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HMS administration emails families with plan to combat ‘discriminatory behaviors’ in school

by | Mar 4, 2022 | Education, Featured: Education

Following the recent revelation that students at Hopkinton Middle School have made “racist comments to one another,” Hopkinton Public Schools Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh and HMS Principal Alan Keller reached out to the community to share their plan to combat the behavior.

Keller, appearing before the School Committee at its Feb. 17 meeting, was interrupted multiple times by a parent who expressed concern about racism and bullying at the school — specifically involving her child.

“I don’t think that it’s a secret,” Keller said in response, “that there have been a number of issues this particular year at the middle school.”

However, parents contacted by the Independent indicated there had been no communication between administration and the school community this school year about the issues.

On Monday, that changed, as an email was sent to HMS families.

“Let us begin by noting that Hopkinton is a vibrant multicultural community — growing more so all the time. As a community, we need to create a Pre-K to 12 school district that celebrates our diversity and honors civility. Accordingly, we are writing with important information regarding respect and civility, and we are looking for your assistance in educating your children.

“There is no doubt that the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted our children. In many cases the isolation has increased their social media use and access to other online entertainment such as YouTube and TikTok. Further, the isolation has stunted their social-emotional growth. In our schools we are seeing sixth-graders with the social skills of fourth-graders, for example, and this appears to be true at all grade levels.  Naturally, we are doing all we can to grow students’ social skills.

“Another thing we are finding — related in part, but not entirely, to the use of social media and online sources as well as a lack of social skills — is that students fail to act with respect for and civility among their peers. The lack of respect and civility is manifesting in ways that violate students’ civil and human rights. In the last month at the middle school we have seen racial, religious, gender and sexual-identity slurs, among discriminatory behaviors and violations of civil rights. This must stop.”

The email indicated there was a school-wide assembly Monday morning “in which we discussed respect, civility and the role that each of us plays in our school community.” The administrators indicated speakers will be brought in to talk to students about bullying and better educate them.

“We need parents’ help,” the email continues. “We ask that you talk to your children about topics such as microaggressions, slurs of any kind, civil rights, and basic respect and civility. With the rise of students being on social media as a source of entertainment, and with students not having the skills to comprehend the damage being done to others, it seems to our children that behavior is validated and acceptable. It is not. We need your help in messaging that. Students will be held accountable. Our expectation is that every human being, every learner, every adult will be treated with respect in our schools and, hopefully, in our world.”

Asked why parents had not been informed earlier in the school year, Cavanaugh responded: “As with all happenings in our schools, we have to decide when to elicit help from families. We now believe that we need parents to talk to their children about microaggressions, anti-bullying, anti-racism, anti-Semitism, gender and sexual orientation slurs and more. What we see our students doing and hear our students saying indicate that parental involvement is needed, as these behaviors are not likely to have been learned in the school setting.”

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