Tag Archives: Worcester Public Schools

In fashion! … Worcester Public Schools – IMPORTANT EVENTS!

Be there, if you care about our kids!

This Wednesday!


Considerations for the Next Superintendent of Schools in Worcester
Wednesday, January 13

7:45 AM

MCPHS University, Fuller Conference Center

25 Foster St., Worcester

The Worcester Education Collaborative (WEC) and Worcester Regional Research Bureau are pleased to announce the upcoming release of their first joint report, The Urgency of Excellence: Considerations for the Next Superintendent of Schools in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The report will be released at a community briefing and panel discussion on Wednesday, January 13, co-hosted by WEC and The Research Bureau, together with Clark University’s Adam Institute for Urban Teaching and School Practice, Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and United Way of Central Massachusetts.

The report and the panel will focus on the opportunities facing the Worcester Public Schools as they prepare for new leadership. Public education is critical to the success of the modern city.

As the Worcester School Committee begins its 2016-2017 term with the challenge of appointing a new superintendent, the report and panel will review the critical needs of urban education and offer insights into best practices for moving forward.

Hardin Coleman, Dean, Boston University School of Education and Vice-Chair, Boston School Committee
Michael Contompasis, Executive Chairman, MA & Senior Field Consultant at The School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight; Former Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools

George H. Edwards, Director, Commission on Public Education, New England Association of Schools & Colleges

George W. Tetler III, Partner, Bowditch & Dewey, LLP



Corporal Punishment, School Discipline and Arrest Trauma

corporal Punishment
Corporal punishment IS physical and emotional abuse! … Arresting students in our schools traumatizes the student being arrested and the students witnessing the arrest.

By Gordon Davis
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts recently ruled that a couple who disciplined their child using corporal punishment could not be foster parents.

The couple argued that they would not used corporal punishment on the foster children, but only their biological children. This argument was rejected by the Court.

The Court based its ruling affirmed the decision of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) that the foster parents use of corporal punishment on foster children who have likely suffered traumas of abuse or neglect was potentially harmful. It also ruled that even if the foster parents did not use corporal punishment on the foster children, their use of corporal punishment on their biological children could be emotionally upsetting to the foster children.

“… that children placed by the department have been exposed to an array of neglect and abuse, and their awareness of acts of corporal punishment in their foster homes “could well trigger the very trauma the placement was intended to mitigate.” The hearing officer stated that the department could not simply place with the Magazus a child who had not been physically abused because foster children often do not disclose the full extent of their experiences until after being placed in substitute care. Moreover, she continued, the Magazus’ willingness to refrain from using corporal punishment on a 9 foster child did not alleviate the department’s concerns regarding the discipline of such child postadoption, when the child would no longer be under the purview of the department”

The Worcester Public Schools are legally similar to foster parents.

They are parentis in loco which means that the schools have the same parental responsibilities as biological parents, foster parents and guardians when the children are at school.

Corporal punishment is not allowed at the Worcester Public Schools with the exception of the use of police force. The use of police force and arrest is traumatic and emotionally upsetting. Yet it is increasingly being used in the Worcester Public Schools for non-emergency matters such as school discipline which is covered by Chap. 222 of the Acts. 2012.

Robert L. Simon M. D. has written: “False arrest and imprisonment can be an extraordinarily traumatic event. The author’s evaluation of three cases, and a review of the recent forensic psychiatric literature and reported legal cases, clearly demonstrate that serious psychological impairment may follow false arrest and imprisonment. These cases are frequently litigated.“

Arrests made by the police for “disturbance and disorderly,” as defined in Chapter 222, are false arrests and imprisonment. These situations should be handled per the statutes by the Worcester Public Schools – administratively and not by falsely arresting and imprisoning children.

The number of arrests of students at Worcester Public Schools is higher than last academic year with at least two students arrested in our middle schools. A Worcester Public School official has stated most of the arrests have been for disturbances and disorderly, which are not crimes.

The Worcester Public Schools published an outdated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on December 18, 2015.

I am sorry to say that the MOU published on that date was a sham and a political stunt.

The MOU published is the outdated MOU which does not cover police being full-time in our schools, their duties and restrictions, their training, nor their chain of command (can a principal order a police officer to stand down?).

Dr. Rodrigues, acting superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, said at a December 2015 meeting an updated MOU would not be available until after March of 2016 when there would be some sort of curriculum for the training of police in schools.

The facts are the following:

·        the police in the schools have not been trained for being School Resource Officers, as there is no curriculum

·        there is no clear description of the police duties and restrictions in the schools

·        the police have not recognized that a principal of a school can make them stand down

·        most of the arrests made in Worcester Public Schools are for non criminal events, which are more appropriately handled by school administrators

·        there is evidence that police arresting children and children witnessing arrests cause trauma

At the December 17, 2015, Worcester School Committee meeting, Ms. Idella Hazard opposed cops being in schools as it sends the wrong message to our children, is potentially damaging, and the resources could be better spent.

Although she did not say that cops in the schools are a part of a racist school-to-jail policy, I believe that it is racist.

This is especially true as the Worcester School Committee is all white and the majority of the children in the Worcester Public Schools are not.

The Politics of Safe Worcester Public Schools

There is hope to be found in the little group of people who are demanding that Worcester students be treated in a manner that will lead to their success – not to the criminal justice system.

By Gordon Davis

The Safety Audit for the Worcester Public Schools was discussed at the December 17, 2015, Worcester School Committee Meeting.

The WPS Safety Audit concerns itself mostly with keeping the students and staff at our schools safe from outside threats. It talks about stronger doors, more security at front entrances, comprehensive responses, etc.

The Safety Audit rightly did not concern itself with internal “incidents” such as students yelling, bouncing basketballs, cell phone use, or dress code which are things that students, who are still developing,  act out on.

The WPS Safety Audit did say that if the police were brought in to resolve these “incidents” many staffers and students would not cooperate with the police. This non-cooperation caused by the criminalization of non-criminal incidents could have an adverse effect on safety. The Audit recommended that for these “incidents” there should be a policy of no arrests and deferral to school disciplinary policy and not the criminal justice system.

It did not seem that many on the Worcester School Committee paid attention to this recommendation.

Many people spoke out against police in the schools and the arrests of students at school. Some in the opposition identified themselves as from the Progressive Labor Party (PLP), Mass. Human Rights, the ACLU and a Unitarian Church.

A speaker from PLP said the City of Worcester was not in compliance with state statutes on the use of police in the schools. The required Memorandum of Understanding ((MOU) was out of date and the City of Worcester faced lawsuits for any harm done by the police in schools. 

Ron Madnick, a former teacher at Burncoat High School, said having loaded guns, carried by the police, was troubling in terms of accidents.

The student representative from South High School said he agreed students should not be arrested at school unless there was an emergency. 

Idella Hazard, a former police officer, said police in our schools was racist and part of the school to prison pipeline. Gwen Davis (my wife) said most of the police officers make six-figure salaries and that taxpayer money would be better spent on more teachers in the Worcester Public Schools and better student-to-teacher ratios.

There was one person who spoke in favor of the police arresting students at school. He is the head of the teachers’ union. He said only bad kids get arrested. He then said armed gunmen could have stopped the tragedy in Newtown, where 21 elementary school children and six staffers were massacred. The Minister from the Unitarian Church replied that it was outrageous to bring up Newtown, as there are no plans to station police in Worcester’s elementary schools.

Interim Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Rodrigues was disingenuous when he said a working MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING – MOU – existed.

He said the MOU would be posted on the Worcester Public Schools website December 18, 2015. It was not.  

Dr. Rodrigues had said earlier in the month that the new MOU would not be written until after March 2016.

He is learning quickly how to play the Worcester old boy network political game.

It is encouraging that some thought is going into making our schools safer from outside threats.

It is sad that many people think about school safety in terms of threats from students.

Many in our schools and city seem to be afraid of young Black students and anyone adversely affected by poverty – especially teenagers.

It is clear that leadership on this issue will not come from the Worcester School Committee, which has no person of color or even a progressive on board. The leadership will not come from the Worcester City Council, which refused at a recent city council meeting to discuss the lack of a policy about police in our schools. It is not likely to come from the Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus who made a mess of things earlier this year with the U.S. Department of Justice Race Dialogues held in our city.   

There is hope to be found in the little group of people who are demanding that Worcester students be treated in a manner that will lead to their success – not to the criminal justice system.   

Meeting interim Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Marco Rodrigues

By Gordon Davis

Members of Mass. Human Rights met with Dr. Marco Rodrigues, the interim Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, December 8. The meeting was intended to clarify the City government’s policy about full time police officers (school resource officers) in the High Schools and the arrests of students at school. Dr. Rodrigues was open and candid.  The clarifications, however, raised new questions:

Regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is required by statute to be in place before the full time police officers are assigned to the schools, it has yet to be revised. The revisions will be made, according to Dr, Rodriques, after the special training for SRO is specified.

Dr.  Rodrigues has been in contact with the National Organization of School Resource Officers (SRO) located in Alabama, regarding the development of training requirements for SRO. The training would be about 40 hours. The tentative plan is to have a trainer come to Worcester.  It was fairly clear that the details of the training plan did not exist or were in flux. Sometime in March 2016 is the date of the expected training.

Dr. Rodrigues was uncertain about how parents, teachers, students or advocates could have input into the rewriting of the MOU.

He said the MOU would be based on the specifics of the training and was intended to be a document between the Worcester Police Department and School Departments of Worcester.  However, he did not rule out a public review of the finished document. Ms. Davis said Mass. Human Rights planned to reach out to the Parents Advisory Groups regarding the issues.

The Safety Audit for the Worcester Public Schools is now completed, and it should be presented to the Worcester School Committee at its December 17, 2015 meeting.  Dr. Rodriques did not go into detail about the audit. Ms. Davis said her group was planning to attend the December 17, 2015, School Committee meeting to present a petition against arresting students at school. She also said that was interested in the details of the Safety Audit.

When the issue of the arrests of students at school came up, Dr. Rodriques did not seem to have all of the facts at hand.

He said he could not comment on whether or not the number of arrests of students at school was up or down.

He was not able to break down the arrests by race or by type. It was stated by one of the attendees that most of the arrests were for disruptions or disorderly (behavior), which are not crimes but are subjective.

Ms. Rodriguez of Mass. Human Rights said Latino children are more disproportionately and wrongfully arrested than other groups of students. She said she was very concerned.

Dr. Rodriques said that Worcester has one of the highest graduation rates for an urban school district. He said that at 79 percent, it is much higher than Boston, Lowell or Springfield. He also said the dropout rate is continuing to decline. In regards to a recommendation from the State, the Worcester School System has lower suspension numbers than previous years.

My impression of Dr. Rodriques is he has the enthusiasm and the energy of the young with the professional experience and education to have a significantly good impact on the Worcester Schools. In a majority minority school district Dr. Rodrigues has the potential to make a positive difference that others would not be able to accomplish. He is already making that difference and he certainly seems to want to continue to do so.

On choosing the next superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools

By Edith Morgan

Once again, there is room at the top: with the departure of Worcester Public Schools present superintendent Melinda Boone, the mad scramble to replace her begins.

This is a good time for me to put in my take on the job:

The position of superintendent has become increasingly difficult. There are pressures from all sides, from those who see the glass as half full, and those who see it as half empty.

There are those of us who support public schools and their very vital mission in ensuring the future of our country, and there are those committed to privatizing, milking the “cash cow” (as Chris Whittle, of Channel 1 fame) is said to have called the American Public Schools system.

There are those who want to give every child a chance at a great education and a good start in life; and there are those who want to strangle the public part of education and slowly starve it to death, under the guise of providing “choice.”

And then there is the vast group in between, who have no children in the public schools, who are divided among those who willingly pay taxes to maintain and steadily improve our schools, as a payback for the education WE received that laid a foundation under our future successes.
Trying to head up an enterprise that is under pressure from so many sides, with so many different points of view, from above as well as below, is a job for a superhuman being. 

And to take that position, while having limited power to carry out the various mandates put upon one by the State, the Federal Government, and local politicians, in addition to keeping parents, students, teachers, and others contented, is to accept a nearly impossible task. And then, to be expected to be physically visible at functions at the schools, be visible to over 25,000 students at over 50 different school buildings – that is truly an impossible task. So whoever occupies that position has to set priorities.
Worcester Public Schools have so many great programs, so many staff members doing exceptional things, and so many students applying themselves to the task of learning, that we often lose sight of the fact that in the aggregate we have much better public schools than we deserve.

We hear about every event, blown up by the media and those who seek to point fingers, but pay scant attention to the day-to-day achievements of the Worcester Public Schools. 

And responsibility is not equally distributed: when I was growing up, my parents expected me to learn all I could, be respectful of teachers and fellow students, and meet them halfway.
In an environment where responsibility is so unevenly distributed, but where everyone’s opinion counts equally, regardless of the amount of thought or knowledge behind the opinion, and where children grow up in a culture steeped in violence, it is more and more difficult to steer the ship steadily.
I applaud State Senator Harriet Chandler’s push for the return of Civics to our schools. Hopefully, teaching citizenship and its duties again will help. Maybe a better understanding not only of how things function, but of each student’s role in it, will improve our dismal voting participation.

Election fall out: New Worcester School Committee takes a turn for the worse

By Gordon Davis
The two liberal or progressive members of the Worcester School Committee, Hilda Ramirez and Tracy A. O’Connell Novick, lost the election and will be replaced by what some consider to be a right wing challenger, Donna M. Colorio, and a relatively unknown Molly McCullough. I say that Ms. Ramirez and Ms. O’Connell Novick are progressive because from my experience they understood the changes that the Worcester Public School system is going through as it becomes more of a majority minority school system. They did more than just maintain a “color blind” system of public education but instead tried to accommodate each child’s level of educational ability.

It is clear what the newly elected Worcester School Committee members will do: It has been my experience that Ms. Coloria does not understand the school system’s changes and is resistant to them.  There are some who say that she is connected to the right wing Tea Party which has consistently displayed bias toward newcomers, especially Hispanic people. I suppose we can expect what, on the surface, will be called “color blind” decisions by Ms. Colorio to prove to have a disparately adverse impact on many poor Worcester kids – kids without adequate educational resources outside of our schools, especially Black and Latino students.

I only know Ms. McCullough from her literature, and I do not have any strong opinions about her. Most of her election statements seem to be the usual campaign cliches that do not say much nor offend anyone. I suppose we will soon find out about her real thinking and character in the near term.

It is unfortunate to have lost both Ms. O’Connell Novick and Ms. Ramirez. The City’s failure to re-elect Ms. Ramirez is especially a blow, as there are now no so called minorities on the Worcester School Committee. There are no Asians, no Blacks, no Latinos.

I know and like school committee members Messrs Brian O’Connell, Jack Foley and John Monfredo – incumbents who the voters re-elected. They are decent people and well qualified such that it is likely their decisions will be based on a pedagogy that will do no harm to Worcester’s students and their families.

School committee member Briancharia has not shown to me that she has the capacity or the compassion to be on the Worcester school committee. Her almost irrational demands about police in our schools are particularly worrisome. Sometimes I feel her lack of a college degree and any experience in education makes her less capable than some of the others who ran for school committee.

Now that Ms. Colorio has won, it appears that interim Worcester Public Schools superintendent Mr. Rodrigues’ (who worked under departing WPS superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone) chances of becoming the contractual School Superintendent are greatly reduced. From all accounts Ms. Maureen Binienda, principal of South High School, is well qualified to be a superintendent of schools. However, I wonder if her backers in the Worcester School Committee have taken into account our schools’ demographic changes aforementioned. Sometimes a color blind policy is not what is needed to address the particulars of a situation.

The police in the Worcester Public Schools was rammed down the throat of the school system so quickly that there is no policy nor protocol for the arrest of kids at school, the use of police force at school, nor the interactions of school administration and police.

The police powers are authorized under a different state statute than are found in the Department of Education regulations.  

There will be a city-wide meeting Nov, 18, 6 PM at Centro, 11 Sycamore St., to discuss this lack of policy issue.

I hope that the inconsistencies between Worcester police authority and Department of Education authority can be resolved in such a way as not to be harmful to our students.

I also hope that a Worcester school committee that is now all-white can make compassionate, intelligent decisions for a school system that is now majority minority. 

Confusion re: City of Worcester policy of arresting students/kids at school

NAACP Forum 10-24-15
The NAACP education forum

By Gordon Davis

The NAACP hosted a forum on education, October 24, at the AME Zion Church on Illinois Street. One of the topics for discussion was called Public Safety which was led by two police officers and the Public Safety Liaison Officer for the Worcester Public Schools. 

Groups opposing the police arresting kids at schools were told that they could not collect signatures for their petition to
City Council nor address the forum.

At one point the organizer of the event came out to the sidewalk and told these groups to stop talking to people. The minister of the Church also told the groups to stop their petition collection while they were on the sidewalk in front of the Church.  After some dialog the NAACP and AME Zion Church allowed the group to come into the event’s workshop.

The workshop on Public Safety was run by Public Safety Liaison Officer Rob Pezzella, Sergeant Lopez, and Officer Diaz.  Sergeant Lopez and Officer Diaz are full time police assigned to Worcester Public High Schools.

Each of Worcester’s five public high schools has a full time police officer assigned to it. There is a single police officer assigned to all of the middle schools. For elementary school Mr. Perzella explained they are covered by route cases. 

Mr. Pezzella stated there is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Worcester Public Schools and the Worcester Police that was outdated and needed revision. He said that he had no timetable for its revision and it was not entirely clear what would go into the revised MOU.  When asked whether the public could have input in the writing of the revised MOU, Mr. Pezzella said that would have to defer to Superintendant of Schools, the Manager, and the Mayor.  Sergeant Lopez said that the Chapter 222 of the Act of 2012 required that there some sort of public hearings.

The two police officers told the workshop attendees what they did at school. They said that they did a myriad of duties, including directing traffic, visiting parents, and counseling. Officer Diaz said that she would conduct random drug searches with a drug dog.  However, she said that she does not as a rule intervene in a discipline issues unless she is asked to do so by the school administration.  Officer Lopez and Diaz both said once she is involved, the principal could not tell them to stand down. Sergeant Lopez asserted that only the District Attorney could order him to stand down.

The assertions and opinions of the police officers are not found in the MOU or in Chapter 222. It is not clear what is the City of Worcester’s policy on the interaction of the police and the school administration and the students. 

It would make sense for the City to clarify this policy as soon as possible in order for the parents and students to understand what is expected.

A counselor from the Worcester School Department spoke of how she interacts with the students and parents when there are issues including children requiring assistance (CRA). This counselor is familiar with the regulations and guides the parents and children through the procedures. However when asked, she said that she was not an advocate, but a neutral officer of the court. She had no privilege and the parent and child should not have an expectation of confidentiality. 

It was not clear from her presentation whether the parents and children were informed of this before speaking with her.  

The groups collecting the petition signatures outside the Church said that the arrest of children at school was traumatizing to all concerned and harmful to the child. The groups went on to say that arresting kids at school has a racist element and was a part of the school to jail pipeline.

PLP and the Massachusetts Human Rights Committee are hosting a discussion on the interaction of the police and school and City Policy. The discussion is planned for November 18, 6 PM, at CENTRO, 11 Sycamore St. 01608.

The City policy on arrests of children at school should be clarified by the School Department, the police, the Manager, and the Mayor. There should at least some minimum age that the police would not arrest a child, but seek instead a CRA. Right now there is no official policy; policy is set by the individual police officers without official guidance. This creation of an official policy should be transparent with the input of the public.

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published …

By Edith Morgan

Worcester’s MCAS scores are published, and once again the public is treated to a bunch of truly meaningless, worthless numbers, designed, not to enlighten or help improve our public schools, but to denigrate the performance of those most abused by this money-mad society and to hold them down longer and most surely.

Many years ago our public schools undertook the unique task of educating EVERY child – no matter what that child brought to school.

This was a most remarkable goal, and well beyond what most nations did: they selected the cream of the crop, and funneled them through their systems, tested them, and supported and encouraged them to go as high as they could (Thus were created the Olympic stars, etc of many nations.) But America chose another path, at least on paper. (Things tend to get watered down or even perverted when left to the states). For several decades, with impetus from the Federal Government, we tried very hard to give every child in America an even chance – regardless of poverty, minority status, mental or physical handicaps, or abusive home environment, – to become a full-fledged citizen, neighbor,  family member and worker.

I was teaching at the time, and it was demanding work, but very fulfilling.

But then, gradually, almost unperceived, there was a change: several things occurred (not in this order, but equally important):

We elected a President who convinced too many people that “Greed is Good”, with the obvious deadly results.

We started to believe in the “wisdom of the Market”, and despite all the data to the contrary, began to import the philosophy and methods of industry into our schools, making them more like factories (of late we have also imported the business model into medicine with disastrous results)

In a well-funded and orchestrated campaign, we were told: that our schools were mediocre, our teachers overpaid, and our goals of creating lifelong learners and good citizens should subverted  and instead we should produce workers for business.

In a real slap in the face to parents and citizens, a major move to “privatize” (i.e. take over the public schools from the public) was instituted, under the thinly disguised excuse that these “model” schools would try new and better things, from which the local public schools could then learn and adapt their methods and  curricula. (I was at that time involved with several years of Federal programs funding experiments in the public schools, designing better ways to teach reading, literature, etc.. and these programs, since they were federally funded, were available to all. Imagine my surprise when one major supplier of charter programs turned out to be using these ideas, not creating their own, new ones.)

We were told that we needed these alternatives, because the public schools lacked innovation and creativity and flexibility. So, instead of giving our public schools the flexibility they needed, we created this spurious alternative, siphoned funds away from the neediest, and enthroned the profit motive in one more place where it has no business being.

Not everything in a decent society can turn a profit: I strongly believe that education and health care should not be privately held by for-profit, enterprises (and maybe we should add public transportation and parkland to the list).

My thoughts on the resignation of WPS Superintendent Dr. Boone

Dr. Boone 2
Dr. Boone, seated, top left, at a Worcester School Committee meeting.

By Gordon Davis

Dr. Melinda Boone has voted “No Confidence” in the direction of the City of Worcester by resigning  her job as Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools. She has been hired as the Superintendent of Schools in Norfolk, Virginia.

At first I was surprised, but after giving it some thought it has become clearer that Worcester is a hostile environment for Black women. Dr. Boone, Dr. Joyce McNichols, Brenda Jenkins, Stacey DeBoise Luster and Keesha Latulippe are some of the Black women who have faced a hostile Worcester. This city is developing a reputation as a bad place for people of color to work.  Dr. Boone’s resignation will only add to that perception. It throws into question the sincerity of the proclamations by so called city leaders about diversity.
Worcester City Councilors Gaffney and Rosen’s “I am not a racist” play acting, while hammering Black women has not gone unnoticed. Mr. Gaffney’s press release in which he said that he was happy Dr. Boone was gone without commenting on the good she has done is an example of the contempt he has for Black women. Another example is his attacks on Brenda Jenkins, a Black woman who has devoted most of her adult life to helping those in need of help. Councilors Rosen, Gaffney, and Konstantina Lukes, whom some say are in the Tea Party, have a notorious record of what many say is racism.

The Worcester teachers’ union leadership also got caught up in this attack frenzy on Black women. It is rumored that this was one of the reasons that Ms. Deboise Luster left her job as Human Resources Director with the Worcester Public Schools. Although the teachers’ union has done a lot of good and I support it, the union has taken narrow-minded positions at times. Perhaps if it defended its teachers in terms of the education and welfare of the students, the union’s views would not be perceived to be a bad thing.

A columnist, a teacher at the Recovery School and a member of the teachers’ union slammed Keesha LaTulippe. Led by the hypocrite Dianna Brianchara of the Worcester School Committee who sought the support of Black women when she ran for state representative and now she is adding to Worcester hostile environment to Black women. She sought a no confidence vote against Dr. Boone. It is hard to believe Ms. Briancara’s complaints against Dr. Boone’s handling of issues that are common to all school systems.

Ms. Briancara demands that the criminal justice agencies set up shop in Worcester schools is without merit, and I am happy that Dr. Boone understood the harm that such a policy would cause. There has been much study that the policy of criminal justice inside of school is a factor in the school to jail pipeline of children in urban schools.  

Dr. Joyce McNichols, a community activist, has faced attacks from the racist right wing when she spoke up at the City Manager’s failed discussion on race relations. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has now dissolved the City’s Affirmative Committee and created a City Committee of Diversity. This Diversity Committee now has less of a chance of being successful,.as not only is its purpose unclear, but with Dr. Boone’s vote of no confidence in the direction of the City there is less chance of diversity.

To some extent, Worcester is becoming like Boston in the 1970s, a hostile place for Black people to live and work.

Dr. Boone brought up students’ test scores, kept the students safe, increased their graduation rate, and decreased the drop out rate.

I wish Dr. Boone good fortune in her new position. I think I can say that she did not compromise her principles of improving the school system of Worcester. I believe she left when the racist right wing in the City began to adversely affect her job of providing quality education to our diverse, majority-minority school system.  

School discipline, discrimination and justice

By Gordon Davis

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early held a conference on the issue of justice in the public education system. It was not what I expected.

The main speaker was Richard Cole, an attorney consultant on the issue of Education Law. He focused his talk on his perception of a possible conflict between the recent Massachusetts statutes establishing regulations for the suspension of students, M.G.L. Chap. 222, and the Federal regulations regarding Discrimination Law for schools which are found in Title IX.

Richard Cole
Richard Cole photos by Gordon Davis

The emphasis of the State regulations regarding suspensions is establishing rights for the students alleged to have violated school policy; the regulations are enforced by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).   

Federal discrimination laws are mainly written to protect the victims of discrimination and are enforced by the U.S. Department of Education’s (DOE) Officer of Civil Rights (OCR).

The DESE regulations provide guidelines for short-term and long-term suspension of students.

For students facing possible long-term suspension the State regulations provide: the right to a hearing, the right for a parent to attend the hearing, the right to be represented by a lawyer or advocate at the hearing, the right to his/her file, the right to provide evidence, the right to a recording of the hearing, and the right to appeal.  It is not clear whether the student facing suspension is actually suspended during the hearing or after the hearing.

Richard Cole 2
Learning about justice in the education system …

OCR regulations require not only the same rights for the alleged victim but also that the school creates an immediate plan for the safety of the victim. This safety plan is required to be made known to the victim. Not taking immediate action opens the school to liability under Discrimination Law.

So who is covered under discrimination laws?

Students in what are called protected classes are covered. A protected class is defined by legislation or regulation and includes race, sex, handicap, etc. Discrimination Law is not the same as the anti-bullying regulations. As a rule bullies are seen as non-discriminating harassers.
Recently in Lowell a Black student was elected class president at his high school. Subsequent to the election, he started to be cyber-harassed by White students using racial slurs. This case fell under both the DESE regulation and the OCR regulations, as the Black student was in a protected class and the White students were facing possible long-term suspension. The case was resolved when the White students apologized and the Black student and his mother accepted the apology. The White students were suspended for a short term and there was no hearing.

Mr. Cole talked mostly about sexual harassment. In these potential situations at school several things will happen: If there is a determination that a felony could possibly have been committed, then all of the DESE regulations are moot. The school can suspend immediately without a hearing. However, during the investigation, the school and the police are somewhat at odds when there is no determination of a criminal act. The hearing and investigation that is required for long-term suspension could interfere or taint the criminal case.

One thing I found discouraging is the statement by Mr. Cole that even if the victim or the alleged policy violator got a lawyer, many lawyers do not know well education laws,

Mr. Cole mentioned that most of us are not aware of basic concepts such as what is consent or respect or the consequences when these are lacking. He pointed to the young man in New Hampshire who went on trial for sexual assault of a 15-year-old underclass girl. He said these concepts should be better taught in elementary schools.

The issue of justice in the education system is a difficult one for all school systems; Worcester is not excluded. Unfortunately, I see that many people think that justice means more cops and criminal justice professionals in the schools.  Kids should be viewed in terms of education and as still maturing, instead of in terms of criminal laws.