We are appealing to residents of our wonderful town to stop and take a breath. The fighting and attacking that have plagued our Board of Education for the past 2 years is taking its toll on this community, and people are hurting because of it.
The vitriol that has seeped into other corners of our community is forcing us as a Township to take our eye off what should be the most important balls: ensuring our Township runs well and we get the most for our residents. As for our schools, we do not speak for the Board of Education, but as parents, we want to ensure that the focus is on our kids have the tools they need now to become lifelong learners, and that they get the education they need to succeed in life.
This town has residents with many different opinions – and they like to make those opinions heard. That is, after all, what effects change, often for the better. However, there is a constructive way to effect change and a destructive way to attempt to reach that same goal; unfortunately, we have seen too much of the latter lately. Being critical of policies and process is one thing, berating people in public for their beliefs or because of a personal dispute is simply not acceptable. And let me be clear – again, so everyone hears it:
We condemn any and all acts of hate, bias and divisiveness and it is not something that will be tolerated. This includes people being berated or attacked for their political beliefs, religious beliefs, who they support for local government – essentially anyone who has a different opinion other than your own. Any sort of verbal attack on a former – or current – public official is inappropriate and will not be condoned or tolerated by either myself, or, I think I can safely say, by anyone up here on this dais.
Public events such as the Berkeley Heights Block Party should be a time for our community to come together and celebrate the many positive attributes of living in our town. It should be a time to showcase what unites us, not what divides us.
Our hearts go out to the victims of this situation. There is a current active investigation by the Berkeley Heights Police Department.
We all need to act in ways we would want our children to act, to speak to each other in ways we would want them to speak. We need to teach them tolerance and respect for others, even though they may not share the same viewpoints. We need to encourage them to engage in constructive, educational dialogue about controversial issues and learn from each other, not encourage them to cut others down. We need to teach them the value of face-to-face conversation, and not let them think taking to social media to denigrate others is the preferred method of communicating.
We, as a town, should commit ourselves to reverse course, and instead foster an environment of more civility and respect of each other.