May 25, 2023 

Good afternoon,

Since February, (which seems like years ago, and not only 3 months) I have been involved with the District’s Leadership Coalition to Eliminate Hate and Bias Speech. These meetings have involved a broad group of educators, some junior high and high school students, and several representatives from our families. We’ve spent time trying to narrow in on the real problem we’re trying to solve. In our last meeting, we feel like we got closer to identifying the things, that, if we improved, would help to eliminate some of the hate and bias language and actions that we’ve seen increase in recent years. 

Our group has developed a statement of the problem:

There is an underlying culture that exists in Acton-Boxborough school community which allows hate and bias speech to be perpetuated that includes the following characteristics:

  • Individuals engage in a range of hate and bias speech or behaviors that serve to dehumanize members of our community who belong to marginalized groups. These include:

    • Jokes and slurs that ridicule or reinforce stereotypes

    • Behaviors that target, demean or harass individual(s)

    • Public displays of hate

  • Hate and bias speech takes place in different settings, and is often influenced and amplified by the use of social media

  • Some individuals minimize, dismiss, or normalize the existence of hate and bias speech in our schools and community.

  • There are inconsistent and/or insufficient responses by educators and students to interrupt the hate and bias speech in the moment enough to modify behaviors and culture

The first step, and an important one, was to identify the problem. The next steps are to identify action steps we can all take to help make progress. While there needs to be a mutli-pronged approach, one of the steps RJ Grey is taking, is to introduce the A World of Difference program at the junior high next year. We’ve been working with the Anti-Defamation League since the winter and are making steps to move forward with this work. A World of Difference is a program that uses a peer-leader model whereby a group of student leaders are trained to recognize and challenge bias and bullying; practice anti-bias facilitation skills; and take on a leadership role in our school. We’re excited to roll out this program in the fall and recruit next year’s 7th and 8th graders to take an active part in learning about how to accomplish this work. We anticipate working with the ADL in the fall to train our peer leaders, and then push the work into other parts of our school day to impact all of our students and staff. Our admin team and teachers will also consider what other steps we can take here at RJ Grey to help in this important work. More to come next year!

Thank you to everyone who supported their 7th grader who attended our celebration last Friday night. From fancy dresses and sport coats, to shorts and sweatshirts, they wore it all! The almost 300 students who attended seemed to have a great time in our gyms. Before leaving for my own middle school dances, my mom would always tell me and my friends, “If someone asks you to dance, you have to say yes!” Knowing the courage that it takes to ask someone to dance, she felt it would be devastating to hear “no” as an answer. I didn’t get asked to dance a lot, and that was okay, but I always said yes if asked! Most our own celebration didn’t involve couples dancing at all, which I’m okay with. For many of our kids, there was some nervous energy for the first few minutes, not knowing what to expect. After a few minutes and a few bags of Doritos, they settled in and had a great time. Thank you to the adults who helped set up for the celebration, helped serve snacks, and endlessly refilled gallon jugs to keep our students hydrated. Durga Nirgudkar, Elise Calisi, Melissa MacGillvray, Pooja Garg, Sujatha Kapoor, and Caitlin Hazelgrove all assisted in a big way and I thank them for their help! The 8th grade end of year celebration will be on Friday, June 9th from 7 - 9 pm. We hope for an equally fun time for our students before they head off to high school. 

We have been collecting student permission slips for our upcoming end of year trips. Our 7th graders will go to Mel’s Funway on June 13th. Our 8th graders will go to Canobie Lake Park on June 15th. If you haven’t yet signed a permission slip or turned in a check, please send those in with your student as soon as you can. If the fee is any trouble for you, please just let us know and we’re happy to help out. We always find that these trips are great ways to close out the year and have our students experience their community one last time before leaving for the summer.

However you choose to spend this Memorial Day Weekend, I hope you enjoy it! 

Here are some dates to be aware of:

  • Mon, May 29: No School, Memorial Day

  • Thurs, June 1: Empty Bowls Event, 5:30 - 7:30 pm

  • Fri, June 2: ABRHS Graduation

  • Mon, June 5: Library closed after school

  • Fri, June 9: 8th grade Celebration, 7 - 9 pm

  • Tues, June 13: 7th grade field trip to Mel’s Funway

  • Thurs, June 15: 8th grade field trip to Canobie Lake

  • Fri, June 16: Last day of school

Take care and have a great weekend,

Posted by jmarcotte On 25 May, 2023 at 4:48 PM  

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