Submitted by Ashley Wade
I’m a teacher in Sun Valley but I speak to you now as a parent raising my family’s fourth generation of Washoe students. My grandmother, my mother, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my siblings and I all attended Sparks High School. So it was important to me to speak to the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Sept. 8 when they were sitting in our Brick House.
I am trying to raise good men. Men who seek enthusiastic consent. Who do not abuse their power at work or with their partner nor stalk the mother of their children. Men who do not look forward to working with abusers. Men who do not take advantage of others but who instead are honest, caring, considerate, and do not cause harm.
As such, every September I talk with my children about our country’s history in how we treat each other as workers, children included. A very brief lesson for you:
140 years ago, companies were invested in keeping employees in unsafe buildings six days a week for very little pay. They killed people in that pursuit. And still it wasn’t sustainable. Because the labor isn’t done without the workers.
Shortly thereafter, the U.S. textile industry was invested in keeping employees–specifically, women and children–in unsafe buildings and under a watchful eye of enforcers for very little pay. Those women and children were harmed regularly until, in 1911, 145 workers were killed in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. It wasn’t sustainable because the labor cannot be done without the workers.
I thank the madams president and vice president of the WCSD Board of Trustees for taking some action this month to bring a level of integrity to this board.
Still, as they heard two weeks ago, the building is on fire. Yet WCSD is invested in forcing people–largely women and children–to work in these unsafe buildings. The hours are long and grueling–well beyond what is safe or reasonable or even contractually obligated in our labor agreements. The pay is very little. And the district has barred the doors.
I struggle to find anything in this new way of schooling that helps me raise good men. There is abuse of employees. Policies that harm and actively traumatize children. Waffling on every safety measure protecting us as parents. And the constant, ongoing lying.
I urge our community leaders to reflect on the value of the people they’ve stuck in these buildings and how schools could ever do this work without our labor. And I’d ask you to think about the kind of adults we produce when you lead children as you’ve done these last several weeks.
Ashley Wade is a lifelong Washoe resident and has children in the district. She’s a WCSD teacher and proud member of both the Washoe Education Association and Empower Nevada Teachers.
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