McAuliffe School Director: ‘Hate Speech’ Will Not Be Tolerated

FRAMINGHAM – Over the holiday weekend, it was discovered that MetroWest students at the Christa McAuliffe Charter School had create a group called “Kill the Jews” and were engaging in anti-semitic and hate speech.

Another student at the middle school was invited into the group, was offended by the anti-semitic statements and reported it to her parent. The parent-reported it to school leaders and the police.

Police are investigating, and the school is taking action.

Today, October 15 classes resumed at the middle school in Framingham.

“This morning Tony Fratantonio, Culture and Character Coach, Drew Rosenshine, Dean of Students, and I facilitated sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade level meetings,” said Executive Director Kristin Harrison.

There were a few purposes to these meetings:

1) inform students about the harmful messages sent by members of the McAuliffe community to other members of our community on a social media platform

2) create space for students and faculty to ask questions and to receive responses from school leaders

3) empower our community to talk about this and any other bias incidents, and begin to consider ways to take a stand against hatred and build the most trusting, safe, and inclusive community that we can.

“After sharing a summary of the incident, we let students know that the school’s response to Level 3 behaviors most typically includes students spending some time outside of the community and engaging in important restorative work in order to show that they are prepared to rejoin the community as safe contributors. We assured students that safety is a top priority and that students will not be allowed to rejoin the community unless school officials are confident that they are ready to do so,” said Harrison in an email to parents tonight.

“We also reiterated that hate speech and biased, derogatory language are not tolerated at McAuliffe and that threats made to members of our community are taken very seriously, even when the claim is that an individual was ‘just joking’,” said Harrison.

Students had the opportunity to ask questions, said Harrison.

They asked:

  • Q: How many students were in the group chat? A: About eight as far as we can tell.
  • Q: How did the school find out about it? A: Upstanders alerted school leaders over the weekend.
  • Q: Are the students at school today? A: The school started implementing the discipline protocol over the weekend to provide as prompt a response as possible. We are actively working with the families involved.

Students also asked probing questions, too, explained Harrison.

  • Q: Why did the school get involved if this happened over the weekend? A: When something happens outside of school hours or offsite that negatively impacts McAuliffe students, the school is responsible for getting involved, especially in this case where McAuliffe students were using threatening language impacting other McAuliffe students. Students feeling unsafe around peers who do something outside of school affect the school community. By law, it is the school’s responsibility to respond and follow our bullying, harassment, and discipline policies and protocols.
  • Q: We get it that this is really bad, so why do we need to continue to talk about it and spend more time later in the week talking about this and related topics in crew? A: My response summarized the following guidance from Teaching Tolerance that I shared with families last night: “Bias-based incidents are ripe occasions for education. Fear and ignorance often are at least partially to blame for this type of incident. This crisis is an opportunity to teach about culture and race, to help guide students to a deeper understanding that our diversity is a powerful force for good, binding us by our common humanity.”
  • Q: Why did they do this? A: That is a really good question. I don’t know, but part of what happens during the restorative process is we work with the students involved — those who initiated the behavior and those impacted — to ask the following types of questions and listen to responses: What happened? What did you think about when you realized what had happened? What were you thinking about at the time? What have you been thinking about since? What impact has this incident had on you and others? What do you think needs to happen to make things right? What do you need to do to make things right?
  • Q: How can we help? What can we do as students? A: These are exactly the questions we want our students and community asking and responding to together. There’s not one single thing to do. We want to empower students to think about what it can look like to be active upstanders and to share ideas. If students have ideas and want to be a student leader in this important work, we asked that they email Ms. Harrison, Mr. Rosenshine, and Mr. Fratantonio as well as their grade level counselor. We’ll also have resources from the Antidefamation League and Teaching Tolerance that crew leaders can use to continue to engage our community in small group discussions and action planning. 

“We closed the grade level meetings reminding students that they are welcome to meet with counselors and to talk with trusted adults in the community, especially if a student is not feeling safe. Additionally, we reiterated that this sort of incident is a reminder of the importance of our goal to develop the skills to be upstanders who contribute to building a better world,” said Harrison.

Parents were told of next steps:

  1. Bob Berman, Chair of the Board of Trustees and I will be meeting with community leaders, including interfaith clergy, representatives from the Framingham Public School’s superintendent’s office, and representatives from Mayor Spicer’s office to plan for a broader community response.
  2. McAuliffe will continue to work with the Anti Defamation League to plan a community forum or peer-to-peer facilitated education session(s) about anti-semitism, anti-racism, and bias. These can be structured for students, families, and faculty.
  3. Rabbi Sobel of Temple Beth Am has invited our community to attend a musical interfaith service called “Stand Up for Shabbat: A Musical, Interfaith Shabbat of Solidarity, Pride, and Unity” at Temple Beth Am on Friday, October 18, 7:15 PM. 
  4. McAuliffe’s Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday, October 29 with an agenda that includes a discussion of the recent events. This is an open meeting that includes public comment; parents, guardians, and other community members are welcome to attend.

“I appreciate the many supportive messages the school has received from families and appreciate families taking the time to talk with their children. 
Thank you for your ongoing support and participation in our work to build a community of upstanders who make the world a better place. I hope to see you on Friday night at Temple Beth Am,” concluded Harrison’s email to parents.

Students at the Christa McAulliffe Charter School coming from several MetroWest Communities, not just Framingham.

Editor’s Note: In full transparency, the school is an advertiser with SOURCE.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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