School Policy Review Subcommittee considers harassment and discrimination at school



The School Policy Review Subcommittee convened virtually to discuss the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Retaliation and the Yearbook Policy.

Members of the School Policy Review Subcommittee met virtually to discuss the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, and Retaliation and the Yearbook Policy during their meeting at 5:00 p.m. on December 14th.

One of the topics of debate was compliance with the discrimination and harassment policy with Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which protects individuals from gender discrimination and sexual harassment in matters of federal education funding.

The Director of Guidance and Clinical Services and District Title IX coordinator Maria Letasz stressed the importance for community members to be able to comprehend what actions to take.

“Because of the complexity of Title IX, we really have to look at the procedures that we follow for the other forms of harassment and discrimination and ensure that it is clear for folks when they’re looking at it to know which direction they would go,” Letasz said. “If somebody has a complaint, knowing who they go to, then the coordinator goes through all of the procedures with that person to ensure that they understand them and know all of their rights.”

Multiple members of the committee expressed the complexity of determining whether cases fall under the discrimination and harassment policy, the bullying policy, or both. This boils down to whether individuals were targeted due to being members of protected classes. According to the Deputy Superintendent for Student Services Casey Ngo-Miller, deciphering these incidents is all certain people at the high school do.

“Protected classes are covered by the broader point of harassment, but bullying does not cover it,” Ngo-Miller explained. “If I’m a school administrator, I’m looking at that distinction and that will tell me what next steps to follow.”

According to Brookline School Committee (BSC) member Andy Liu, the distinction may be more easily understood when being compared to paralleling situations in other aspects of society.

“It’s like a duality that we live within the criminal justice system too. You can be charged with a crime for the act, but you can also be charged with a civil rights violation based on the motivations for that act,” Liu said.

The committee then moved on as visual arts teacher and yearbook advisor at the high school, Lori Lynn, joined the members to address the draft of the PSB Yearbook Policy, focusing on inclusivity, as noted by BSC member and School Policy Review Subcommittee Chair, David Pearlman.

“We really want to make sure that all students feel like they are included, and that all of them are memorialized for posterity, so that when they look back at the yearbook in the future, they can see that they were a part of the community,” Pearlman said.

The requirement of two adults checking name lists prior to submission of yearbooks appeared to not be enough. According to Lynn, not making any mistakes, specifically name mistakes, would be important for future yearbooks to achieve.

“There needs to be more oversight to ensure the accuracy of names. It was a major major disappointment to have a one letter mistake last year,” Lynn said. “That’s someone’s name. It should be right. It was horrible to have that happen.”

Though not within the realm of the School Policy Review Subcommittee, Lynn also expressed the desire to allow students to be more officially involved in the process of producing the yearbook.

“The dream for me would be to have a yearbook course. There is a lot of potential there for students to learn about design, about publishing and about photography,” Lynn said. “I know that we could do a better job if we were given the time.”