Administration meets with ADL amid racial tensions

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Administration meets with ADL amid racial tensions

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Kavya Desikan

Mehul Shrivastava, Features Editor

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On December 14, The Anti-Defamation League came in to conference with the administration at WA. It was a full work day of training requested by Jenny Kravitz, the science curriculum coordinator and the head of the Diversity and Inclusion Team, which has worked a year and a half to make this training possible.

Kravitz, having gone to a much less diverse high school than WA, has always been involved social justice groups and has continued to do so as an educator. When Superintendent Bill Olsen formed a Cultural Awareness Committee, now called the Diversity and Inclusion Team, she immediately became involved.

“It’s something I enjoy talking about,  I think it’s important, and I think there are […], as a society in general, there is so much more that we could be doing, we could be doing a better job,” Kravitz said.

Kravitz believes in building an open, respectful, and trustworthy classroom environment, and with recent events in the school, state, and country as a whole, she felt it was becoming increasingly urgent to have conversations about discrimination.

“I’ve always felt that my primary responsibility as an educator is to facilitate for my students, them leaving me at the end of my course somehow a better version of themselves, and better prepared for whatever comes next,” Kravitz said.

Principal Jim Antonelli shared a similar opinion in that he wanted the administration to enforce a safe educational environment.

“This should be safe for everybody. Everybody should feel as though they’re welcome and able to get able education here in a nurturing environment,” Antonelli said.

The ADL training focused on recognizing and taking action against implicit bias from media and upbringing, which could cause people to unknowingly stereotype or make assumptions about others based on their race, ethnicity, disability, gender identity, or weight without getting to know them. This is known as an anti-bias training, and taught members of administration to ask questions on the assumptions made by them and how it affected their decisions and judgement of others. The ultimate goal is to open conversation and create an environment where everyone belongs and is valued.

“When you look at any training that the ADL does or any work that’s done about any of this, it’s not as simple as  handing over an instruction manual that you’re able to follow, because so much of it involves looking within and understanding ‘What are the lenses that I’m looking through when I see the world, and how does that affect the decisions I make and the interactions I have with other people?” Kravitz said.

During the training, administration was presented with possible scenarios they could face and solutions for them, as well as a glossary of terms that they would need to know and how to have discussions about using certain words in the classroom. Antonelli mentioned his surprise that teachers of different racial and ethnic face certain uncomfortable situations the same way some students do.

“It was eye-opening, to many of us, that some of our staff doesn’t feel very comfortable at times with some of the things that are said around here,” Antonelli said.

Now that the administrative training is done, Antonelli and Kravitz are looking to bring the information they learned back to Westford Academy. Curriculum coordinators are trying to look at their careers in terms of diversity and inclusion. A recent staff meeting took place to discuss issues in WA specifically, with a presentation conducted by the members of the Diversity and Inclusion Team who work at WA.

The ADL has its own specific program that Kravitz is looking to implement in the next school year. It would include a staff training, a peer facilitation program that will train students, and a parent presentation.

Overall, Antonelli and Kravitz are looking to create a safe and accepting school environment where students and faculty are free to be themselves without having to face discriminating comments from others.

“We can’t change who we are, but we can be more aware, and try and actively work against any biases we might have,” Kravitz said.

 

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