TAUNTON — Superintendent John Cabral, Taunton High School Principal Matthew Mattos and Police Chief Edward J. Walsh would like to share an update regarding a previously existing mural within the Taunton High School and information regarding the newly established School Resource Officers Student Advisory Committee.
The previously existing mural, a thin blue line flag that was painted by students and former school resource officers in 2017, was covered with a new mural of the American flag last week during the district’s February Break.
The new mural was the result of a collaborative effort between Taunton High School students and School Resource Officers (SRO) Casey Holmes and Bryan Chaves through their newly established School Resource Officers Student Advisory Committee.
SRO Student Advisory Committee members collaboratively decided to cover the previously existing thin blue line flag mural with a different mural of the American flag that represents the entire school community.
The American Flag mural was drafted and created by the THS Graphic Arts Department and SRO Chaves. The quote included in the mural was chosen by SRO Casey Holmes, who previously served as a combat Marine Corps veteran.
The quote included in the mural is by William H. Carney, an African-American solider in the American Civil War. Carney’s heroic actions during the Civil War are the earliest events for which a black man was awarded the Medal of Honor.
“We remain committed to providing our students with a platform to voice their concerns and opinions, and this new mural is a direct result of those actions,” Superintendent Cabral said. “Following our students’ petition regarding the previously existing mural, we sought to facilitate meetings with open and educational dialogue among our community members. These meetings are indicative of our ongoing social justice work and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within our district.”
The SRO Advisory Committee has worked over the past few weeks following the district’s initial meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28 at the Taunton High School Library to address the mural. Taunton High School students, district faculty members, THS School Resource Officers, the Taunton Police Department, City officials and other representatives within the community, including a member of the Superintendent’s Social Justice Advisory Committee, participated in the initial meeting.
At that meeting, members discussed various views in regards to the thin blue line flag, the history of the flag, the presence of School Resource Officers within Taunton Public Schools buildings and how to appropriately address the petitions moving forward.
As a result of the meeting, the SRO Student Advisory Committee was established to spearhead the initiative of rebranding and reimaging the area of the high school where the mural is displayed in front of the SRO offices.
This committee is composed of a student representative from each grade within the high school, SRO Casey Holmes, SRO Bryan Chaves and Principal Mathew Mattos. Committee members represent the greater school community and include people with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Since its establishment, the committee has met over Google Meets numerous times.
“I was captivated by the intellectuality and mature, reflective manner of all students involved,” Principal Mattos said. “I’m proud of our students as they voiced their opinions as this is their school and our top priority is ensuring that they are as comfortable as they can be while they are at THS. Feeling comfortable and welcomed elevates academic achievement. They have learned the power of collaboration, and we look forward to continuing this collaborative effort.”
At the SRO Student Advisory Committee meetings, members have discussed the presence of School Resource Officers within the Taunton Public Schools’ buildings and how to rebrand the area where the mural previously existed to make it a more inviting and comforting space for all students.
“We have received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from both the students and staff members at Taunton High School since the mural has been on display,” SRO Casey said. “SRO Chaves and I look forward to continuing our work alongside the SRO Student Advisory Committee and continuing our project of redesigning the area in front of our offices at the high school.”
Added Chief Walsh, “I’m extremely pleased to see SRO’s Holmes and Chaves collaborative efforts alongside the students of Taunton High School to address school community members’ concerns. We remain committed to supporting the social justice work being conducted throughout our community, especially within our school community, and look to actively participate in these conversations and initiatives moving forward.”
The efforts of the advisory committee will remain ongoing as they look to identify ways in which district’s SRO’s can interact more with the student body and as they continue to make the area in front of the mural more welcoming to students.
SRO’s Holmes and Chaves began their positions within Taunton Public Schools at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year. SRO’s Holmes and Chaves are two of the five school resource officers throughout the district. They are assigned to Taunton High School daily but assist at the other schools within the district on an as-need basis.
“We truly value our relationship with the Taunton Police Department, and we look forward to the impact this relationship and continued conversations and initiatives will have,” Superintendent Cabral said. “This is Officer Holmes’ and Officer Chaves’ first year working within our high school, so we look forward to seeing them grow and develop relationships with our students.”
Some of Taunton Public Schools ongoing social justice efforts include the Superintendent’s Social Justice Advisory Committee, the Taunton High School Social Justice Committee and their social justice professional development series which will consist of numerous presentations, training and discussion for staff members district-wide.