Gay student heckled at Franklin School committee meeting

FRANKLIN – The adult robbery of a gay student at Tuesday night’s school committee meeting drew a sharp rebuke from schools superintendent Sara Ahern.

In a letter to the school community released Wednesday, Ahern berated those who interrupted student lecturer Mackenzie Atwood, saying “the conduct, tone and disruption of some members of the public was appalling and a violation of core public school values. Franklin a safe and inclusive environment and a collaborative as well as unacceptable community with regard to public meeting procedures.

Tuesday’s fireworks began after the definition of “protected classes” was raised by a parent who wanted to know if his daughters counted as “protected” for being white.

Atwood responded by describing her own experiences of bullying at school because she was gay – not white – but was interrupted by several adult members of the public, an action that continued even after the committee chairperson school, Anne Bergen, hit the hammer several times in an effort. to restore order.

Ahern wrote that while Atwood’s response to the question was “eloquent and articulate,” the taunts that followed from the audience “created a traumatic situation for the student and invalidated her statement of reality that she so took. courageously shared ”.

The Superintendent noted that “the vitriol in civil discourse has only increased both in person and online in Franklin and elsewhere.”

The message:Read Superintendent Sara Ahern’s Full Letter Here

Ahern promised in his letter that following the incident, “you can expect the FPS to consolidate a system to protect students during civil speech and share plans for community healing during the week. future”.

What are “protected classes”

On Tuesday evening, mother Angela Spring told the school committee that her daughter was in class one day when a student returned from the bathroom and told the class that a girl was crying in the bathroom.

The teacher left to investigate, then returned to say that the person inside the bathroom was male. When the first student allegedly continued to label the boy as a woman, the teacher told the students the boy was a “protected student” and anyone who bullied him “would face severe punishment,” according to Spring.

Looking for a definition of “protected student,” Spring called high school principal Joshua Hanna. After explaining what “protected students” meant, Spring asked if her daughters would be considered protected if they were bullied because they were white.

Hanna wasn’t sure, according to Spring, who then called to get a response from Ahern.

Spring said Ahern did not respond.

Massachusetts law prohibits the unfair treatment of people on the basis of “protected class,” which is the legal definition of protecting individuals on the basis of:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Ancestry or national origin
  • Gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression
  • Marital status
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy or related condition
  • Veteran Status
  • Age
  • Roaming

And, according to federal law, a school that does not respond appropriately to harassment of students on the basis of a protected classroom may violate one or more civil rights laws enforced by the US Department of Education and the Department. of Justice, including, but not limited to, Title IV, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Additionally, all students are protected by the District’s Bullying Prevention and Response Plan, which is supported by state law, and the school committee’s Bullying Policy, Ahern wrote in his letter.

“In addition to the legal requirements to follow the law, it is imperative to protect all individuals by giving extra attention to those classes protected due to historical acts of marginalization, prejudice and discrimination,” Ahern wrote.

“Being Caucasian is not something that harasses you”

At the start of each school year, high school students learn what “safe classes” are, Atwood explained at Tuesday’s meeting, as well as how discrimination based on oppression – such as targeting one’s sexuality and race – goes to the fore. -beyond bullying.

If the bullying evolves into physical assault, threatening harm or intimidation, it may be considered a hate crime, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Everyone is protected from bullying at school, said Atwood – it’s a basic human right. But Franklin High students aren’t bullied because they’re white, she said, they’re bullied because they’re not white or straight.

“Yes, everyone is protected at school, but being white is not something you get bullied for,” she said.

Franklin High School high school student Mackenzie Atwood spoke out against bullying at school at a school committee meeting Wednesday night, despite heckling from some adults in the audience.

At this point, at least two members of the audience moaned loudly, one of them shouting, “No, that’s not true! ”

Bergen hit his hammer, then told Atwood to continue.

Atwood said she was personally attacked at school because of her sexuality. Once again, a female in the audience began to yell at Atwood incomprehensibly, forcing Bergen to hit the hammer several times.

Franklin School committee chair Anne Bergen had to hit her hammer several times Wednesday night to silence rowdies in the audience as a student spoke of being bullied at school.

“It is extremely disgusting that you can look me in the eye and say that I am not oppressed in school!” cried Atwood, visibly upset. With that, the woman yelled back, forcing Bergen to hit the hammer again and ask the woman to sit down.

“It has to stop, it’s indoctrination!” cried the woman.

“The gay agenda does not exist! Atwood yelled back.

Franklin High School senior Mackenzie Atwood spoke out against bullying at the last school committee meeting but was repeatedly interrupted by adult members of the public, one of whom had to be kicked out for his behviour.

At this point, the audio for the meeting was cut and Bergen signaled a pause to kick the unruly woman out. The meeting was called to order after a few minutes, and Bergen reminded the adults to show respect.

“I never, ever want to ask anyone to leave, but this meeting will be conducted with respect, and there will be no screaming from the crowd – that’s not how we hold meetings in this building,” Bergen said sternly. .

What the school does about it

Fostering an anti-biased and socially just school system is a goal of the district’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, made up of nearly 40 students, staff and administrators, according to Ahern. Some of the district’s goals for the 2021-22 school year include:

  • Rely on “Speak Up At School” strategies to stop micro-aggressions
  • Extend a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League to become a “No Place for Hate” school
  • Hire a Director of Socio-Emotional Learning and Equity

“We recognize the comments we have heard from those who feel the administration is doing nothing,” Ahern said in his letter. “We are exploring the disconnect between our actions and those feelings in order to better understand how we can respond, to the extent possible within the framework of law and policy.”

Reports should be made directly to a school administrator or anonymously through an online form on each school’s website, Ahern said in his letter. She said that when a report is received, an investigation is immediately opened. The facts of each situation determine the results to help the target and tackle the abuser.

Lauren Young writes about business and pop culture. Contact her at 774-804-1499 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @laurenwhy__.


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