Responding to Incidents of Bias or Discrimination

  • The Newton Public Schools (NPS) are committed to providing equal educational opportunities and a safe learning environment for all students, faculty, and staff.  Our policy against all forms of discrimination is clear and can be found here.

    Any form of discrimination based on race, color, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability or any other category protected by state or federal law is not tolerated. NPS will promptly report, investigate and respond to all allegations of discrimination, including harassment and retaliation, to the fullest extent possible and take appropriate disciplinary, corrective, and remedial measures necessary to ensure a safe and equitable learning and workplace environment for all school community members.  NPS will also report such incidents to the appropriate authorities when applicable and share major incidents and patterns with the community affected.

    Below please find specific questions related to reporting and responding to specific incidents.

  • What is an incident of discrimination or bias?

    Posted by:

    Any time a member of our community is treated differently or disadvantaged because an aspect of their identity puts them in a protected class, it may be an incident of discrimination or bias.  Discrimination might take the form of subtle bias, hateful speech in the form of insults or epithets, or ongoing harassment or retaliation for a past event or report. Some incidents of bullying, or repeated targeting of another person in an unwanted manner, may also be acts of discrimination. Criminal acts motivated by bias may be considered hate crimes and may involve additional legal consequences. When incidents of possible discrimination or bias do occur, we are committed to conducting a full investigation to determine what harm has been done, how it can be fully addressed, and ways in which it can be prevented from occurring again.

    Comments (-1)
  • What is Newton’s protocol for responding to incidents of discrimination?

    Posted by:

    NPS takes very seriously any report or incident of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. In 2016, updated in 2018, NPS established a very specific and thorough protocol for reporting and investigating such incidents. The protocol, which includes definitions, examples, staff and student responsibilities, reporting processes, investigation process, resolution, expectations of confidentiality and potential disciplinary actions can be found here.  The protocol directs the staff response to the incident to ensure that we maintain an environment free of discrimination and supportive of all students and families. Importantly, it is aligned with best practices in this area.

    Comments (-1)
  • How can I report an incident of discrimination or a pattern of biased behavior?

    Posted by:

    Students can report incidents of discrimination or any concerning pattern of biased behavior to any NPS staff member or one of their trusted adults in the district. Parents/guardians can report specific concerns to their school principal or any district or school administrator, all of whom are trained in the protocol to respond to incidents.  Complaints may also be made to our district coordinators, the Executive Director of Human Resources and the Assistant Superintendent for Students Services. For specific contact information, please click on the Contact Information link on the left side of this page.

    Comments (-1)
  • Can I report an incident of discrimination or bias anonymously?

    Posted by:

    Reports of any concerning behavior may be made anonymously. Anonymous reports of bullying can also made on our online district bullying report, available at: https://respect.newton.k12.ma.us/. We are in the process of developing a similar online report form for incidents of discrimination or bias. To the extent possible, NPS strives to honor requests for anonymity; however, this is not always possible. Anonymous reports are more difficult to investigate and respond to, so whenever possible, we encourage concerned community members to speak directly to a staff member with their concerns, knowing that we are always sensitive to the need for confidentiality of victims and reporters in any investigation. Retaliation by any community member for a report of discrimination or bullying is clearly prohibited by our policy.  

    Comments (-1)
  • How are incidents reported and investigated?

    Posted by:

    Reported incidents of discrimination, including harassment or retaliation, are promptly investigated by a designated official at each school. The protocol delineates the specific steps the investigating official must take, including notifying the individuals involved, (including the families of students), interviewing witnesses, determining if a violation of school policy has occurred, and responding appropriately with consequences as well as support for those impacted by the incident. The protocol includes making a report to the Newton Police Department consistent with the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that exists between the two organizations. When relevant, the Anti-Defamation League is also notified, as are other groups that act as consultants to NPS on specific types of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

    Comments (-1)
  • How long does an investigation take?

    Posted by:

    Investigations are typically completed within 10 days, but may take longer in a more complex case.

    Comments (-1)
  • Is the response the same every time?

    Posted by:

    While the incidents are investigated and documented in accordance with the established protocol, the specific facts of each substantiated incident impact the specifics of the response. However, each case will typically include the following:

    • Discipline for the person responsible
    • Remedial or supportive actions to assist those directly impacted.
    • Corrective action or education steps for the individual and potentially the larger school community to ensure that similar events do not happen in the future
    Comments (-1)
  • What are the disciplinary actions taken?

    Posted by:

    Potential disciplinary actions for students who violate the anti-discrimination policy could include detention, suspension, or other restorative responses that require them to acknowledge their responsibility and minimize its impact.  A staff member would be subject to the disciplinary procedures of their bargaining unit, which might typically include a process of formal warnings and reprimands, suspension, or more serious consequences. Non-staff adult community members may be sanctioned by limiting or ending their participation in NPS community activities. In most cases, specific disciplinary steps taken are protected by relevant confidentiality laws.  

    Comments (-1)
  • Is the communication about an incident the same every time?

    Posted by:

    Communication to the school or larger Newton community about the incident and response varies based upon the details of the incident and its impact or potential impact on those involved.

    Comments (-1)
  • How and when is the community alerted to an incident?

    Posted by:

    There are many instances in which the community is alerted to a specific incident, but there are some in which it is not. Administrators work in concert with teachers and families to determine the best approach given the circumstances of the incident. Specific consideration is given to  protecting the confidentiality of individual students and promoting the optimal educational response for involved students. While not all incidents are reported to the entire community, NPS takes any report or incident of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation seriously and addresses it promptly and thoroughly.  

    Comments (-1)
  • How is data kept on reports of bias, discrimination, or retaliation?

    Posted by:

    Any such incident that is investigated and addressed by NPS is documented and tracked by central school administration. This data is then analyzed and tracked for patterns of behavior and types of effective responses. District administration will periodically report to the School Committee on trends and commonalities that need to addressed.

    Comments (-1)
  • What is NPS doing to prevent incidents of bias or discrimination?

    Posted by:

    NPS works with both students and staff at all levels of our organization to prevent and address all forms of bias. The lessons implemented and professional development offered are age appropriate and seek to create school communities that are inclusive, respectful, empathetic, and kind. Examples of some of the preventive work we are doing to build a strong foundation of anti-bias culture in our schools includes the following initiatives and programs:

    • Responsive Schools/Responsive Classrooms approach (K-8)
    • Anti-Bias and Micro-Aggression student workshops (Secondary)
    • Anti-Defamation League Peer Leader training (Secondary)
    • Courageous Conversations Professional Development (Faculty/Staff)
    • Culturally Responsive Instruction and Racial Identity Development Professional Development (Administrators)
    • Families Organizing for Racial Justice network support (NPS parents/guardians/families)
    • Educator and family conferences focused on racial equity (K-12)

    If you have additional questions about how the Newton Public Schools responds to incidents of discrimination or bias, please feel free to reach out to your school principal or any district  administrator. For more detailed information on how to report an incident, please visit the link on the left side of this page entitled "How to Report an Incident of Bias or Discrimination."

    Comments (-1)