Racism Free WPS's Transforming WPS Petition
We, as Racism Free WPS, are an anti-racist and anti-sexist collective of current and former Worcester Public Schools students committed to fighting for equity within education for all WPS students and educators.
On July 18th, the Racism Free WPS page was made on Instagram as a platform where students, parents, and teachers could all submit anonymous testimonials of prejudice and discrimination within the Worcester Public Schools system during a time where conversations around inequity in schools have sprung up nationwide as a response to COVID-19 and the recent Black Lives Matter protests. We hoped to create this page to push for policy changes that centered student needs in hopes of a better Worcester Public Schools education for all. Hundreds of anonymous submissions documenting sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism flooded in over the next two weeks, illustrating pervasive problems of racial harassment, sexual assault committed towards students from peers and teachers, environmental hazards within the very school buildings students occupy, and more in WPS.
Having had no response from Worcester Public Schools, we can no longer remain silent. We, as Racism Free WPS, present the following demands for immediate attention and action from Worcester Public Schools’ school committee and administration in goal setting for the next academic year, as just basic acknowledgement of these issues does not suffice.
Visit this link to read our full demands:
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1. COP-FREE SCHOOLS
We demand for cop-free schools, reallocating the $861,309 for school resource officers (SROs) put forth by City of Worcester towards the programs in demands 2-9.
2. RESTORATIVE JUSTICE FOR DISCIPLINED STUDENTS
We demand that any student suspended for more than 10 consecutive dates receive educational services and continue to make academic progress as legally mandated. We also demand that WPS establish restorative justice processes to replace current punitive punishments, such as in and out of school suspensions, which only serve to disrupt the education of students.
3. INCLUSIVE DRESS POLICY
We demand that all Worcester Public Schools revise the existing dress code and model after the Seattle Public Schools Inclusive Dress Policy, which solely requires students wear a top, bottom, and footwear, so long as clothing does not exhibit “private parts, presents a health or safety hazard, and/or would contribute to a hostile or intimidating school environment.” This dress code allows students to dress in a way that promotes a sense of individuality without over-policing, without removing students from classes and interference with education time, and without body shaming.
4. MANDATORY HEALTH AND CONSENT CLASSES
We require the implementation of mandatory health and consent classes for every student enrolled in Worcester Public Schools. We demand that the consent education must be taught using the affirmative consent model. We also call for the end of abstinence only sex education in Worcester Public Schools, as this has been proven time and again to be detrimental.
5. CULTURAL COMPETENCY TRAINING FOR FACULTY/STAFF
We demand that Worcester Public Schools mandate cultural competency training for all faculty and staff as biases permeate every level of the school system, and that this training be overseen and subject to input and shaping from current WPS students. Competency training must be administered in a way that would educate faculty and staff on the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism and ableism.
6. MENTAL HEALTH COMPETENCY TRAINING FOR FACULTY/STAFF
We demand for the competent mental health response training of WPS faculty and staff in order to ensure that students receive the help they deserve when they need help. We demand that all educators be proficient at recognizing signs of psychological and emotional dysregulation for the age groups in which they teach. In addition, the American School Counseling Association has recommended there be one counselor per 250 students. We demand that all Worcester Public Schools follow this recommendation and also prioritize educator mental well-being.
7. ETHNIC STUDIES CURRICULUM
We demand for a mandatory Ethnic Studies (ES) curriculum to be adopted district-wide along with the teacher preparation and training necessary to allow Worcester Public Schools students to have an education that is culturally sustaining and liberating. Ethnic Studies is a discipline that teaches the histories and cultures of marginalized racial communities and the concepts of race and ethnicity. In order to adopt ES, WPS needs to expand funding to recruit, train its current educators, and support educators of color (from the community) whose teaching philosophies align with the values of Ethnic Studies.
8. DIVERSITY COUNSELORS
We demand that Worcester Public Schools set into motion a long-term plan to hire permanent diversity counselor positions for each high school tasked with responding specifically to the needs that arise psychologically, physically, and emotionally for youth of color and other marginalized youth.
9. ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION AND TRANSPARENCY
We demand that Worcester Public Schools employ more clear and transparent plan of action in response to the elevated levels of lead and/or copper in the drinking water and the existence of PCBs and Asbestos-containing materials at every Worcester Public School afflicted, informing parents, teachers, and students through communication sent home at every step of the way.
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