Children’s Memorial Day

Dear community member,

Today is Children’s Memorial Day, an observance that calls for the Children’s Memorial Flag to flown statewide in memory of lives lost due to violence against youth.

I have the privilege of speaking at a flag raising event today at the Santa Cruz Courthouse, organized by the Children’s Network, Santa Cruz County Human Services Department, and County Family and Children’s Services Division.

This flag raising invites us to consider the work of “building hopeful futures together,” even as we memorialize victims of violence. As I’m sharing today, this is a project of pressing, and personal, importance that I view through three lenses: as an educator, parent, and survivor.

As an educator, I am focused on our schools’ dual role in both education and welfare. Schools are not just places of learning; they are sanctuaries where children should feel safe and supported. It is our responsibility, legally and morally, to ensure that staff are vigilant, trained to recognize the signs of abuse, and equipped to act. We also work to proactively teach our students about personal safety and healthy boundaries.

As a parent, I know the safety of our children begins at home. We must build nurturing environments where children are free to express themselves and seek help without fear. Parents and caregivers play a crucial role in teaching body autonomy and monitoring interactions, both offline and online

And as a survivor of child abuse, I speak from a place of personal understanding. Understanding that survivors are all around us, and the scars of abuse are not always visible. I know firsthand that the journey of healing is long and winding, and also that from these experiences can emerge a personal commitment to advocacy and change.

Every year, 1 in 7 children in the U.S. experiences child abuse and neglect, and that this statistic is almost certainly an undercount because so many cases of abuse go unreported.

Whether you are an educator, parent, caregiver, survivor, or advocate, I invite you today to join us in reflection on the tragedy of lives lost, and our hope for building a safer future for our children.

To learn more about how to identify and report child abuse and neglect, visit the Santa Cruz County Child Protective Services website.

Yours in education and equity,
Dr. Faris Sabbah
County Superintendent of Schools