WESTFORD — After a Wayland student was taunted with racist and hurtful words on Jan. 31. basketball game, Wayland officials canceled all seasonal events with Westford. Now, both athletic departments are hoping to work together on a restorative process.
Wayland High School canceled seasonal sporting events with Westford, opting to withdraw from previously scheduled events.
“In discussion with our school and athletic administration, we have decided that, at this point, Wayland Public Schools will not be competing in any athletic events this spring against Westford Public Schools,” Wayland Superintendent of Schools Omar Easy stated in a Feb. 3 letter.
The letter continues, “We stand ready to collaborate with Westford to create and foster a safe and anti-racist environment for all of our students and student-athletes.”
Athletes participate in restorative process during canceled games
Last week, during previously scheduled events with Wayland, athletes from both high schools worked together on restorative justice activities.
“We’ve worked with the administrations at Wayland High School to organize and create a series of workshops,” Westford Superintendent of Schools Christopher Chew told WestfordCAT. “They will have an opportunity to have a collaborative practice in their given teams.”
He continued, “[they] participated in anti-bias discussions, some restorative circle-work and did some combined skills and practices with those two teams together.”
Chew believes these activities will help the two districts “build a stronger connection” moving forward.
“It’s a really wonderful model we’ve constructed here which is going to give students the opportunity to talk about sportsmanship, bias, this growing idea of ‘chirping from the sidelines’ that I think has become problematic.”
He continued, “the Wayland and Westford Athletes will come together to talk about it and how it impacts them and work on ways that they can also be better role models.”
The office of Wayland Superintendent Dr. Omar Easy did not respond to WestfordCAT for comment.
Westford Schools request funding for additional restorative training
Westford Public Schools recently requested $75,000 in funding for restorative process training. This funding, though unrelated to the recent activities with Wayland, serves to further train members of the Westford Public School community on restorative processes.
At an April 25 School Committee meeting, members discussed current progress on the restorative process and whether or not language would be placed in student handbooks.
“It just seems to have been a positive experience from anybody I’ve spoken to from what they’ve seen,” said School Committee member Kathryn Clear.
Chew responded, “I think the first thing we will have is a big formalized debriefing of that to figure out if the perspective has been shared and what types of things are things we’d formalize in a handbook or policy.”
Chew noted that the process is ongoing, and the funding would bring more “formalized” restorative training to faculty.
The Select Board opted to hold on the request for funding, citing reservations about an incomplete process.
“I have some reservations about the restorative practices and coaching and training,” Select Board member Anita Tonakarn-Nguyen said in an April 26 meeting. “I think it’s [the restorative process] not done yet.”
She continued, “One of the things I read is you need the full community engagement piece, which I feel we haven’t had time to do that yet.”
The Select Board voted unanimously to hold on the restorative training, but encouraged the School Committee to return once more data is available.
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