EASTON — Superintendent Lisha Cabral and Principal Kelly Cavanaugh would like to provide an update regarding the ongoing initiatives at Oliver Ames High School and districtwide to promote respect, inclusion and belonging.
Following an incident last week where a swastika was found scrawled on a printed poster in a high school bathroom, the district has completed a thorough investigation of the incident, which was unable to identify who had drawn the symbol.
A message was sent home to parents the evening the hateful image was found notifying them of the incident. Principal Cavanaugh has met with students and faculty throughout the past week to hear their feelings about the incident, and discussed the incident with parents at a recent Principal Coffee Hour. A focus group has also been formed to assess effective responses and identify action steps to help educate high school students on the meaning and impact of such symbols and hateful language.
The district has been in contact with Rabbi Kenneth Carr of Temple Chayai Shalom in Easton, Raising Multicultural Kids and the Human Rights Coalition to get feedback on community impacts and pertinent actions moving forward. Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League New England’s education director will be visiting Oliver Ames in the coming weeks to complete training with student peer leaders and will incorporate into the training guidance for having conversations with peers about symbols of hate.
“I am very appreciative of the students who have met with me to share their experiences at Oliver Ames and how this incident, as well as incidents in the past, have impacted them,” Principal Cavanaugh said. “Their commitment to educating our community and creating an environment that is inclusive and free of hate is inspiring.”
She added, “The outreach from community members and parents is also much appreciated. The Human Rights Coalition, Temple Chayai Shalom and Raising Multicultural Kids continue to be valuable resources, and their efforts to support the school in responding to this incident as well as continuing the work we have already started to make OA a more inclusive environment that is free of hate is thoughtful and helpful. I am looking forward to collaborating with our students, families and community to continue our work ensuring that Oliver Ames is an environment that prioritizes diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.”
There are additionally several ongoing districtwide initiatives that aim to give students a voice. These include a peer leadership program at Easton Middle School and Oliver Ames to lead conversations focusing on respect and civility; regular superintendent “lunch drop-ins” with middle and high school students; a “Who’s in Your Corner?” campaign to advertise resources available to students; and “Help Boxes” at the elementary schools for students to report issues or request assistance.
Furthermore, the district is pursuing curricula that examines historical events through the lens of tolerance and social responsibility and elementary lessons on social competency that empower students to problem solve.
The district is continuing to employ hiring practices that focus on attracting candidates who reflect diversity and pursuing enhanced Civil Rights training for staff. To further all of these initiatives, the district is also looking to hire a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Coordinator to assist with internal auditing, ongoing professional development efforts, community outreach and cooperation and student supports.
On the community level, monthly meetings of the Superintendent Advisory Committee continue to take place and include stakeholders from across Easton. The district has also scheduled speakers to come to the district for both staff and the community regarding diversity, equity and inclusion. Details regarding these events will be posted in the Easton Community University brochure, which is sent out quarterly.
“Many of our goals are long-term, but ensuring that all students feel safe and heard is critical and our most important commitment. We want to ensure that every student is able to identify trusted adults in their school who they feel confident going to with any concerns, questions or feedback, and have confidence that their concerns or information will be immediately addressed,” Superintendent Cabral said. “The work of equity and inclusivity and the eradication of hate in our society cannot be done by schools alone, and we are continuously encouraged by the support and care of many in the Easton community who share the commitment that we and the School Committee have made to our students to provide a positive and nurturing environment.”