Westwood Public Schools staff member helps organize BIPOC affinity group for other staff for graduate coursework


A concerned community member of Westwood Public Schools reached out to Parents Defending Education regarding the district offering a “BIPOC” affinity group. PDE received an email that was sent out to other staff within the district regarding this affinity group. PDE submitted a public records request to the school district requesting this specific email and any additional information. The district provided PDE with the email, proving that it was real. The staff member who sent the affinity group email has the position of “Elementary METCO Coordinator.”

Affinity groups are groups of people segregated by their characteristics, such as race and ethnicity. The email states that the affinity group is only for specific people:

Calling all educators in the Westwood school district that identify as BIPOC. This is for teachers, IAs, ABA tutors, specialists, special educators, BCBA’s EL educators, instructional coaches, school nurses, guidance counselors and SLPs figuring out how to work in predominantly White schools, as a minority requires affirmation. Providing a safe space for staff of color to share experiences while reviewing data, providing productive tools to dismantle negative experiences surrounding bias, and continuing to celebrate our diversity that is a gift given to our district are some of the objectives for our affinity group.

The email states that the “BIPOC Affinity group of Westwood was founded in 2020.” The email states that the school district had an equity audit and that this audit showed “a need for educators and other support staff who identify as BIPOC.” The affinity group appears to be part of the staff member’s coursework for a graduate program:

As a part of a capstone project related to graduate coursework, I will be working to provide our BIPOC staff with an environment that has a sense of belonging, an opportunity to influence that drive positive change in policy, and pathways for leadership and professional growth.

On October 15, 2023, this district employee sent an email to an assistant superintendent stating that she needed “a list or database for all staff who are BIPOC.” The assistant superintendent responded: “Since our data is not always super accurate (if it is based on whether individuals self-report race in the hiring or onboarding process), the best way to extend an invitation is probably to extend it to the whole community with a brief explanation of your project.”

PDE also received a survey for staff who were interested in the affinity group. The survey asks staff: “How do you identify yourself? (Considering race and identity).”

The district additionally provided PDE with a document titled “Educator Identity Groups.” The district states in the document: “In order to promote a sense of belonging for staff within Westwood Public Schools, we invite all staff who share similar identities to gather together for affinity groups. If you identify with a particular group, please join in for conversation and camaraderie.” The document then lists some affinity groups in the district, including an “Educators of Color Network” for staff who “self-identify as a person of color” and “Supporting LGBTQIA+ Educator Group” for staff who identify “on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.”