LETTER: Parent Critical of Watertown School’s Slow Response to Racial Issues

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I sat on replying to this for some time because I am pretty angry like many people are. But maybe not for the same reasons you all are. 

In the WPS Statement: (WPS) “are committed to confronting racism in our school community, as well as creating and ensuring welcoming, affirming, and supportive learning spaces for every single one of our students and their families. We commit to our efforts to promote and live anti-racism and social justice in our schools, as well as to serve and support the distinct needs of our students and families of color who are far too often targets of racism and racist acts.”

This is absolute [B–s–]. 

My husband and I spoke at a school committee meeting on January 6th about bullying and racism. I spoke up for multiple families who were too afraid to speak for themselves out of fear of retaliation and others who had tried and received a bunch of lip service and no serious support. After the meeting we too got a ton of lip service from the schools and promised that a policy would be updated as the feeble policy in the current handbook is not only out of date it is not enforced. Other than a casual comment at the MLK assembly and another note in an email to middle school families on MLK weekend was current racism in the middle school addressed. As for our community: Despite Watertown News circulating our complaint at the school committee meeting not one group or organization in Watertown who prides themselves of anti racist focus contacted us. NOT ONE. A few parents contacted us afterward but no actual help from the school. It seems as though the “ignore it it will go away” attitude I have found WPS has with bullying applies to racism as well. Granted, with the COVID situation I took my foot off the gas and boy am I mad at myself for that. I am guilty of one of the many “benefits” of white privilege: when something else shows up we can focus on that for a while but black people will still be black. I am disgusted with myself for taking a vacation from looking for justice for Watertown students. 

As a point of reference one particular child was being called a “dirty N—” and “the whitest black girl”. Not only was there was no punishment for these students, but they were invited to a meeting where one of the perpetrators was allowed to confront the target to explain their reasoning for their racist remarks. Note: There are no mandatory consequences in the student handbooks. And also important to note: we had no less than 3 emails from the school regarding swastikas drawn in a bathroom. Why can’t being called the N word in the halls of the middle school be handled as swiftly and openly as the swastikas?

I sit with a heavy heart and an angry mind that Watertown would fill the square with over 500 people during this time of activism and not one person stood with us 5 months ago. To the people who signed the Superintendent’s statement: Dede Galdston, Theresa McGuinness, Kathleen Desmarais, Heidi Perkins, Kenneth Storlazzi, Mena Ciarlone, Erin Moulton, Stacy Phelan, Donna Martin, Shirley Lundberg, and Karen Feeney: It seems that the current situation has woken you up to something that has been happening to the children of your community that you did absolutely nothing about. You will state on paper and stand in the square but not speak up for the students you have looked in the eye and promised to protect them. And to John Portz who said within the statement: “We stand together denouncing these continued acts of racism and violence against people of color across our country.” NOW you do, but you didn’t in January.

Maria Gentile Hinkson
Watertown Resident and Parent

2 thoughts on “LETTER: Parent Critical of Watertown School’s Slow Response to Racial Issues

  1. I am a mother whose kids are in their 50’s. I know exactly what you are saying,because my kids went through the same thing. The bulling was none stop, with never anything done to give consequences to the bullies. It has never changed in all of that time. What a weak staff we have in our schools. Why arn’t these principles, teachers, and witnesses, coming to the rescue of these poor innocent kids. My idea is that everybody is in fear of reprisals and their jobs. What a behavior to be proud of. Very bad.

  2. Hello Maria,

    I hope you see this reply. I’m truly sorry we didn’t see your complaint in January. Watertown Citizens for Black Lives is a completely volunteer organization, and sometimes we don’t see everything. And in this case, we missed something very important, that we should have followed up on in January.

    Again, I’m truly sorry.

    If you would like to contact us at:
    watertowncitizensforblacklives@gmail.com
    please do. I understand if you are reluctant, but I hope you can forgive us and give us another chance.

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