City, district sign proclamation for inclusion, diversity

Maple Valley Mayor Sean P. Kelly, left; Tahoma School Board President Didem Pierson, center, and Maple Valley City Councilor Syd Dawson listen during a recent joint meeting.
Maple Valley Mayor Sean P. Kelly, left; Tahoma School Board President Didem Pierson, center, and Maple Valley City Councilor Syd Dawson listen during a recent joint meeting.

Elected leaders from the City of Maple Valley and Tahoma School District have issued a joint proclamation in support of diversity, equality, inclusion, and safety for all citizens while also denouncing acts of hate and intimidation.

The proclamation is a response to acts of vandalism that occurred last November, when racist graffiti appeared in Maple Valley neighborhoods. Several community members came forward to ask that the city and school district respond to the incident in ways that make it clear that such actions will not be tolerated.

The City Council and School Board asked staff to create a proclamation and decided to issue the document in March to coordinate with Gender and Ethnic Equality Month.

Councilor Erin Weaver offered this statement on behalf of the entire City Council:

“My fellow council members and I are proud to join with the Tahoma School Board and proclaim the month of March as both Gender and Ethnic Equality month. Many of us moved to Maple Valley because of a variety of attributes found in our city. We have affordable homes in outstanding neighborhoods. We have a terrific natural environment with great recreation opportunities. We have an outstanding school system preparing our youth for their future success. But most importantly, we have a sense of community and belonging that makes Maple Valley more than just the city we live in; it is home. And in our home, all are welcome and celebrated for making our community interesting, strong, respectful and kind,” she said.

School Board President Didem Pierson said the proclamation reflects the school district’s core beliefs. “Tahoma School District already has policies and curriculum in place to assure that all students and staff are treated with respect. With that said, it is with great enthusiasm that we have the opportunity to partner with the City of Maple Valley to collaboratively support a culture that embraces diversity, compassion and inclusion in our community. Our hope is that the citizens of our city will join us in supporting what has been outlined in the proclamation,” she said.

Two citizens who asked the city and school district to respond to the graffiti said they are pleased with the proclamation.

Kristiana de Leon, a language arts teacher for Tahoma, said that speaking out against hate provides a valuable lesson to young people. She said her students study the Holocaust each year and understand the importance of opposing acts of hate. “This is our small way of saying, ‘never again,’” she said.

Alicia Busch, in a prepared statement provided to the School Board and City Council, offered her thanks and said silence is not an option when acts of hate occur.

“We cannot stand still or silent in the face of drastic rise of bigotry, hate, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and exclusion,” she said. “Remaining silent and unmoved is an act of complicity and an endorsement of the harmful and sometimes deadly consequences of hate.

“It takes courage to take a stand. It is not without risk, but it is far riskier to do nothing. So, I commend the school district and city for taking a stand.”

Here is the proclamation:
WHEREAS, the people of the City of Maple Valley and the Tahoma School District value the diversity of the community; and

WHEREAS, equality, inclusion, and safety for all persons are core values of the City of Maple Valley and the Tahoma School District; and

WHEREAS, the City of Maple Valley and the Tahoma School District are committed to recognizing the dignity of all people; and

WHEREAS, verbal and physical acts to threaten or intimidate people are not consistent with our core values, are not part of our culture, and do not reflect who we are; and

WHEREAS, the politics of division, isolation, and hate have no place in our community; and

WHEREAS, all people deserve assurance of the basic principles of equity and human rights guaranteed in our Constitution and Bill of Rights; and

WHEREAS, we celebrate our community’s diversity and welcome all people who live, work, and go to school here, regardless of their national origin, color, race, sexual orientation or gender identity, financial or socioeconomic status, or political opinion; and

WHEREAS, the month of March is both Gender Equality Month and Ethnic Equality Month;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the City Council of the City of Maple Valley, Washington, and the Tahoma School District Board of Directors, do hereby proclaim that we reaffirm our community’s shared values of compassion, inclusion, respect, and dignity; and our commitment to building an environment, and a community, in which everyone is valued and everyone has the opportunity to thrive; and we encourage the citizens to likewise affirm these values of inclusion.

Signed by the Maple Valley City Council and Tahoma School Board.