March 29, 2017
Dear Belmont Parents, Guardians, Faculty, and Staff-
I am writing to you to bring to your attention an incident that occurred at Belmont High School (BHS) on March 23, 2017 which involved our students.
In November of 2016, a student took a picture of himself and wrote a racist comment under the photo. The student did this outside of school and then sent it directly to one other student. The photo was shared electronically between two students; it was not posted to a large social media audience. On March 23, 2017, the student who received the photo showed it to one of our African-American/ Black students, who then shared it with two other students. This action caused hurtful and hateful feelings for many of our students, more specifically among our African-American/ Black students. Below are the details of the incident and the actions taken:
On March 23 and 24, the school administration took the following steps:
- Interviewed the two students who took and received the photo.
- Met with the parents of the two students.
- Principal and assistant principal interviewed all students who expressed concern about the incident.
- Principal and assistant principal mediated two-way dialogue between the two students who initially took and received the photo, and the African-American students who were offended and upset by these actions.
- Notified guidance counselors, department directors, school psychologist, school nurse, school resource officer.
- Maintained communications with Superintendent Phelan.
On March 27 and 28, the school administration took the following steps:
- Followed up with guidance counselors, department directors, school psychologist, school nurse, and school resource officer.
- Followed up with students who expressed concerns on March 23 and 24.
- Met again with the two students who initially took and received the photo.
- Principal met with assistant principals to plan a meeting on 3/30/17 with students to openly share their concerns, thoughts, feelings, and expectations regarding how the culture at BHS can be a more inclusive school for all students.
- Maintained communication with Superintendent Phelan.
During these discussions and meetings, it was our goal to make sure there was a balance of ensuring accountability and taking advantage of this incident as a learning opportunity for these students and our school community. This important work will continue.
At the beginning of the year, the school administrators and I meet with each graduating class and the faculty/staff to share our expectations for an all-inclusive culture. We stress the importance of affording academic, social, and emotional equality for all students, contributing to a school culture that embraces all students, adults, and families from a variety of backgrounds, regardless of race, creed, religion, color, gender identity, gay, straight, transgender, sex, gender or any other quality that makes us unique. We remain committed to this vision and to the important work that that lies ahead to ensure that everyone is a welcomed, respected, and a valued member of the Belmont High School community.
Daniel E. Richards