Never let a perfectly good crisis go to waste.

It is important to remember that the dismissal of Ms. Musil started with a racist graffiti in the girl’s bathroom. Because no official announcement was made to students or parents by RBHS leadership for six days, about 25 of you held a silent protest demanding that issues of discrimination at the school be addressed. One of you stated to the Landmark that “the reason we had this protest is because they tried to just cover it up”.

At that exact point, you not only saw the elephant in the room, you had the courage to call it out. Why was there no announcement, you asked, that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, and that individuals responsible for this will be pursued? 

In demanding open and transparent dialogue about discrimination, you pinpointed the very issue that is far more important than the actual insult or injustice itself: how to responsibly react to proof of racism. It is the role of leadership to react proactively and to communicate transparently. Lack of such action results in complicity.

The official reason for Ms. Musil’s dismissal reads “you have not demonstrated professionalism when meeting, discussing, or presenting with school administrators, community members, and students.” 

This was written by lawyers for lawyers. It doesn’t address the issue at all, and you are rightfully calling it out. Later, RBHS administration leaders clarified that “Musil was not professional in talking politics” (see March 16 RB Clarion article), acknowledging that discussing politics in the classroom is at the heart of this crisis.

Schools, like so many other institutions and businesses, fail to make one critical distinction about politics: that being political is very different from being partisan.

Partisanship is a cancer that has befallen us. We find ourselves in a collective trap that prevents us from listening and talking to each other. Being political, on the other hand – being critically informed, participating actively in our communities, and voting — is a duty required of us. 

President Eisenhower once said, “The true purpose of education is to prepare young men and women for effective citizenship in a free form of government.” 

RBHS leadership should incorporate this wisdom as it decides how to respond to the legitimate concerns of its students.

As for you, dear RBHS students of courage, insist that RBHS hold public and open forums to clarify how the pressing issues of today can be discussed in the classroom. Without this, other great teachers will risk meeting the same fate as Ms. Musil.

I cannot tell you how inspired and encouraged I am by your actions. Today, we need to build legions of passionate and courageous leaders. You are there already, showing us, the adults, how to follow. 

Keep asking questions, keep speaking out, keep challenging the system. Remember to always do so peacefully, and remember, we need you much more than you know.

Tom Jacobs is a Riverside resident.