WESTFORD — The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee unveiled the results of a survey sent to residents in November, which reveals concerns of racism and bullying in Westford schools.
The survey was conducted over three weeks last November, with approximately 8.7% of Westford households responding. The survey covered a variety of topics including bullying, racism and microaggressions, student health and safety and representation.
Data reveals concerns of racism, bias and bullying
Many also cited a lack of action from Westford Public Schools on acts of racism and bullying. 69% of respondents were at least somewhat concerned about racism within schools, while 30% were not concerned or did not respond. 82% of respondents said they were at least somewhat concerned about bullying, while 17% were either not concerned or did not respond.
Respondents also criticized the lack of discussion and communication within the school system regarding discrimination.
“When students see acts of racism take place they report them, but they don’t see the perpetrators being held accountable [by the school],” DEI Committee member Derek Lo said in an April 28 meeting.
Respondents recommend diverse curriculum
Some suggested that students should be taught how to understand racism from an earlier age, citing concerns with current curriculum. Some also want students to be provided with additional resources and opportunities to communicate with administrators on instances of discrimination.
Others recommend establishing a diverse curriculum that represents a variety of communities. Parents believe that some books taught reinforce harmful stereotypes. They believe books should instead show identities from a positive lens, including race, religion, sexuality and persons with disabilities.
“It is also important to underscore that it should not require a certain percentage of the community to identify with a community […] in order for the enhancement and incorporation [of that group] in the curriculum,” Lo said.
Data reveals accessibility, school support are sufficient
An overwhelming majority of respondents did feel their physical, cognitive and learning needs were at least somewhat sufficient within Westford schools.
“Some respondents felt odd about responding to this question as they may not necessarily have someone in their household who has physical, cognitive or learning needs,” Lo said. “So that’s something to keep in mind when looking at the results of this.”
Data also showed that half of residents felt safe, acknowledged, and supported in the school systems, yet the remaining half disagreed or were unsure with such statements.
DEI committee provides additional recommendations
Other suggestions include recognizing additional holidays on the school calendar and creating an accepting environment for diverse backgrounds.
The School Committee has begun to take action on some suggestions, like adding additional holidays to the school calendar.
“The idea of recognizing holidays and a couple of other things are ones that we have been working toward recently,” Superintendent Dr. Christopher Chew said. “Some of the next steps are already in motion.”
The DEI Committee hopes this survey will provide a better understanding of the needs of students and staff in Westford schools.
“We are trying to listen to the pupils and channel communication between the schools and community. We are here to help, and we are here to listen and work with people,” DEI member Haining Bao said.
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