As an educator and parent and a longtime former member of the Willmar community, I was deeply disheartened to hear about the event held at Kennedy Elementary on Nov. 7 by THEE Book Club.

Our community has failed to protect and keep safe the children and families of Kennedy Elementary and the greater Willmar area.

The decision made by the district and the superintendent of schools, Dr. Jeffrey Holm, is a decision made in cowardice and made as a means to protect against hypothetical lawsuits centered around the First Amendment.

As a longtime educator, parent, as well as supporter of the First Amendment, it is my strongly held belief that the first and most fundamental responsibility of the School Board and superintendent is to protect our children and keep them safe.

There are volumes of examples in this country where hate speech has turned into violence, consequently harming and even killing innocent people. Allowing for hate speech and propaganda to be publicly spread that specifically targets a portion of the population that Kennedy Elementary serves, is a failure of this community, of our School Board and of Dr. Holm.

These children — our children - deserve better.

Lastly, and on a more personal note, it has been troubling to know about church people I grew up around that earnestly attended this event, an event promoting hate culture masquerading as Christian goodwill; something in serious conflict with what I grew up believing about the church and its people.

If learning about another person’s culture is truly the goal of an event like this, as Heidi Jo Ahmann was quoted saying, maybe start by opening up a dialogue with the people of that culture.

We can do better, Willmar — all our children deserve and depend on it.

Bri’Ann F. Wright

Brooklyn, N.Y.