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HMS principal: Students have made ‘inappropriate, unkind, racist comments’ to each other

by | Feb 18, 2022 | Education, Featured: Education

There have been multiple issues at Hopkinton Middle School where students have made “racist comments to one another” this school year, Principal Alan Keller said Thursday during an appearance before the School Committee.

Keller was appearing before the committee to discuss the school’s program of studies when a woman in the audience called out to ask if there were changes addressing racism and bullying.

“There have been several incidents at the school,” Keller said. “And we are working to work with our students and with our staff on different professional development programs and different programs talking with students about appropriate and inappropriate ways to work with one another.”

The woman, who indicated she was a parent of a middle school student, continued to question Keller, despite Chair Nancy Cavanaugh attempting to cut her off and stick to the agenda. Cavanaugh told the woman that if she wanted to make a public comment, she should do so during the public comment period rather than talk about an individual student’s issue. However, the parent continued to speak for several minutes.

“I think there’s an important conversation we need to have that’s outside of the scope of the middle school program of studies,” Cavanaugh said as she tried to rein the conversation back to the agenda item. “ I don’t want to overlook the fact that we kind of just had a large moment in here. But I do think that’s something that we need to come back to as a committee [at a later date].”

After the vote accepting the middle school program of studies, Keller addressed those present.

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

He said that he and other middle school principals have talked about the struggles that the students have faced, more so than any other year of his 12 years of service, due to “a lot of factors.”

“Unfortunately there have been some situations where students have been called inappropriate, unkind, racist comments and made racist comments to one other,” Keller continued. “That’s something that we’re working to address. … It is something that we’re putting extensive amounts of time into.”

Keller said that, in addition to middle school years being a difficult period, the pandemic could have been a factor in this behavior, as well as the content on some social media apps. He has been working with a consultant for the past two months on how teachers should address micro-aggressions and inappropriate behavior.

“I don’t feel good about the incidents that have happened this year,” he said. “It’s something that we all as a community and as a staff are working to address. And I am hopeful that we will appropriately address these issues.”

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