Editor’s note: Johnny Palmadessa, a 2018 graduate of Delaware Valley High School, made the following statement addressing school director Dawn Bukaj at a recent school board meeting.
All children come into a school to be inspired, encouraged, hope-filled; to be raised above the standard bar.
We pride ourselves on hoping that the next generation will be prepared for more, better, greater. That is our role. To make sure every single child feels they belong in the world. Not just a world that you see fit — or a world that is one size or one race or one sexual preference — but a bigger world, a more embracing world.
A world filled with wonder and beauty and diversity.
Misleading and disgracing any child because of their choices — whatever those choices are — choices that don’t align with your particular vision is dangerous at best and harmful at worst.
Our roles — whether they are behind the scenes, on a School Board, or upfront as teachers, is to make sure all students, every single one, fulfill their greatest destiny. Their destiny. Not your idea of what their destiny is. Our jobs are to help them, lead them, help them awaken to their beauty and greatness. It is never our job to squash or flatten their desires or dreams or hopes or personal preferences.
What you, Dawn, did was harmful. Dangerous. And maybe you weren’t thinking it would have such a powerful ugly ripple effect — but an ugly effect it had - words reach deep down and sting and hurt and cause unbearable unnecessary pain and lasting damage. Words can change a human heart by being vicious and thoughtless, words can destroy a child’s hope. Words can make someone feel as if they don’t belong and who doesn’t want to belong?
Your public posts have led many people to question your capability on the Board, but I see it very, very differently: your public posts have shamed and hurt and destroyed confidence in so many young vibrant people, you have silenced voices, you have allowed children to huddle in corners out of fear of being seen or heard. Your public posts shined a light on bigotry and hate, self-indulgence and fear mongering. No child — no child — deserves to live in that shadow, the shadow of someone else’s fear, someone’s else’s inability to be tolerant.
I am not here to change your mind, Dawn, that seems to be set in stone, but I am here to tell you that minding your own hate — minding your own intolerance, minding your own inability to accept all unique differences — will indeed save a life and that life might very well be a student who you pass in the hall — someone who battles his or her own darkness every single day.
Concerned parents and friends and co-workers are not a mob, as you referred to them as, they are what we all deeply long for: a community — a community whose children are on the receiving end of your uneducated bigotry.
Do not dim our children’s brilliance, or toss them aside because they don’t fit into your perfect little box. Those children, whose lives don’t quite match up with your idea of perfection, those children are filled to the brim with hope. Do not destroy them.