WHITESBORO, N.Y. – A Whitesboro High School teacher came under fire last week for using the phrase “All Lives Matter” at the end of a virtual awards ceremony.
The incident had ‘Whitesboro’ trending on Twitter, with some accusing the district of racism while others defended the teacher and the school.
Andrew Puckey issued a public apology Monday, saying he “was unaware of the deeply political and racial undertones those words carry.”
The apology was posted on the Whitesboro Central School District website.
Read the full letter below:
I would like to apologize to the community at large for using the phrase “All lives matter” at the conclusion of the Whitesboro High School Awards night. I was unaware of the deeply political and racial undertones those words carry. Without question, it was an inappropriate choice of words, and rather than convey a positive message as I attempt to do at the end of each awards ceremony, it instead caused hurt to many in our community. I especially want to offer my sincerest apologies to students of color, both current and past, who have been negatively affected by this statement.
Over the last few days, I have been given the opportunity to review how the phrase “All lives matter” has been used to discount the Black Lives Matter movement. Given the current state of affairs in our country, the use of this phrase is completely disrespectful. Although my intention was to tell students that they were important, and to show kindness to one another, these three words negated everything I said, leaving only a perception of racism and intolerance. For this, I am deeply sorry.
Over the last two decades as an educator, I have worked diligently to help students, by not only teaching them in the classroom, but by letters of recommendation to help them get into college, or earn scholarships, through participation in community events, and in some cases to simply help them make it through to graduation when they felt they could not do it on their own. Whatever the situation, I have encouraged them to keep working until they succeed. If they have fallen down, I have helped them to get back up. I ask them for the same help now.
I understand that many of you are deeply hurt. Words can have that power. However, words can also heal. It is my hope that we can use this experience to open communication and education in the school district as a whole. We do not have to be swallowed by the hatred and the darkness if we can shine as a light.
In conclusion, please let me emphasize four points. First, I am profoundly sorry for using a phrase that is connected to prejudice. Second, I condemn racism and intolerance in all forms. Third, I was not asked or told to write this letter. My conscience, and my feeling of responsibility to my students, compelled me to publicly apologize. Fourth, it is my goal, not to put this in the past, but to use this experience to move forward in open discussion and education.