresolved.”

Further, though, and most impressively, he acknowledged his misstep.

“What is not debatable, however, is the manner by which the decision was enforced.

“The method I used, upon reflection, was both hurtful and insensitive to the very people I love the most — my staff and students. I missed the opportunity to be inclusive in the decision-making process when I neglected to listen to the vantage points of Ms. Perry, her students and my staff.”

Sincere reflection, it seems. With an appropriate public apology.

Our thanks to the principal, Superintendent Steve Dionisio, the school board and others involved in this soul-searching process, including members of the local NAACP and the Unitarian Church. This is a teachable moment and the lesson, as Long states in reflection, stresses the value of diversity of thought and respect for varying perspectives, and the importance of open communication.

Lou Long didn’t cop out with a simple, convenient apology. In his column, he also described his reassessment following the incident.

He listened to students in Perry’s classes and student government.

“I am sure that they understood why I made the decision, but it did not assuage the hard feelings they felt,” he wrote.

Perry’s students are asking the Blanchard House Museum of African American History in Punta Gorda to “represent the various perspectives” involved in this issue. The district is working on polices that will forestall a similar occurrence in the future. An English class writing project was begun. At the urging of students, the school may develop a student diversity advisory council.

All good — very good.

In conclusion, Long wrote: “There are times when life lessons can be difficult. What is truly important is how those lessons make us better people.”

Good points made. Live and learn. Perhaps this will prove to be a worthwhile growth experience for all in the community.


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