The K-12 district of Wellesley Public Schools (WPS) in Massachusetts released a policy calling for students and teachers to report their peers and colleagues for “incidents of bias” so they may be investigated and punished accordingly.
The Boston area school district’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) created the policy titled “Responding to Incidents of Bias or Discrimination.”
The DEI office defines an “incident of bias” as “conduct, speech or expression that has an impact but may not involve criminal action, but demonstrates conscious or unconscious bias” against any federally protected identity group, i.e., “race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.”
“Bias-based behavior can also be described as when someone treats another person differently or makes an offensive comment because of their membership in a protected group, such as their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability,” the policy states.
Parents Defending Education, a group that describes itself as a “national grassroots organization working to reclaim our schools from activists imposing harmful agendas,” obtained copies of the WPS training protocol slides, one of which states “incidents of bias” may be found on social media in “political speech, microaggressions, inappropriate conduct, hate speech, and direct threats.”
Examples of “microaggressions” mentioned in the training slides include: telling a colleague “You’re so articulate,” asking “Where are you actually from?”, or saying “The way you’ve overcome your disability is so inspiring!”
“Microaggressions” may occur in the classroom as well, the training slides indicate. Some examples include: “assigning student tasks or roles that reinforce particular gender roles,” mispronouncing a student’s name, or referring to coronavirus as the “China virus.”
Students are encouraged to report incidents of discrimination or bias to district staff members or “trusted adults.” Parents are urged to report such incidents to the appropriate school principal or administrator, “all of whom are trained in the protocol to respond to incidents,” the policy states.
The Wellesley DEI office plans to conduct all “investigations” of alleged incidents itself, including notification of the alleged accused, victims, and their families, as well as interviews with witnesses, making judgments about whether a policy violation has occurred, and, if so, responding with consequences.
The policy states that law enforcement would be called in should the incident involve a “hate crime.”
According to the DEI, potential disciplinary actions for “incidents of bias” are:
… detention, suspension, or other restorative responses that require them to acknowledge their responsibility and minimize its impact. A staff member would be subject to the disciplinary procedures of their bargaining unit, which might typically include a process of formal warnings and reprimands, suspension, or more serious consequences. Non-staff adult community members may be sanctioned by limiting or ending their participation in WPS community activities or ending their ability to be on WPS premises.
WPS lists in its policy the “preventive work” it is doing to “build a strong foundation of anti-bias culture” in the district, including “Equity Literacy” and “Culturally Responsive Practices and Racial Identity Development Professional Development” for administrators, faculty, and staff, and “Open Circle” for elementary students and “24/7 Respect” for high school students.