Statement to the Brown School on Stockley Verdict

Community Engagement; Diversity; Public Health; Social Work; Students

Dear Brown School Community,

Over the last year as your dean, I have written to you about a number of social justice issues. On several occasions, I have written about the tragic events of the deaths of black men as a result of interactions with their local police departments. This time, I write to you about the verdict in the first-degree murder trial of ex-police officer Jason Stockley. As you may have heard, Stockley was found not guilty in the shooting death of Anthony Smith in 2011.

Many of us are deeply saddened by the verdict, particularly given the evidence in the case shared by the media. This verdict underlines a serious reality that racism, and the associated pain and anger, sparks the very real disbelief in the trustworthiness and fairness of the police and justice system. For those of us who have been working on social justice issues for years, this may feel like yet another defeat. However, I hope that this provides an opportunity for us to double our efforts to address systemic bias that has embedded itself in so many of our public institutions, communities, and even our own School.

We understand that this verdict may evoke an emotional response from many of you. Some of you may be asking how to get involved or just need a place to discuss your perspectives. Here are some ways the Brown School is taking action:

  • For those of you who want to have an open space to discuss your feelings in a circle of dialogue, Hillman 200 is reserved all day today, September 15. We will have a planned facilitation from 12:00-1:00 p.m.
  • We have organized a quiet space for rest and reflection in Hillman 310 today. Feel free to stay in the space as long as needed. There will be staff on hand.
  • We will be conducting other facilitated conversations, speakers, panels, etc., in our community over the next few weeks. These events will be communicated as soon as the details are finalized.
  • We will be posting information on social media about tips for protesting and sites for peaceful protests.

We will continue to send you opportunities to engage in action-oriented activities aimed at achieving social justice and equity within our School community and in the greater St. Louis region. We encourage you to organize and share ways to get involved in efforts to dismantle racism and heal the pain that serves to separate us from each other.

I also recognize that this is challenging work and we must take the time for self-care as well as looking out for our friends and neighbors. I ask that you remain supportive of each other as we work together to bring about healing.

Thank you for all you do now and in the future.