THE HUB - Feature Article

  • George Arlotto: Unity Day is a call to action against hate

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 10/24/2019

    Earlier this week in every one of our schools and offices, students and staff alike will be outfitted in orange as we, for the second consecutive year, make a powerful — and colorful — statement against hate, bigotry and bullying by taking part in Unity Day.

    The day is set aside by the National Bullying Prevention Center as the signature event of National Bullying Prevention Month. It is a day where participants wear orange as a sign of their commitment to practice and encourage kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

    Ending bullying — an action borne in large part out of bias, hate, intolerance, and bigotry — is a job not just for our school system, but for our entire community. One needs only to glance at the recent local, state, and national headlines to see that the scourge of hate, bias, intolerance, and bigotry is not diminishing. In fact, it is increasing.

    If that anecdotal glance isn’t convincing, the State of Maryland 2018 Hate Bias Report should drill home the magnitude of our sobering task. Of the 375 hate bias reports the report documents, Anne Arundel County owns the dubious distinction of being ranked first with 78 — nearly 21 percent of the total.
    We have a problem, and it is growing. The number of hate bias reports in our county has nearly doubled in the last 10 years, and after a year or two of decline, we have seen four straight years of increases. Anne Arundel is one of just three jurisdictions in Maryland on that troublesome trajectory.

    The problem is one we, as a school system, are trying to do our part to tackle through events such as Unity Day, through ongoing professional development of equitable practices for all employees, through curriculum such as the now-required Global Community Citizenship high school course, and through the fostering of partnerships that showcase the rich diversity of our school system and county. The goal of each of these initiatives is to enhance the opportunities for and the abilities of our children and adults alike to engage in civil discourse that will result in more enlightened citizens who, quite simply, are better at getting along.

    We are just one cog in this engine, however. The problem is one we simply can’t solve in the 33 hours or so we have with our children each week. To reverse the trend, we need to all – and all must mean all – be involved not just in the conversation, but in the concerted and intentional effort. Doing nothing is not an option, and hope is not a strategy. If we are to create a better world for our children tomorrow, we must be the role models they look up to today.

    We encouraged County Executive Steuart Pittman and Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley to help us turn Anne Arundel County orange on Wednesday not because we want to see new fashion statements, but because we want to join with them in a powerful statement and in leading a crusade to eradicate the infestation of hate by investing first and foremost in our children. Please join us in that effort.

    In a letter to county employees last week, Mr. Pittman wrote this: “I can’t legislate civility and respect, but with your help, and the help of the good people from every political affiliation in this county, we can see the beauty in our diversity and rediscover our shared values.”

    I could not agree more. We will not get where we want to go tomorrow. But if we don’t start today – and if we don’t travel this journey together — we will never get there at all.

    George Arlotto is the superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. Contact him at

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