School Officials Announce Efforts to Stop Racism, Bullying in Schools

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School officials said they heard the parents and community members loud and clear at a recent forum held in response to the report by a Watertown Middle School student the she had been racially harassed at school and online. This week, School administration and the School Committee announced some steps they would be taking to stop this from happening again.

On Monday, Superintendent Dede Galdston acknowledged that the Watertown Public Schools have much work to do.

“I think we share the same goals which include making the Watertown Schools the safest, most welcoming and most inclusive learning environment for all our students and families,” Galdston said. “They and you deserve nothing less.”

A few years ago, the District help start the Anti-Bias Coalition, which includes members of the public. Galdston said she will include parents in district’s Equity Leaders team to “help actualize its four goals.” The goals are:

  • Evaluating and implementing an inclusive, anti-racist and anti-bias curriculum
  • Hiring and maintaining  a diverse faculty and staff 
  • Provide in depth professional training for our  staff on anti-racist and bias 
  • Creating safe and supportive and welcoming learning environment for our children of color

Galdston will also be creating a parent advisory council made up of parents and caregivers of color and focusing on diversity, anti-racism, equity and inclusiveness.

“I commit to meet with the group at least once a month, if not more — and I anticipate it being more — through the end of the school year and likely beyond for many years to come,” Galdston said.

The council led by the parent parents, Galdston said.

“I will attend, I will listen, I will ask questions of the (council) and I will answer questions they have,” Galdston said. “I want the parents to lead the effort and set the agenda for these meetings. That’s a way to give space and voice to our families who I think really wanted to have it, from what I heard (on Dec. 3).”

An addition to the School Administration will be a districtwide roll of diversity, equity and inclusion, Galdston said.

“The person will be an integral part of our leadership team and will facilitate ongoing equity and anti-racism efforts for students, staff and the larger community,” Galdston said.

The position will be posted in January.

During the community forum, several people said they did not like that the District had hired a consultant to review the district’s policies and procedures in the wake of the report of racial harassment. Some also said they did not like the particular choice of consultants, both of whom are not people of color and one is a former police officer.

Galdston said she believes the external review is necessary, but said she will continue to look at how best to do it.

“I stress this one report is not the solution. It is one report and it will not end racism in Watertown, however I do believe it is one step in the right direction in that we need to fully and completely understand what has happened and committed to open our policies and procedures to external review to see where we may need to improve,” Galdston said. “I understand and acknowledge there are concerns about the consultant I selected, and as such I will continue to consider how best to conduct the external review of the incidents that were brought to our attention as well as our policies and procedures.”

Galdston will host two virtual Superintendent’s Coffees on Dec. 22 at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and invited anyone to speak with her further about those and any other issues they might have. She also plans to have more public forums on racism and bullying in January.

School Committee Policies

School Committee Chair John Portz said he and others on the board heard the emotions and frustrations of those who spoke during the Dec. 3 forum. He encouraged the whole community to get involved as the Schools examines its policies.

“As the last six months across this country has so clearly reminded us bias and racial injustice are systemic in our society,” Portz said. “We have many strengths in our community, and across the nation, but much work to do on the path toward social justice. Our schools play a key role, but we need the support and help of parents and others in the community.” 

The School Committee’s Policy Subcommittee will meet on Dec. 15, at 5 p.m., to continue discussions of anti-bullying and discrimination procedures. The meeting will be held on Zoom, click here for info on how to join.

Subcommittee Chair Lily Rayman-Read apologized to the Watertown Middle School student who reported the harassment, and others.

“Any student who has felt and who is feeling unsafe in our schools, it is a failure all of our parts, and mine included, and that’s unacceptable,” Rayman-Read said.

She added that the School Committee will include parents when making decisions about the district’s policies. A new community advisory board for policy subcommittee will be created, Rayman-Read said.

“I hope the community comes out and talks to us about our policies and gets involved,” Rayman-Read said. “The more voices we hear, the stronger we become as a community.” 

5 thoughts on “School Officials Announce Efforts to Stop Racism, Bullying in Schools

  1. With all due respect to sincere people who want these sorts of programs:

    Schools are attempting to teach things best taught at home.

    And all these “politically correct” programs are taking away from much needed practical education.

    Watertown has already brought in programs (and some that should never have been invited in and subsequently were tossed out) to teach these things.

    How many times are you going to do this?

    You expect to never again have a student who says something offensive to some other student for any one of a number of reasons?

    Well, it’s going to fail. It is humanly impossible.

    Kids will say bad things just as adults will.
    Kids will draw bad things on walls too. It’s called vandalism.

    Massive and unjustified pressure is being put on Superintendent Galdston. I feel very bad for her because she is being given an impossible task. Please, stop it.

    It’s being done not just for sincere reasons but – let’s be frank – in furtherance of a “politically correct” agenda.

    I respectfully suggest doing what educators have done for millenia: Punish students who do wrong.

    • It is ideal for values to be taught in the home. But what happens when values of decency aren’t taught at home? What happens when parents pass on bigoted attitudes? This does happen and in those cases the schools, like it or not, become the backstop, the last resort teacher of values.

      Also, programs that teach children to value the diverse identities of others are practical. They prepare students for a future where they will encounter many types of people. To have a background that allows one to go into the world with an attitude of acceptance will enable students to have a greater impact and success in the world. Those who harbor ill will often sabotage their own efforts in life.

  2. Listening to those affected by racial bullying at the meeting mentioned above leads me to believe that one of the goals for this improvement process should include direct and immediate school involvement with the perpetrators of racial bullying and consequences. Perhaps some kind of education and community service could be put into place so the bullies can be taught to understand the harm they do and learn to change. It may be a process for the bully, but the Schools and town have to display values and standards known to all. In addition, the problem many saw with the consultants hired is that they are white PR-Public Relations- people one of whom is a former police officer. These consultants should include people of color who are specially trained to deal with racism in an educational setting and can come to be helpful without extra baggage. An active Parents Council sounds like a good idea as does committee chair Rayman-Read’s idea for a policy advisory board. Of course, a diverse faculty and staff is a positive for absolutely everyone in town. More direct involvement by the Schools and parents will have broad benefits.

  3. The school and WPD bungled this from the get go. They wanted the accusations of racism, and possibly a hate crime, to just go away rather than doing what was necessary, under the law and existing statutes, to investigate fully and punish if need be. The result is that Watertown was portrayed on local television as being insensitive, sloppy, and uncaring to its children in the public schools. Now, everyone is trying to cover their behinds and project a “we’re listening, we care” mantra. Fact is none of them care, not the school administration, not the town council, not the WPD.

    • Instead of being proactive Watertown have always been reactive. Hopefully the charter committee will recognize this and make the necessary changes.

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