The Watertown School Committee approved a resolution to “promote the needs and safety” of staff and students of color in the district, as well as people of color in Watertown and beyond.
The resolution also urges state and federal lawmakers to support laws that: protect the safety of people of color and guarantee the rights of those protesting; create an anti-racist curricula and teach students about the challenges faced by people of color; and to hold public officials and police accountable.
The resolution passed by the Watertown School Committee on Monday night has also been approved, or is being considered for approval, by other local communities, said School Committee member Lily Rayman-Reed, including Woburn, Cambridge, Newton and Burlington.
The impetus for the resolution was the efforts that have sprung up in the wake of the killing of Floyd George by Minneapolis Police and other similar incidents.
The resolution reads:
Resolution on Affirmation of Support for Staff, Students, and Community Members of Color
Whereas, People of Color face greater discrimination, structural discipline, lack of social support both in schools and in society at large;
Whereas, children, adolescents and adults in the Black community face higher rates of social and structural violence and racial discrimination,
Whereas, students’ and staff’s well-being is a fundamental concern of the Watertown School Committee and school boards across the country.
Therefore, Be It Resolved, the Watertown School Committee affirms its immediate support to promote the needs and safety of all staff and students who identify as a person of color,
And Be It Resolved that the School Committee of Watertown, Massachusetts urges state and federal policymakers to support laws and regulations that:
- Provide appropriate and necessary safety measures for People of Color during a period of unrest in this nation, and guarantee the rights and safety of all those protesting for their lives.
- Hold accountable all public officials, police officers, and all those who serve their community for their responsibility to equitably represent and protect the public, and also hold accountable any individuals and organizations that take racist actions or in any other way do harm to the Black Community and People of Color.
- Enhance programming to provide schools with the structure and guidance needed to provide an anti-racist curricula and professional development for all staff to build understanding and awareness of the beautiful history and the challenges of being a person of color, and of the structural and endemic racism in the United States.
The School Committee gives its support to responsible civic actions by students, educators and others who are raising the visibility of this issue and seeking changes in public policy.
Rayman-Reed added that unless Watertown does something concrete, the resolution will just be symbolic.
“Everything that is in this resolution has to be backed up by action,” Rayman-Read said. “These are words and words have power, however, without significant action, words are very limited in terms of their impact.”
Because the document was one that multiple districts passed, Rayman-Reed said there are other things she would have liked to have included, but was not able to do so.
School Committee Chairman John Portz said that he sees some successes in Watertown, but more needs to be done.
“Here in Watertown a fair amount of work has been done. In part, the Police Department and schools have a good relationship in various different ways, and I applaud that,” Portz said. “I think there is certainly more that all of us can do to address the issues that are fundamental and systemic in our society, and that is the real challenge — they are so systemic around race and discrimination and prejudice.”
Superintendent Dede Galdston said that recent events have been a “deep call to action,” and that a deep look at the racial inequities that exist in institutions, “especially our school system” is necessary.
“While I do believe we are doing excellent work, but this makes you think: What more can we be doing? What more we should be doing it quicker?” Galdston said. “As much as we work hard and did a lot of important work, there is just so much more that needs to be done and we are committed to do it.”