Several parents with children at Needham High School reached out to Parents Defending Education within hours of dismissal on the first day of school to express concerns about comments made by the principal and the school’s apparent focus on Black Lives Matter. According to several sources, after introducing himself to the students as “a white privileged straight man,” he showed a Black Lives Matter video.
Students report that it was hard to find a single classroom in the building that did not have a sign on the door or wall containing one of the following three messages:
Black Lives Matter
Stop Asian Hate
We Welcome Refugees
The performing arts department made it clear on day one, using a statement borrowed from the Lexington Public Schools, that that they see themselves as uniquely situated to be societal change agents. They assert that it is their duty —as well as that of their students—to deconstruct the racism that is inherent in the Needham Public Schools (as well as in every aspect of society.)
They also promise to “prepare all students to be socially and culturally responsive contributors who understand and respect diversity; Act with empathy and courage to ensure equity, access, and an anti-racist culture. Address local and global issues through civic and community engagement.”
In other words, they are training activists.
Several students say they were also told on day one that they are not allowed to use the words “freshman” or “freshmen” and instead must say “9th graders.”
Parents Defending has reached out to the principal of Needham High School to ask about all of the concerns raised above—he was not willing to answer questions over email but did ask for a conversation by phone. We will update when that happens.
Needham Public Schools are committed to racial literacy starting in Kindergarten—they are using the Pollyanna racial literacy curriculum.
In 2021, The Needham Education Foundation partnered with the Needham Public Schools on a The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Collaborative Initiative. The foundation has granted $35,000 to the district to do another equity audit report. (The first was done in 2018.)
Needham Public Schools (NPS) has a Race, Equity, Access, Leadership Coalition (REAL). Their work includes expenditures to bring in outside consultants as well as the creation of a “bias and hate” response protocol. The district hired outside an outside consultant to conduct an equity audit in 2017; a report on that audit was published in March of 2018.
Needham has a list of recommended resources for educators as well as for parents and caregivers and children. Included in this list of resources is the book Not My Idea by Anastasia Higginbotham. Below are two pages from the book and a read-aloud version is here.
The district’s Equity homepage has so much more related to diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to policy, professional development and curriculum and instruction. You can find all of that here.