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Message Regarding TESOL Town Hall Incident

by TESOL President Debra Suarez |

You may have attended or heard about the TESOL Town Hall in Tampa, Florida, USA. I want to personally share the facts and a little of the post discussion and next steps TESOL leaders are considering.  

This Specific Incident 

While most attendees at the Town Hall engaged in respectful dialogue, there were a few individuals whose behavior violated the TESOL Code of Conduct. For those in attendance or who heard about the incident later, you may have found it disturbing and possibly triggering. If this is you, I encourage you to seek the support you need. While the language and tone used were inappropriate, at no point in time was the altercation physical and the individuals involved complied with security personnel instructions. Following the departure of the individuals involved, the Town Hall calmly proceeded. Attendees took the opportunity to acknowledge the pain many are experiencing and to reaffirm their commitment to TESOL’s mission and values and commitment to courteous professional actions and behaviors. 

The TESOL Code of Conduct calls on us all to build an accessible and inclusive global community.  TESOL members, customers, vendors, participants, contributors, exhibitors, volunteers, and guests commit to:  

  • Welcoming everyone.  
  • Respecting individual differences. 
  • Being a lifelong learner. 
  • Engaging in constructive dialogue.  
  • Using positive and supportive language. 

When individuals fail to live up to these expectations, we work with the individual, while maintaining their privacy and confidentiality, to apply the code of conduct equitably.  

Next Steps 

Following this incident, your TESOL leaders have been examining ways we can improve the Town Hall, implement better conflict resolution practices, and refine our response to world events while acting in line with the U.S. laws for a non-profit organization and TESOL’s mission. At this time, I am asking for your patience and support as we make measured and factual decisions that balance the desire for public discussion and the security of attendees. 

You can help ensure that any conversations you are part of remain respectful and productive and refer any individuals, including yourself, with questions to the TESOL Board of Directors.  

We will continue to share information as we can and implement changes in future town halls.

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