Transgender student creates hit list of families and staff at Watertown Public Schools; school district discusses creating LGBTQ affinity group as “empathy for the creator” of the list


A concerned community member informed Parents Defending Education that a transgender student in middle school within Watertown Public Schools created a hit list with the names of families and staff on it in January 2024. PDE could not find any reports of the student’s gender identity. The district appears to have kept the student’s identity hidden from the public. The hit list was reported by local media outlets, but the student’s gender identity was not mentioned. PDE submitted a public records request to the district seeking emails regarding this student and the list. Emails that PDE received appear to show that the student was transgender.

In one email that PDE received from the district, Superintendent Deanne Galdston sent an email to school committee members discussing a “reentry process” with what appears to be students whose names were on the list. The superintendent also stated that the creator of the list wanted to “make amends” with other students who were affected. She stated in the email:

The reentry process has begun, including reaching out to each family on the list again to offer a check-in with our mental health team, which hopefully will lead to restorative work in the future. The list maker is very eager to make amends, but we will ensure that it is only done for students who want to participate, that it is facilitated and tailored to meet students where they are at, and only at time that they are ready. This could be quick for some students, or much later for others.

The email discussed a forum that was held regarding the issue. The superintendent then appeared to criticize perceived “student shaming” that occurred. The email is dated January 31, 2024.

In an email dated January 30, 2024, the superintendent specifically calls the student’s list a “hit list.”

In an email dated January 26, 2024, the Watertown Middle School principal responded to a concerned community member and stated that “we will continue to make a plan with the family next week, and will not have the student re-enter the school community until we have a safe plan established.”

The concerned community member appeared to respond back. This community member stated: “I am very frustrated with the lack of information and lack of answers to my questions and questions from other families about your steps to ensure the safety of the school environment and your plan for reintegrating the student who wrote the Hit List within the school community.” This person then claimed to be “a parent of a student who was named on the Hit List.”

The parent then accused the district of hiding the identity of the student: “I heard from you that you were advised by the school district’s lawyer and are bound by privacy laws or regulations not to share specific information about the student who wrote the Hit List, but what about the right of my child to safety at school and your obligation to provide it?”

The forum held on the issue with the community appeared to have many community members discussing the student’s alleged transgender identity. In an email dated January 31 following the forum, School Committee member Lily Rayman-Read stated that “last night was incredibly painful and hard for many members of our community for a diverse set of reasons.” She then stated that an affinity group for “LGBTQIA+ families/community members” should be created. Her email also appeared to confirm the student’s transgender identity by saying a reason for the affinity group would be for “empathy for the creator” of the list. She stated:

I did receive a clear ask (and already checked with Dede on this) for the *immediate* creation of an affinity space for LGBTQIA+ families/community members to be safe in community with each other following what happened last night. I think it would be helpful to provide that space for both students, staff and families as the kids are really not ok right now- both those on the list, and those who hold empathy for the creator (and those who have friends across all spectrums).

The middle school’s principal responded by also appearing to confirm the student’s transgender identity: “I just spoke with our GSA advisor, who is planning to support students around anti-trans and other biased behavior. As we make our plan today, that will be included as some next steps.”

The middle school’s principal sent an email out to families affected by the hit list on January 28, 2024. PDE received this email in the records request.

PDE also received an email from the principal to staff regarding the situation promoting “restorative justice.”

PDE received an email dated January 25 of the superintendent explaining to the School Committee what had happened with the list. The superintendent explained that the hit list had over 40 names.

The superintendent also followed up with the School Committee on January 27.