Forum Planned After Racist Incidents Reported by Watertown Middle School Student

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A Watertown Middle School student reported being harassed online and by phone after putting up posts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The incidents were reported by a Boston news station, and the Watertown Public Schools response includes a virtual public forum to address the issue.

A 13-year-old African-American girl told her experiences to Boston Fox 25 last week, including being harassed online and receiving threatening phone calls after she put up some BLM messages on her social media accounts. She also reported being called the “N-word” by another student at school after giving a speech about racism in February.

The student reported the incidents to Watertown Middle School officials, but said that she is not aware of anything being done about it. As the school moved back to in-person learning with the start of hybrid last week, the girl said she was worried about her safety.

The Watertown Police are working with the Watertown Schools to investigate the social media threats according to the story. (See the Fox 25 story here).

In a follow-up report, Fox 25 interviewed former paraprofessionals who worked with the student in elementary school, and said the student was harassed then, too. They reported the incidents, but said no action was taken. (See the follow-up story here).

On Friday, Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston sent out a letter to parents and others responding to the Fox 25 reports, saying “we do not tolerate harassment or any form of racism, and we are working diligently to provide all of our students with a safe and welcoming learning environment.”

The schools have a set of protocols followed when such incidents are reported. The steps include: “restoring a sense of student safety through the creation of safety plans, conducting investigations into the issue, determining appropriate consequences for aggressors, and supporting our students in every way possible.”

Galdston added that: “Currently, at the middle school level, staff are leading small group assemblies with follow-up community meetings and conversations to personalize the learning and learn about student experiences with racism.”

The Watertown Public Schools will hold an online public forum on Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom (Click here for the link) to “hear your concerns and to continue to work together in the battle against racial injustice in our schools, institutions, and society.”

Read Galdston’s Nov. 13 letter below:

Good afternoon,

I write to share some important information with you. Recently, our school community was highlighted on the local news regarding an issue of ongoing harassment at the middle school level. In our strong, collective WPS community, we do not tolerate harassment or any form of racism, and we are working diligently to provide all of our students with a safe and welcoming learning environment. We know that there is work to be done to further our anti-racist mission, and we are dedicated to pursuing that goal. We can and will do better.

As a district, we are continuously examining, promoting, and embracing our core values and vision for equity and inclusion across the Watertown Public Schools. This is vital and iterative work at both the district and school levels. If even one student is feeling in any way targeted or excluded, that is one student too many and we pledge to continue to nurture and improve ourselves and our students —in an explicit way, as an antiracist school community. I want to assure you that when student interactions may be considered harassment and/or bullying, the District immediately follows all of our established protocols and procedures. These include: restoring a sense of student safety through the creation of safety plans, conducting investigations into the issue, determining appropriate consequences for aggressors, and supporting our students in every way possible. Currently, at the middle school level, staff are leading small group assemblies with follow-up community meetings and conversations to personalize the learning and learn about student experiences with racism.

Equity and racial justice are central tenets in our ongoing commitment to our core values of equity, excellence, and community. In addition, we are working to identify equity gaps in our educational system by examining our existing procedures, data, curriculum, practices, and policies. We are creating systemic and sustainable change through a variety of opportunities to meet individual students’ and our collective school community’s needs. One way we are doing this is by structuring opportunities for our staff to further their own personal, professional, and collective journeys towards dismantling systemic bias, racism, and inequity during professional development days, and beyond.

I will be holding a Community Forum on Thursday, December 3rd at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom to hear your concerns and to continue to work together in the battle against racial injustice in our schools, institutions, and society.

Sincerely yours,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D

19 thoughts on “Forum Planned After Racist Incidents Reported by Watertown Middle School Student

  1. Galdston not appearing on Fox 25 was a huge political mistake and made Watertown look very bad and insensitive. Now she is forced to play catchup, “We can and will do better.” This is empty rhetoric. The school and WPD wanted this whole issue to just go away for whatever reason. Maybe they were hoping the young lady in question would move away, At the very least, the school and WPD should have engaged the Middlesex District Attorney for guidance on how to handle the accusations of harassment and racism. I’m curious if they elevated the issue beyond the borders of Watertown.

  2. Assuming that this young woman was harassed by other young people, it is appalling that there are adults in our community who are teaching children to act this way. No one is born a racist. They have to learn it somewhere.

  3. Any act of harrassment such as this is wrong.

    But I would respectfully ask others to please see this 2 minute video of Black Lives Matter people in DC this past weekend attacking a mother and her child.

    https://twitter.com/bennyjohnson/status/1327785873174360065

    Is this not harrassment and even violence that should be condemned? This is not the first such instance by any means. These sorts of things were happening all summer.

    What I am asking is, why is one act of harrassment criticized while the other is not?

    • No one should be attacked period.

      However, this is a big case of whaddaboutism. . .seems to me that the woman was there to taunt the BLM people and to wave the flag of a racist President in their faces. That could be construed as inciting.

      Many Trump supporters came to DC last weekend looking for a fight. Violence is not productive on either side. But to come to DC to spout lies about a rigged election is somewhat incendiary also. Biden won the election fair and square. To say otherwise is to trample democracy.

      If you look further at your Twitter poster, it appears that he is simply a racist. There is no quid pro quo that makes racism okay.

    • It is ironic that your name is Karen. I’ll just leave that there.

      Let’s not conflate what happened at WMS with what happened at a demonstration in another city after a contested election.

      Black Lives Matter is a name of a group, but also the rallying cry of a movement. I, and others would argue that the message should be “matter is the minimum”.

      Let’s be clear about this incident. It was students harassing another student and the adults are supposed to do their job to protect the person being harassed no what what their personal politics might be. A child not worry about her safety upon returning to school FOR ANY REASON.

      I can only assume that the students in question are being raised by parents with racist views. They have been taught explicitly or by example. The school environment may be the only place to expand the horizons of those children and offer them challenges to their upbringing.

      They need to be disciplined and made to experience the consequences of violating the school code of conduct at the very minimum.

      The work to become anti-racist is long and deep and requires commitment from leadership. I am not seeing this yet. Watertown Public Schools have a long way to go toward this goal.

  4. Mr. Fred,
    Racism is a complex issue. I’m not sure your criticism is exactly helpful.
    In fact, much of what you said sounds like the way a racist would talk because it is full of assumptions about people you really don’t know.

  5. This is Superintendent Galdston’s typical behavior not paying attention to the best interest for our children, staff and safety of anyone in W.P.S. Superintendent Galdston covers up surveys that have been done on administrators that have bullied and harassed innocent people. Perhaps she could start by making those two surveys public, one on the former principal Shirley Lundberg and the second on Special education administrators. This has happened over and over and it needs to be addressed. I have no tolerance for bullies, discrimination and choosing to do nothing when huge issues have been brought to Superintendent Galdston attention, this is her job. This young student at the middle school as well as others students and staff have been courageous in speaking out. Superintendent Galston as well as past administrators need to be held accountable.
    There are many parents that are aware of how nothing is done when harassment, bullying and discrimination is reported to the principals, administrators and Superintendent Galdston.
    Bravo I applaud this young student at the Middle school for speaking up and reporting this intolerable behavior.

    Retired W.P.S. Staff member

  6. Tolerance is the word that should be emphasized today. For some reason the Democrat leaning people have no tolerance. Yet they constantly tout that is their motto. When the Democrat supporters go to Washington right after elections to tear down a duly elected President, that seems to be OK. When Republican supporters go to support their beliefs and want to support the President, that is claimed as a violent intention. When a woman, her husband and 3 children are physically and verbally attacked for demonstrating their 1st Amendment rights at a gathering, that needs to be condemned and covered by all news stations. People, wake up and practice what you preach. Your opinion is not the only one that matters. We have freedom of speech in this country (or at least we used to), and when you deny this to someone who does not agree with you, that is WRONG. The truth about rigged elections is going to come out and many people who just follow the left leaning cable stations and the local and national news who follow the same mantra, you will be very surprised.

    • There is no need whatsoever to tolerate lies. The assertions that the 2020 election was rigged are lies, pure and simple, that are being promoted to weaken our democracy. There has never been any evidence brought forward that there has been any fraud significant enough to have changed any results. The Republicans cry fraud on a regular basis, but all the evidence points to voter fraud being rare and isolated.

      If there were evidence of fraud, why hasn’t the Trump campaign had any success in court?

      • When are you and your corrupt side going to produce evidence supporting a 4 year fraud and 24/7/365 smear campaign of Russian collusion on this President? My guess is NEVER.

        • There is quite a lot of evidence actually. It’s called the Mueller Report. Read it. All of it.

          Burying Mueller’s conclusions was a political white wash by Bill Barr and Mitch McConnell.

          • This comment was submitted by Marilyn Petitto Devaney:

            I am ashamed that there was not one person in Watertown – school superintendent- to all others in the school who did not listen and help this young girl who was being continually harassed in every vicious way.

            I only wish I knew!

            God bless her for going to media. How sad that she had to!

            It is beyond belief how when the Superintendent was asked by the TV reporter to comment about the injustice to this young girl- The superintendent “had no comment”.

            Marilyn M. Petitto Devaney

  7. The way Watertown Public Schools is handling this is an absolute disgrace. As if being a middle schooler isn’t tough enough. This poor girl is obviously being harassed and bullied and it may even be considered a Hate Crime.

    Watch the clip below from the piece that Fox 25 News did.

    https://www.boston25news.com/news/watertown-middle-schooler-calling-action-after-alleged-harassment/17251b0b-f2e0-4468-88f5-359b12091aac/?_website=cmg-tv-10020

    After watching this it seems that perhaps one of the kids that targeted this girl is the child of a police officer. Listen to the clip to hear that comment about another student saying their father is a cop. If so, let’s find out if that had something to do with how little WPS did for the girl getting bullied. What is evident is there is no leadership in the Watertown Public Schools and this is yet another example.

    Some suggestions for punishment for the students involved.
    1. Ban them from any middle school sports for conduct unbecoming
    2. Make them take some type of required course/program about racism.
    3. Ban them for the rest of the year from WMS and have them remain at home for remote learning

    A forum sounds good except it is unlikely that anyone that is racist and behaves like this will participate.

    And to this girl being bullied and harassed. I admire your strength for coming forward and for reporting this to officials.

  8. PLEASE NOTE: Watertown Parent above states: “After watching this it seems that perhaps one of the kids that targeted this girl is the child of a police officer.” If you read the letter included in the segment it states: “…this person’s Father is a Police Officer and they live in Connecticut…”

    Please be careful of how you state things. Yes, she said that but she is also a 13 year old child being interviewed by herself about a very serious issue. Pause the segment and read the letter included.

    The “police officer” is NOT a Watertown Police Officer and please keep in mind we have wonderful community members who are also Police Officers with children. Making assumptions puts these children at risk also.

  9. Does it really matter where the police officer is from? Perhaps this is another incident In Watertown involving serious criminal action that calls for The F.B.I. to be brought in, to make sure the investigation helps our students, staff, and all residents especially this middle school young lady. The time is now to listen and look for help too figure out a punishment that fits these crimes. This is not a time to take things lightly. These are serious criminal action, shame on our administration for not taking it seriously from the beginning. Zoom meetings to address the seriousness of this behavior are you kidding me. I have witnessed far to many incidents that have fallen on deaf ears. Immediate attention needs to take place on behalf of this brave middle school student, perhaps including expulsions regarding these serious criminal complaints. Retired teacher of 34 years.

    Respectfully,
    Mary Russo

  10. This is awful what has been happening to this girl. Shame on our school officials for their inaction.

    As for what Watertown Parent Too parent stated. I think most people understand that a child saying their dad is a cop doesn’t automatically mean a cop in town. I understood it as the kid was saying their dad was a cop as a way to flex some muscle and maybe give the impression that nothing would happen to them. I certainly did not read the comment and assume the cop was on the WPD.

    I do agree with the many other comments that this girl is brave and courageous.

    • Speaking of the WPD please read Howie Carr’s column in todays Boston Herald to see what is really going on. Its something a lot of us suspected was going on. Lets see if the town takes action.

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