Schools con­cerned by racial in­ci­dents

Record Observer - - FRONT PAGE - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

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.”

GREG PILEWSKI

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