On March 11, 2022, students from the Public Schools of Brookline joined a nationwide walkout to protest against a Florida bill which opponents and media outlets have characterized as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The following Wednesday, students walked out of class again. According to NBC Boston, the second protest was due to “Two widely-circulated social media videos are among the issues that have bothered Brookline High School students,” and “also by several other incidents that took place at school.” The district superintendent showed support for the protesting students stating that students were “powerful advocates.” No specifics were given to what was meant by “several other incidents.”
On March 24, the Brookline School Committee published a statement about the alleged incidents:
“The recent incidents at Brookline High School are the latest examples showing that racism, sexism, antisemitism, ableism, anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry and harassment across all of our schools must be combated with renewed urgency and vigor.”
The document lists “specific actions” the district will implement “starting immediately” including pursuing “training in anti-discrimination and anti-racist leadership,” “to embed diversity and a commitment to inclusion, equity and justice across every element of the district’s strategic plan,” ways for the subcommittee to “explore ways to address not only overt forms of racism, bigotry, discrimination, and harassment but also microaggressions and implicit bias” and “ensure clear and transparent mechanisms for reporting racism, bigotry, discrimination, and harassment against students and staff.”
In a twelve-minute video titled “Student (sic) Showing Appreciation for our BIPOC Educators,” which was published to YouTube on March 31, 2022, features students from the Public Schools of Brookline speaking about why the district should hire more teachers of color. The video goes along with a district hosted event designated as a “gratitude and affinity event for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) educators and family members.”
From a February 3, 2022, a presentation titled “Office of Equity Report of Findings & Next Steps,” the document stated that goals for the meeting included to “understand our vision of educational equity” and “demonstrate the alignment of equity to student outcomes.” An embedded slide from the consultant group Disruptive Equity Education Project, LLC posits that equity “requires changing structures of power & privilege so disparities of historically under- represented groups are eliminated and therefore outcomes cannot be predicted by that grouping.”
“[Teachers] who want to change the world: You cannot disrupt systems of oppression until you understand how systems of oppression work — and you cannot understand how systems of oppression work until you understand how they have worked on YOU” states another slide from “Disrupt Texts” team member Tricia Ebarvia.
The presentation also included an “Equity Menu of Professional Learning” graphic that includes topics such as “Implicit/ unconscious bias” and “Micro/Macroaggressions/ Ouch Moments,” “Identity and Intersectionality,” “White Supremacy Culture” and “Anti-racist/ Abolitionist Teaching.”
The report contains another slide titled “Taxonomy of Disruption,” which is from the Disruptive Equity Educational Project. The graphic presents the idea of “Dismantling Systemic Oppression” and the “Four I’s of Oppression.”
A school wide post from June 9, 2020, shared with students and families an announcement for an all-school assembly “to come together as a community in response to the recent race-based violence and targeted acts of hate and oppression.” Topics of the event included “What is white privilege?” and “Examples of CCS community members practicing anti-racist activism.”
After the assembly, the school offered “Post Assembly Affinity Groups” for “students who feel specifically impacted by the recent events due to their racial identity.” The document stated that “An affinity group is a group of people who share a particular aspect of their identity. The affinity groups on Friday will be for students who feel specifically impacted by the recent events due to their racial identity.”
A “Superintendent Report” from September 26, 2019, shows that the school district offered staff affinity groups “for educators who identify as Latinx; Black, African, African-American or Caribbean-American; LGBTQ; and Asian, Asian-American, or Pacific Islander.” The “voluntary” meetings were “to provide time and a safe space for educators of a shared affinity to come together in an environment where they make up the majority.”
On September 16, 2019, the interim superintendent wrote a letter to families regarding an upcoming student Climate strike and how the district was preparing for that event.
“It is essential that our schools maintain a culture that allows for and respects divergent viewpoints and where no one feels coerced or pressured to conform to views that are not their own. As public employees within the Public Schools of Brookline, our staff will neither encourage nor discourage student participation in a walkout. Whether or not any student decides to participate in any action should be their own choice and not be influenced by peers, a teacher, or other staff members.”