Dear Newton Families,
As a result of a formal petition alleging anti-Semitism in the Newton Public School history curriculum, the School Committee was required to hold a public hearing on the petitioners’ requests. On Tuesday evening, approximately 400 students, faculty, staff, and community members attended the public hearing at Newton South.
We fully recognize that anti-Semitism, as well as bigotry and outright hate and intolerance against Muslim, Immigrant, Black and Brown and, LGBTQ members has become more pronounced in this country in the past few years. It is deeply distressing and we should all be working together to address it. However, we categorically rejected that Newton Public Schools’ curriculum is anti-Semitic or that there is an anti-Semitic bias inherent in our schools.
At the hearing, students, parents, teachers and other community members overwhelmingly affirmed the quality and integrity of our school system. Attendees voiced strong support, admiration, and respect for the history teachers in the Newton Public Schools and for the mission of our history department. We as School Committee members were moved by the passion and eloquence of the speakers, especially current and former students, who noted the importance of their Newton education in navigating today’s volatile and divisive political atmosphere. They talked about learning to engage in civil and lively discourse, to analyze critically, and to develop evidence-based opinions.
We are deeply concerned about the chilling effect the recent attacks by the Americans for Peace and Tolerance and Education Without Indoctrination are having on our faculty and our school atmosphere. Our teachers have shared their apprehension about teaching not only controversial topics, but any topic of historical importance for fear that a statement or document may be taken out of context. The ongoing public records requests for curriculum documents and materials, as well as online communication, is slowly instilling a fear of censorship and misrepresentation. This all comes at a cost: valuable time and focus spent away from students and the classroom. Following the hearing, Superintendent Fleishman sent the attached letter to faculty and staff in support of their work.
Moving forward, we will continue to work with administrators to combat bias in all its forms through our curriculum, student and faculty led initiatives and on-going professional development of our teachers and administrators. All members of our community (students, faculty, parents) should feel safe, welcome and included in our schools and beyond. Parents and families are important partners and we welcome your involvement.
Bridget Ray-Canada, Ward 1 Margaret Albright, Ward 2
Anping Shen, Ward 3 Diana Fisher Gomberg, Ward 4
Steven Siegel, Vice Chair, Ward 5 Ruth Goldman, Chair, Ward 6
Kathy Shields, Ward 7 Matthew Miller, Ward 8
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller