Cambridge School Committee Fights Back Against Hate

“We see you. We have your back. We’re a community of allies,” said School Committee Member David Weinstein during a  meeting on March 7th. In light of the recent antisemitic incident, committee members decided that an update to Cambridge Public School’s hate policy was necessary. This update was unanimously adopted.

The previous policy was “one sentence from decades ago, stating ‘We do not tolerate hate crimes,’” Vice Chair Rachel Weinstein explained at the meeting. “In this district, we have an anti-racist mission and vision—we want to proactively affirm and celebrate diversity, not just prohibit hate crimes.”

The new policy largely focuses on the utilization of restorative justice practices.

Thus, inspired in part by Register Forum reporters, members Rachel Weinstein, David Weinstein, and Caroline Hunter drafted an updated policy. The new policy elaborates that instances of hate should be treated as teachable moments. However, without district support, this can be a difficult task. CRLS teachers previously noted to the Register Forum that resources for classroom conversations were sparse. 

One teaching tool that the School Committee hopes to eventually add to curriculum is Facing History and Ourselves, a Brookline-based organization that provides educators with a framework for having difficult classroom discussions. Committee members hope to collaborate with educators in future to expand upon current teaching resources. 

Vice Chair Weinstein describes to the Register Forum how education is used to create a supportive learning environment for all. “It’s making sure the curriculum includes everybody, and that students can see themselves in the content of history, ELA, math, and science,” she said. “It’s making sure educators are culturally proficient and that every young person feels safe and connected to somebody at school.” 

The new policy largely focuses on the utilization of restorative justice practices, as well as ensuring direct communication between the Superintendent and School Committee when hateful events occur. The most recent email about the antisemitic incident on January 31st provided no support for affected students and staff. This prompted policy drafters to add a specific clause stating that Cambridge Public Schools must provide students and staff with access to counseling following hateful incidents. 

  “I want to make sure that we really are supporting kids and educators,” Member Weinstein told the Register Forum. “We aren’t doing as much as we should.” While the School Committee cannot specifically mandate how schools will provide support, the policy ensures it will be available to all.  

Member Hunter agreed, adding, “We are very aware that these kinds of incidents don’t just affect students—they affect staff as well. When these things happen in our community, it affects everybody.”

Tucked away in a room at the back of CRLS, Vice Chair Weinstein concluded her proposal poignantly. “At this moment in time we have legislation instructing teachers to use the pronouns of students’ assigned sex at birth. We have states pulling out of AP [African American] History, we have book bans,” she said. “It is just so important for us to lead the way on a very different vision, which I know we all share here and so we should be loud and proud of our values.”  

This article also appears in our March 2023 print edition.