July 3, 2022

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‘Hate absolutely has no home’ in West River Education District | Local News

2 min read

TOWNSHEND — Following reports of racial slurs being used by students and then meeting privately with the Windham County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Superintendent Bill Anton acknowledged the need for improvement.

“Hate absolutely has no home here in the West River schools,” he said. “We will continue to work until every student feels included. We are committed to creating a durable, sustainable foundation for our inclusive and welcoming school environments. We will listen to each voice. We will strive to continually improve. We are committed to having the hard conversations, acknowledging, confronting and responding to bias as we strive to build a community where every member feels the same sense of belonging.”

His comments came at the WRED School Board meeting last Wednesday. At the board’s previous meeting, community members urged the district to act quickly against racism after hearing reports about students at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School being called racial slurs by their peers.

Anton said after watching a recording of the last meeting, he feels it is “incumbent on administrators and myself that we are very clear on the work that we have engaged in, the work that we will continue to engage in and the work that we hope to continue to improve upon.”

Having met with Anton and local NAACP President Steffon Gillom, NAACP member Lyndall Boal of Brookline described “a really good conversation of clarity and respect and understanding and wanting to work on a problem.” Anton said the NAACP recommends school district hire an equity director, offer trainings and meet with students when racial issues arise.

Also, the Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) team within the Windham Central Supervisory Union met after the last meeting. Members discussed input from the community and the board, and how it could provide support in an advisory way. Anton said facilitators and principals talked specifically how to move forward in Leland & Gray in “a more accelerated manner.”

Anton provided the board with copies of Responding to Hate and Bias at School, a guide for administrators, counselors and teachers. Part of the Learning for Justice curriculum affiliated with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the document was recommended by the JEDI facilitators for use at Leland & Gray.

A bullying prevention curriculum was just completed last week at Leland & Gray, said Johanna Liskowsky-Doak, dean of students at the school. Included were activities and lessons.

NewBrook Elementary School Principal Scotty Tabachnick suggested expanding on restorative justice practices to the elementary level.

“I very much appreciate your efforts, your attitude, your approach, the self reflection that’s a part of that,” Stan Noga of Brookline said. “That’s very brave.”

Noga said he’s feeling much better “about the scenario and the administration and what’s happening.” Board Chairman Al Claussen also applauded the efforts.

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