Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

An Indiana school district updated a microaggression section to their handbook, causing some parents to push back at the school board meeting at which the measure was approved.

The student handbook update was approved on June 8 at the Hamilton Southeastern school board meeting and went into effect on August 5. 

“Our handbook leadership team has come before you this evening requesting approval for the 22-23 student handbook revisions,” a speaker said at the meeting, which addressed the proposal of the addition of microaggressions to the handbook. “The recommended revisions have gone through a rigorous review process which includes considerations from feedback our students, our teachers, staff, board members as well, and our administration. And, so, we are seeking approval for the recommendations that have been sent before you.”

A series of speakers addressed the student handbook before the school board members voted to approve the measure.

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One of the speakers supporting the handbook said she was an intern at an HSE school through her “university” and expressed the “importance” of microaggressions as it pertained to “black and brown minority students.” She defined microaggression as negatively targeting a marginalized group or person. She went on to say that during her internship, she was a victim of a microaggression by one of the counselors.

“Microaggressions for minority students do not encourage a safe and equitable environment,” the young woman said. 

Some parents blasted the student handbook for its “subjective approach” to addressing microaggressions. 

A speaker named Juanita Albright said she was “disturbed” by the school district’s consideration of the inclusion of microaggression in the handbook.

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“This subjective approach to managing student behavior will have a significant impact on teachers staff and students who may be arbitrarily accused of violating the policy,” Albright said, before warning that the measure would lead to a withdrawal of more students, court cases against the HSE, and resignation of teachers and staff.

Albright, a parent of two students in the HSE school district, vowed to run for school board for District 2 to “revise” or “remove” the microaggression policy.

“The concerns I have come down to basically the interpretation and it’s left to the individual to determine how it was applied, if it was intentional or unintentional, and even taking it further to the point that the handbook doesn’t articulate how this will be addressed,” parent Dawn Lane said, adding that the microaggression definition is very “subjective” and “not very concrete in terms of how it can be applied.”

Lane also expressed “concern” about how the microaggressions will add additional responsibility to “overburdened” teachers while the school district is dealing with a “shortage” of teachers.

“This affects the talent, attraction, and development for HSE teachers and our ability to attract top talent for our school district,” Lane continued. “There is already a teacher shortage and I think this adds one more layer of complexity into the mix as we look at trying to look at trying to obtain top status as an education system in the state of Indiana.”

The new addition to the student handbook is listed under the student conduct section of the handbook.

Microaggressions are addressed “through restorative conversations” as opposed to “punitive measures,” the student handbook states. The addition of microaggressions is intended to foster a dialogue between students and administrators, teachers or guidance counselors to address the negative implications of microaggressions.

The handbook states: “Microaggressions can be defined as every day, subtle, intentional or unintentional interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward stigmatized, or culturally or historically marginalized groups. While Hamilton Southeastern understands those individuals communicating a microaggression might not intend to express bias, the school recognizes the responsibility to educate students on the reality of bias perceptions. Issues regarding microaggressions may be addressed through restorative conversations led by school administration, teachers, and/or guidance counselors rather than punitive measures. Habitual occurrences could lead to consequences applicable to inappropriate conduct as defined in Section 28.” 

HSE released a statement to the media about the student handbook.

“We believe it is important to ensure our students are prepared for the ever-changing real world and how to navigate successfully in this new environment in which we all operate,” it read. “The recent update to our student handbook provides staff the opportunity to hold restorative conversations about how an intentional or unintentional interaction that communicates some kind of bias between students can be effectively addressed.”

School districts across the U.S. have been plagued with staffing issues as the new school year approaches. 

Among them is Richmond Public Schools, whose superintendent reported having 209 vacant teacher positions in mid-July. 

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten argued last month that politics have “polluted” the profession and fueled teacher shortages.

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