By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Like the community and country as a whole, the Westborough Public Schools district has a lot of work to do to address issues of equity and racism. That was the message during the Jan. 20 Westborough School Committee meeting, where members reviewed the results of a recent survey of students, parents and staff.
Sixty-seven % or 1,224 students in grades 7-12 responded to the survey. The majority of student respondents were white (53 %). Other ethnicities represented include Asian/Southeast Asian, Indian (30 %), Hispanic/Latinx (9 %), Black/African American (3 %) and Middle Eastern (3 %).
Students were asked questions about feeling welcome at school, experiencing or witnessing bullying, being singled out to represent their ethnic background and more.
Assistant Superintendent Daniel Meyer said the data would be used to prompt “thoughtful, informed discussions” about how to rectify problems aired in the results.
Data from students
- Forty-seven % of African American and 23 % Hispanic students indicated they would not feel comfortable telling a staff member about witnessing or being bullied.
- Twenty-five % of African American and 11 % Hispanic students expressed not feeling welcome at school.
- Twenty-six % African American and 15 % Hispanic students reported feeling excluded from social events/gatherings based on race either sometimes or often.
- A quarter of African American and 10 % Hispanic students said they felt teachers and other students expected them to speak on behalf of their entire race/ethnic group either sometimes or often.
School Committee member Raghu Nandan said he was concerned that students felt their issues would be “swept under a rug,” and were reluctant to approach staff.
“We need to be sure cultural training is done,” he said. “If they can’t go to staff, who are they going to turn to?”
School Committee Vice Chair Stephen Doret said that he is not surprised by the results because racism and inequality has existed for 400 years in the country. He emphasized that “as a necessity to survive,” action is needed.
“It’s all well and good doing surveys but what is needed (not just in the microcosm of the school district) but in the U.S. as a whole, is a method to solve this problem.”
Data from parents
Sixty-three % or 2,394 parents responded to the survey, with 15 % of African American respondents saying they “sometimes” felt hostility from the school system.
- A quarter of African Americans reported being ignored or belittled after sharing their ideas either rarely or sometimes.
- Twelve % of Latinx respondents said they did not feel welcome at school while 8 % responded, “not sure.”
Superintendent Amber Bock said this year is unusual because of COVID-19 and less face-to-face interactions with parents. She said that a committee working on re-vamping the social studies curriculum would present a report later in the year.
“(It’s) broader than social studies, but that plays a role in helping with this,” Meyer said.
Bock noted that making the district more inclusive is an-ongoing goal. The complete report on survey results was sent to parents this week.
For more information, click here to see a video of the Jan. 20 Westborough School Committee meeting (the part about the survey is shortly after the one hour mark).
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