Top Bar

Lower Merion School District

Off-Canvas

Dr. Yanni's Jan. 26, 2024, Update

Dear LMSD Community,

I am happy to share another update with our community about several extremely important topics, but first, let me begin by reiterating that LMSD wants every student and staff member to feel a strong sense of belonging. It is important to us that our students and staff feel that they matter as integral parts of our school community. I know that there are times when students and staff feel connected, and I also acknowledge times when they feel otherwise. You might ask, “How does he know this?” It’s because I feel those ways, too. I think we all do.

The information is this update supports the work we are doing to strengthen individuals’ sense of belonging in LMSD.

Professional Development on Islamophobia

My last few communications have focused on training we have completed with the Leadership Team on antisemitism. We are also moving forward with training in Islamophobia as well. I have been in contact with the Islamic Cultural Center of Willow Grove, the Mainline Muslim Society, and several other organizations to support us in this important work.

Defining Islamophobia was added to our Making Practices Public page. We are reminding our community that the resource is available and will serve as an important document. Our work will not be focused only on this current moment, but on what structures we need to create or sustain this work on behalf of our students and staff.

Future updates will provide an understanding about the impact of our training and next steps in our work.

Student Speech and Expression

In a previous update I shared Policy 235, which focuses on student speech and expression. We have also put this helpful resource on our Making Practices Public page, providing greater clarity about on-campus speech and expression for students, staff, school-related organizations, and parents/guardians. Please note that this document has been used by our Leadership Team as an internal document. It is not intended to be formal legal advice.

We know that students have wide berth under the First Amendment, and we value student voice in LMSD. Despite that wide berth, and despite our valuing student voice, there are times when speech or expression hurt others. While we are bound by the First Amendment, we also have an obligation to create safe, inclusive learning environments. When speech or expression constitutes a true threat, incites violence or lawlessness, and/or discriminatory harassment, we have an obligation to intervene to protect students.

The last few weeks has been a period of immense reflection, learning and growth. We owe it to our students (and staff) to help them understand how their speech or expression might affect others. This is important now and always. We are all in a tense time right now and surely the future will hold more tense times. That is why it is imperative that we continue to remain mindful that we are in a community rich in diversity and perspective. By understanding one another better we can create a more inclusive community! 

Building a Culture of Belonging

LMSD is committed to fostering a sense of belonging for all students and staff. Here’s our “why:” Belonging is important not just now – but always. Despite diverse backgrounds, we are all part of the amazing LMSD community. Focusing on belonging is crucial because it creates environments where everyone feels valued, respected, and included. When people feel a sense of belonging, they're more likely to engage, contribute their best and collaborate effectively. It enhances overall well-being, fosters diversity of thought, and cultivates a supportive community where individuals can thrive. Ultimately, prioritizing belonging leads to stronger relationships, increased productivity, and a more positive and inclusive culture for all.

Curricular Revisions

In addition to revisions to social studies curriculum, which we will update through Curriculum Committee meetings, we are also focusing on enhancing our instruction with students across the curriculum. A major focus area is derived from our state’s academic standards: Evaluate authors’ argument, reasoning, and specific claims for the soundness of the arguments and the relevance of the evidence. Translated from edu-speak, this means we must help students learn to think critically (not what to think) and how to evaluate the adequacy and validity of texts and arguments.

Our students are literally bombarded with information from countless sources and, as we know, just because something is published, does not mean it is valid. The skills we are and will continue to teach are important, not just when dealing with emotional or controversial issues, but also as students think critically about all the information they see daily.

Expansion of High School Walk Zones

Families who are in the current LMHS walk zone and those who are in the expanded LMHS walk zone will receive communication from the Transportation Department by the end of the day today.

With deep gratitude to our entire community,

Steve M. Yanni, Ed.D.
Superintendent

More News

Author Liz Lawson laughs as she leads her flash fiction workshop at LMHS

The New York Times bestselling author led a "flash fiction" workshop, before speaking with students about her background, path to becoming a writer and creative process, as well as a variety of other writing- and publishing-related topics.