Leaders of a Massachusetts public school system are encouraging students and staff to file complaints against one another for telling rude jokes, referring to the “China virus,” and committing microaggressions or other “incidents of bias,” according to newly uncovered documents from the district’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The documents were released by Parents Defending Education, a nonprofit that fights against indoctrination in American classrooms and activist-driven agendas in schools. The documents include Wellesley Public Schools’ policy on “Responding to Incidents of Bias or Discrimination,” and slides from a staff equity protocols training course.
Courts have found that policies like Wellesley’s can have a chilling effect on speech. A decision last year from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said a similar reporting policy at the University of Texas, enforced by the school’s Campus Climate Response Team, “represents the clenched fist in the velvet glove of student speech regulation.”
Attempts to reach Charmie Curry, the director of diversity, equity and inclusion for Wellesley Public Schools, via email an on her work phone were unsuccessful.
The Wellesley policy states that “discrimination based on ancestry, race, color, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or any other state or federally protected category is not tolerated.” An incident of bias is defined as “any biased conduct, speech or expression that has an impact but may not involve criminal action, but demonstrates conscious or unconscious bias that targets individuals or groups that are part of a federally protected class.”
Students are encouraged to report incidents of discrimination “or any concerning pattern of biased behavior” to any district staff member or a trusted adult.
“Reports of any concerning behavior may be made anonymously,” according to the policy, though it adds that, “Anonymous reports are more difficult to investigate and respond to.”
According to the training slides, “Telling rude jokes that mock a protected group in person or through any electronic device,” is an example of a “bias-based incident,” as are using slurs, imitating someone with a disability, or imitating someone’s cultural norm or language.
The training slides include several examples of possible equity violations, including: “Henry is a Math department head. At the school’s holiday party, he had fun telling jokes about Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims to other staff,” and “Adam is in the high school cafeteria and jokingly turns to a friend and says, ‘I can say ‘n-word’ because my friend Bernice gave me a pass.’”
Examples of microaggressions include saying “My principal is so crazy!” asking someone “Where are you actually from?” or saying “Ohhh, you got the ‘China Virus’?!?!”
Potential discipline for students who violate the policy “include detention, suspension, or other restorative responses that require them to acknowledge their responsibility and minimize its impact.” However, the staff training slides say one of the goals of an investigation is to “Focus on changing behavior rather than punishing (an) offender.”
The district aims to complete most investigations within ten days, according to the policy. School leaders are expected to notify the police and the Anti-Defamation League if a hate crime has been committed, the policy says.
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