Committee Member Claims ‘Crazy Amount of Racism’ in Worcester Schools

Committee Member Claims ‘Crazy Amount of Racism’ in Worcester Schools 1

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WORCESTER – Prior to the Feb. 28 Worcester School Committee meeting, a school committee member sent out a mass-message via a local progressive organization claiming “crazy amounts of racism” happening in Worcester Public Schools [WPS].

The message – sent from school committee member Dante Comparetto – and emailed through Greater Worcester Our Revolution [GWOR] – a political movement in Worcester County – urged his supporters and their members to show up at the school committee meeting “…because crazy amounts of racism are still happening in our schools.”

The message goes on to say that new data from the state’s Dept. of Secondary and Elementary Education “…shows that school discipline rates are still on the rise for our students of color.”

No data regarding the school suspension rates was provided in the email.

School discipline data obtained by TWIW from the Massachusetts Dept. of Secondary and Elementary Education [DESE] shows that suspensions for students of color — who make up roughly 70% of the WPS student population — went up just slightly from 9.6% (per 100 students) in 2016-2017 to 9.7% in 2017-2018.

The percentage of suspended white students in WPS went down slightly over that same time period — from 5.3% (per 100 students) in 2016-2017 to 5.1% in 2017-2018.

However, across the board school discipline actually decreased from 2016-2017 (8.3% discipline rate)  to 2017-2018 (8.2%) — and that’s with nearly 1,000 more students enrolled in WPS in 2018. [SEE DATA BELOW]

Multiple attempts by ThisWeekinWorcester.com to reach Comparetto and a representative from GWOR went unreturned.

In his message, Comparetto said that he is hearing directly from WPS Superintendent Maureen Binienda that the committee responsible for working to reduce the amount of school suspensions “is going in the wrong direction.”

Towards the end of his message, Comparetto urged GWOR members to show up at the meeting in numbers to “give the administration guidance.”

When asked to comment, City Manager Edward Augustus, Jr. directed all questions to Supt. Binienda and Comparetto. A request for comment from Supt. Binienda was not immediately returned.

“We do a disservice to the dedicated teachers and administrators in the Worcester Public Schools by stating they are racist.  There are rules to follow for everyone and one does not consider the race of a student when one breaks the rules,” said School Committee member John Monfredo in response to Comparetto’s message.

Monfredo added, “Can improvements be made in addressing suspensions?  Absolutely, but let’s not create a problem that doesn’t exist.  We have had so many outstanding minorities graduate and go on to higher education from the Worcester Public Schools and make a difference in many communities.”

Below, we have provided the school discipline data from DESE for the school years of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018.

Here is the 2017-2018 data from the DESE on school discipline in Worcester (students disciplined percentages are per 100 students)[difference in percentage is % of emergency removal]:

2017-2018 Discipline Data
Student Group Students Students Disciplined % In-School Suspensions % Out of School Suspensions
American Indian or Alaskan 48 10 10.4 14.6
Asian 1,896 48 1.1 1.3
Afr.American/Black 4,435 406 3.8 5.5
Hispanic/Latino 11,978 1,297 4.1 7.3
Multi-Race,Non-Hisp./Lat. 1,141 131 4.4 8.2
Nat. Haw or Pacific Island 6 0
White 8,802 453 2 3.6
Students 28,306 2345 (8.28%)

Here is the 2016-2017 data from the DESE on school discipline in Worcester:

2016-2017 Discipline Data
Student Group Students Students Disciplined % In-School Suspensions % Out of School Suspensions
American Indian or Alaskan 44 8 9.1 6.8
Asian 2,023 30 0.3 0.9
Afr.American/Black 4,343 370 2.6 4.4
Hispanic/Latino 11,559 1,330 3.2 6.3
Multi-Race,Non-Hisp./Lat. 1,129 112 2.8 6.4
Nat. Haw or Pacific Island 2 0
White 8,385 456 1.7 2.9
Students 27485 2306 (8.39%)

 

In an email to TWIW, fellow school committee member Brian O’Connell said, “It is not productive to reduce this complex, vital and sensitive issue to ‘crazy amounts of racism’, as Mr. Comparetto curiously describes it. In fact, such an accusation can inflame political extremism – from the ‘right’ as well as from the ‘radical left.’ All too often, it leads students to attribute their behavior – and their failure to thrive academically – to the alleged animus of their teachers, and of the school system.”

According to O’Connell, WPS has never expelled a student during his tenure on the School Committee. Instead, O’Connell said, the school department works to remove some students from a regular classroom environment and place them into an structured educational program with specialized adult supervision — to work on both academic and behavioral skills.

“I believe we need to focus on the impact of disciplinary practices on ALL of our students. Our administration here seeks properly to maintain a safe and ordered academic environment in our schools, conducive to learning,” O’Connell said. 

The next school committee meeting is Thursday, March 21 in the Esther Howland Chamber at City Hall. See the agenda here


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  • Committee Member Claims ‘Crazy Amount of Racism’ in Worcester Schools 2

    Patrick Sargent is the founder and lead reporter for ThisWeekinWorcester.com. He was born and raised on Grafton Hill and is a graduate of Holy Name high school and Worcester State University. Over the past two years, he worked as a contributing reporter for the Worcester Sun. Previous to that, over the course of several years, he had stints with GoLocalWorcester, Worcester Magazine, the Leominster Champion and Fitchburg Pride. He is the owner of Sargent Media, LLC and can be contacted at [email protected] or 774-232-1223.