Schools concerned by racial incidents
CENTREVILLE — In a letter dated May 3, Interim Superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, Gregory Pilewski, addressed a grievous concern, centering around several racially motivated incidents involving students in Queen Anne’s County schools. The incidents were not isolated
to one particular school, Pilewski said during an interview on May 9. The letter was sent to all parents, guardians and staff in QACPS.
“All 7,751 students [within QACPS] have the right to a free and public education in a safe, and supportive learning environment,” said Pilewski. The letter, stemmed from concerns brought to Pilewski’s attention through parents and guardians. Over the past few days, Pilewski said he and members of the staff met personally with students who were the target of hateful acts.
Due to confidentiality and the Family Educational Law and Privacy Act, specific details about the incidents would not be forthcoming, said Pilewski, however, the acts stemmed from racial bias.
Bias or any act of hate, will not be tolerated in the school system, Pilewski said, whether it be racial or otherwise motivated. Referencing the Race Equity Audit of the Queen Anne’s County School System, 1994, Pilewski noted a summary of the findings described a “Climate of Silence” regarding racial issues in the Queen Anne’s County school system. In 1994, the report revealed that incidents of racial inequity were often “swept under the rug” and not addressed adequately, if at all, causing a lack of trust.
In his letter Pilewski said, “Although we have made some progress since 1994, reaching our goal of providing an equitable environment for all students requires more.” It is Pilewski’s goal to ensure that all administrators are supported in learning how to adequately and appropriately handle any such incidences, how to report them and how to effectively communicate with the concerned parties and resolve the issue. Professional development will play a role in accomplishing that goal, Pilewski said, and the Bullying and Harassment Policy is currently being reviewed and revised to be ready for a first reading at the June 7 Board of Education meeting.
The Curriculum Audit completed last school year made recommendations to help deliver a more equitable environment, and as a result, the Community Liaison for Educational Equity assisted QACPS in partnering with the county’s Local Management Board to coordinate five “Conversations on Race”, bringing hundreds of people together for “Sunday Supper” to discuss issues of racial and cultural bias in a collaborative, diverse and respectful setting, Pilewski said.
While these changes have been positive and opened the door for dialogue, progress must be made. In light of recent discouraging acts, Pilewski said additional steps will be taken immediately; these steps will include development of a Bias Incident Policy/Procedure, additional training for staff, including the professional responsibility to interrupt and report racial slurs directed at students and student assemblies and events to teach students about the value of tolerance and diversity.
“It is not only our duty and responsibility, but an opportunity to continue this important dialogue,” he said. “Our greatest strength is diversity ... this is the right work to focus on, work that forms everything we do to promote a fair and equitable learning environment.”