January 2018 (Volume 68, Issue 3)
Recent events at the high school have undoubtedly been shocking and eye opening for many in the community from students, to teachers, and, of course, to administrators as well. The incidents of racist and homophobic graffiti are unlike any problem our school has faced in some time. So unfamiliar was this upsetting situation that no protocol existed to outline how it should be handled. Consequently, many students found issue with the administration’s delay in communication throughout the process. This delay, however, was a direct result of admin’s attempts to handle the situation directly, while simultaneously establishing a protocol for handling such issues in the future. When the second graffiti incident occurred, this new protocol was put to the test.
Following this second incident of graffiti, students organized a walk out against racism, homophobia and any lack of acceptance at Needham High School. This demonstration was met with support from school administration, who even provided a microphone to amplify students voices. Principal Sicotte explains that he “also felt it was important for student’s voices to be literally heard so that those who were saying ‘listen to us’ actually had an opportunity to be listened to”.
His focus in the moment, he emphasizes, was to keep students safe and create an environment in which they felt they were being listened to and supported. Mr. Sicotte also stressed the importance of events following the walk out, and his desire to create an environment within classes where these issues could be discussed. He states that “everyone should have an opportunity to process their own experiences and where their thinking is”. To fulfill this desire, administration provided teachers with resources to lead these discussions and emphasized the importance of having these discussions in lieu of the traditional academic curriculum. Thanks to administration’s insistence upon this focus, the day of the walk out became one of reflection and solidarity within each classroom as well.
Looking forward, the school administration stresses the fact that as a community, our work towards an environment in which each and every one of our members feels accepted is far from over. In fact, with the walk out, it has only just begun. The walk out marked a unique and pivotal moment in the growth of the Needham High community, one that was not hindered but rather amplified by the supportive actions of our school administration. “This is a great place,” Mr. Sicotte reflects about NHS. “Last week doesn’t change that. Last week does highlight though that we’re not there yet. We’ve got a lot of work.”