Watertown Schools to Conduct Outside Review of Bullying & Discipline Policies After Racially-Motivated Incident

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The Watertown Public Schools hired outside experts to review the district’s bullying and disciplinary policies following a student’s report of racially-motivated bullying.

In November, a 13-year-old girl who attends Watertown Middle School reported being harassed online and by phone after putting up posts supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

In another response to the incident, the Watertown schools will host a community forum to discuss racism and bullying in the Watertown Schools on Thursday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. The public can join the form, which is being held virtually on Zoom, by using this link: https://watertown-k12-ma-us.zoom.us/j/94875621016

Superintendent Dede Galdston said the decision to have a review of how the district handles bullying, and specifically racially-motivated incidents, was made after hearing about the experience of Watertown Middle School student.

“Recent events have given me significant pause, and while I do not believe the Watertown Public Schools is alone in responding to acts of hate and racism, it is simply not enough to say ‘we did our best’ or ‘we followed our usual policies,’ We must be willing to review our practices and procedures,” Galdston said. “We must look deeply within ourselves and within our policies to learn how we can better ensure that we are fostering a safe and nurturing education community for all.”

The review will be conducted by John Dristiliaris of Southern New Hampshire University, who previously led a review of alleged racially bullying in the public schools in Hampton, N.H.; and Claudia Rinaldi, who is the Chair of Education at Lasell University and a nationally-renown expert on education and school reform efforts. 

Dristiliaris will construct a timeline and analyze the district’s response to recent incidents of racially-motivated bullying. Rinaldi will conduct a complete review of the Watertown Public Schools’ policies and procedures related to diversity, bullying and student discipline.

The review, which is expected to take 60-90 days, will produce a “comprehensive report, which will outline what occurred and what, if any, shortcomings there were in the District’s response,” according to the announcement.

“It is important that we continue to learn and revise our policies and procedures, and make improvements whenever possible, and I am committed to do so,” Galdston said.

The Watertown Public Schools sent out the following statement about the independent, outside review of the bullying and disciplinary policies:

Superintendent Dr. Dede Galdston announces that the Watertown Public Schools has commissioned an outside, independent administrative review that will include an analysis of the District’s response to recent incidents asserting claims of racially-motivated bullying and a complete review of the District’s bullying and disciplinary policies.

“It is unacceptable for any member of our Watertown Public Schools community to feel unsafe or to feel unsupported when they have the courage to speak up. Recent events have given me significant pause, and while I do not believe the Watertown Public Schools is alone in responding to acts of hate and racism, it is simply not enough to say ‘we did our best’ or ‘we followed our usual policies,’ We must be willing to review our practices and procedures,” Superintendent Galdston said. “We must look deeply within ourselves and within our policies to learn how we can better ensure that we are fostering a safe and nurturing education community for all. With that in mind, we are committed to a thorough finding of fact and we will carefully review and consider the recommendations of the outside experts.”

For the Watertown Administrative Review, two highly-educated, respected professionals will each take a portion of the situation. Dr. John Dristiliaris has been retained to construct a timeline and analyze the district’s response to recent incidents of racially-motivated bullying. Dristiliaris has more than 30 years of government and educational experience. He holds a Doctorate in Leadership Studies from Franklin Pierce University and is a faculty member at Southern New Hampshire University. He previously led a review of alleged racially bullying in the Hampton Public Schools in New Hampshire.

Additionally, Dr. Claudia Rinaldi, Ph.D. has been retained to conduct a complete review of the policies and procedures Watertown Public Schools as they related to diversity, bullying and student discipline. She will compare the district’s approach to national best practices and make recommendations where needed. Dr. Rinaldi is the Program Chair of Education at Lasell University. She is a nationally-renown expert on education and school reform efforts. 

At the conclusion of the review, the District will be provided a comprehensive report, which will outline what occurred and what, if any, shortcomings there were in the District’s response. This information will be used to inform policies and procedures moving forward.

Specifically, “This review will help identify what it is we are doing well, as well as any areas that we can continue to build upon,” Superintendent Galdston said. “It is important that we continue to learn and revise our policies and procedures, and make improvements whenever possible, and I am committed to do so.”

The administrative review process is expected to last approximately 60-90 days.

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