School committee makes first public statement regarding WA students’ racist remarks


Provided by Westford CAT

WPS School Committee meets to discuss the incident at the Wayland vs. WA Girls Basketball game during the Feb. 14 meeting.

Sophia Keang, Co-Managing Editor

The Westford School Committee passed their first public statement during the Feb. 14 meeting after racial taunts were targeted at a Black Wayland player during a girls basketball game. The committee voted on a resolution to a restorative approach in the hope to support those affected by the racially charged insults in response to the incident.

The response included an apology for the victim of the incident, the victim’s family, and the greater Wayland community from Westford Public Schools.

“We share the deep sadness and outrage that has been expressed by both our communities. We respect Wayland taking steps to put the well-being of their students first and are committed to collaborating with Wayland to repair the relationship between our communities,” the response stated.

The letter will be sent out to Westford families through email, the town’s DEI partners, students through Google Classrooms, and the Wayland community.

Superintendent Dr. Christopher Chew and WA Principal Jim Antonelli reached out to the Wayland school district about the restorative approach. Additionally, the response reflects the hopes of the school committee to hold aggressors of the incident responsible for the harm they have inflicted, and also the hopes to repair Westford’s and Wayland’s relationship by further educating the Westford community.

Furthermore, the school committee claims that their diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts will continue and understands the urgency of the matter at hand.

“These are difficult conversations to have, and anti-racist work is not easy. We, the Westford School Committee, reaffirm our commitment to the continuing work of anti-racism as we reflect on and review our policies and practices,” the response stated.

School committee member Kathryn Clear admitted her disappointment with the town’s leadership through the lack of efficient communication throughout the incident. She believes that administration should have responded quicker to the event.

“This incident required a response separate from just being another item on our agenda and a regularly scheduled business meeting. I think had we’d done that, a week ago, we’d have put the seven of us on a stronger and more collaborative communication pathway because I will admit that as a member, I didn’t always feel fully informed as to who was doing what, and what was happening. I didn’t think we had a clear plan…” Cleary said.

Time was allotted at the beginning of the meeting for the community to voice their concerns regarding the incident. Westford’s parents and residents spoke upon the lack of efficient communication provided by the leadership of the school committee.

“I feel underwhelmed with the communication that’s been coming out. I felt that it was reactive instead of proactive partly because a level of trust isn’t there with the community. Something like this hasn’t happened before and there is new leadership… It’s hard to trust the process when communication isn’t upfront,” Westford parent Anita Tonakarn-Nguyen said.

Additionally, Westford resident Elizabeth Almeida proposed steps towards action through a public forum. She suggested that Westford should hold a public forum to discuss the racist incident in hopes to continue the conversation to further enlighten the Westford community.

“I think the community is hurting, and I think that part of the solution is for us to have a dialogue […] This is an opportunity for parents and the community to be part of this conversation with the ability to attend a forum,” Almeida said.

WA student council representatives, junior Meghna Kumar and senior Hannah Macey, also mentioned what they have learned from the incident and how to apply it starting within student council meetings. They have begun to integrate DEI education into STUCO meetings by addressing the issue, believing change is essential for the WA student body. During their meeting on Feb. 3, STUCO members were asked to fill out an anonymous form to collect thoughts and comments on the basketball game incident.

“It was unfortunate that a lot of kids said that they weren’t necessarily surprised, indicating a bigger issue. It also goes to show that as we continue to progress, there is racism ingrained in our school system…” Kumar said.

To continue to discuss issues of concern in the community, WA is holding a student forum on Wednesday, Feb. 16 in the PAC from 2:10 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. The student-centered event will be facilitated by faculty members in the PAC.