Wellesley Public Schools Encourages School Community to Report Each Other Anonymously for “Bias-based Incidents”


Through its DEI department, Wellesley Public Schools (WPS) maintains a policy on “Responding to Bias-based Incidents,” a practice that has become increasingly widespread in colleges and universities across the country. These programs have come under significant criticism by federal appellate courts; in an October 2019 decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that students at the University of Michigan faced “an objective chill based on the functions of the Response Team,” while in October 2020 a decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the University of Texas’ Campus Climate Response Team “represents the clenched fist in the velvet glove of student speech regulation.”

WPS defines a bias incident as “any biased conduct, speech or expression that has an impact but may not involve criminal action, but demonstrates conscious or unconscious bias that targets individuals or groups that are part of a federally protected class (ie. race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation,  religion, or disability). Bias-based behavior can also be described as when someone treats another person differently or makes an offensive comment because of their membership in a protected group, such as their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.”

According to WPS, examples of bias-based behavior includes:

  • Using a slur or insult toward a student or their family based on their membership in a protected group;
  • Telling rude jokes that mock a protected group in person or through any electronic device;
  • Not allowing students to participate in an activity because of their membership in a protected group;
  • Disciplining a student more often or more harshly because of their membership in a protected group

Students and parents are encouraged to file reports, which can be done anonymously; according to WPS policy (also attached as a PDF), “Reported incidents of discrimination, including harassment or retaliation, are promptly investigated by a designated official at each school. The specific steps are as follows: the staff member responsible for investigating must notify the individuals involved, (including the families of students), interview witnesses, determine if a violation of school policy has occurred, and respond appropriately with consequences as well as support for those impacted by the incident. When relevant, for example, if a hate crime has been committed, the Anti-Defamation League will be notified, as will the Wellesley Police Department.”

Discipline is built into the program: “Potential disciplinary actions for students who violate the anti-discrimination policy could include detention, suspension, or other restorative responses that require them to acknowledge their responsibility and minimize its impact.  A staff member would be subject to the disciplinary procedures of their bargaining unit, which might typically include a process of formal warnings and reprimands, suspension, or more serious consequences. Non-staff adult community members may be sanctioned by limiting or ending their participation in WPS community activities or ending their ability to be on WPS premises. In most cases, specific disciplinary steps taken are protected by relevant confidentiality laws.”

For the 2020-21 school year, all WPS faculty and staff are required to participate in an equity protocols training and pass an accompanying test; Parents Defending Education has obtained a copy of the training slides.