BAR HARBOR — Recommendations of the Mount Desert Island Regional School System’s Anti-Racism Task Force, presented to the school board June 14, include mandatory training for all school staff on “privilege, racism and white supremacy” and hiring a school counselor at the high school who identifies as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color).
The task force, which is made up of students, teachers, guidance counselors and administrators, said the staff training “should be delivered by a BIPOC organization with experience in predominantly white schools.”
The task force also recommends creating an “affinity group” for BIPOC students in grades 5-8 and another for high school students.
The school system also should initiate an “equity audit to (assess) the current curriculum standards using an anti-racism and equity-oriented lens,” the Anti-Racism Task Force recommends.
The task force calls for improving the system of responding to incidents of racism in the schools.
Currently, when staff members are made aware of such an incident, they report it to their school’s affirmative action officer, who gathers information and, if indicated, determines punishment for the party who caused harm. Possible punishments include detention, suspension and community service.
“[But] there is no guarantee the responsible party has learned from their actions,” the task force said in its report. “Little protection is in place for the harmed party, and the system itself is mysterious to many students.
“Further, student experiences have shown that this method of dealing with racist incidents is ineffective. Students who feel they are being punished for an offense they may not understand often fail to stop their harmful behavior.”
The Anti-Racism Task Force recommends replacing the current system with one of “restorative justice,” which focuses on rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with those harmed.
According to Edutopia, “Restorative justice helps a student to own what she/he did, make it right for those hurt or affected and involve the community in helping both the victim and the offender. Restorative justice acknowledges that those who do wrong need healing as well.”
The school system board is expected to discuss the Anti-Racism Task Force’s recommendations at future meetings.