A Message from the D41 Board

Dear District 41 Community,

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On April 16, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King wrote a letter from a Birmingham jail cell. He was jailed for participating in nonviolent demonstrations against racial segregation. Dr. King wrote the letter as a response to a public statement of criticism and caution issued by eight Southern white religious leaders. Today, as we celebrate Dr. King’s birth and life, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge what the letter teaches us about how we should all respond to moral challenges.

He began by generously acknowledging that the men who were being critical of the Civil Rights marches were “of genuine good will” and that their criticisms were “sincerely set forth.” The civil rights leader does not get angry or deny the criticism. He does not show contempt for his critics. Instead, he explains that he was in Birmingham because “injustice is here.” King then, in one of the most memorable lines in literary history expresses the ties that bind all of us, no matter our race. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Dr. King goes on to reject those who would either ignore injustice or turn toward violence to settle disputes. He encourages “a more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest.” His letter lays out a case to America for ending racism by acting more justly. While King writes forcibly in defending his opposition to bigotry, he demonstrates his commitment to maintaining a relationship with the people who disagree with him by stating that if he wrote anything in the letter that is “indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me.”

Reverend King called on his fellow clergy to put their values into action. He also made clear that the means for acting “must be as pure as the ends we seek.” His letter explained that what the Civil Rights movement sought was the end to the “evil system of segregation” and equal opportunity for all regardless of skin color. But even while locked in a jail cell and fervently believing in the cause of equality, Dr. King refuses to accept that the only common ground between him and those who oppose an end to racial hatred is anger.

Dr. King’s life work inspires us today. Our school board has committed to equity and inclusion by participating in the Glen Ellyn Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Project. You can learn more at https://gepl.librarycalendar.com/events/glen-ellyn-dei-project-community-listening-session. We also have three school board representatives on a countywide educational committee addressing equity. Additionally, we are acting on our intentions by developing a new District 41 strategic plan through an equity and inclusion lens. Our actions follow the passage of a board resolution in July 2020, resolving that in order to “fulfill our mission to ensure educational services that are fully aligned with the principles of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the District 41 Board of Education will intensify its work to reduce and eliminate the systemic factors, which contribute to learning gaps among our students.”

Our board honors the legacy of Dr. King and those who champion a more just society. We remain steadfast in our mission to foster the understanding and respect necessary for an enlightened and educated citizenry.

Glen Ellyn School District 41 Board of Education