READING – School Superintendent Dr. John Doherty announced yesterday that the Reading schools are investigating incidents of racist speech including the use of the “N” word on the RMHS platform and on social media last week.

In each situation, an individual entered Zoom classroom sessions and proceeded to use the “N” word and subjected the teacher and students to racist verbal attacks. The incidents were reported to administration, and the schools are currently carrying out an investigation. It is not known who the individual is or how they gained access to the Zoom classroom sessions. As a precautionary measure, the schools have now mandated waiting rooms on all zoom accounts so that teachers invite only their students into the classrooms. Dr. Doherty is reminding students not to share zoom links with others, especially on social media.

RMHS Principal Kate Boynton will be sending out further information to the RMHS community on this incident.

In the release of the information regarding the incident Dr. Doherty said “as Superintendent of Schools, I am appalled at this type of behavior and I apologize to the families of color in our school community and to our teachers who were subjected to these incidents. These comments are hurtful and have a negative impact on our classrooms, our sch ool culture, and our community. This type of behavior is not acceptable in our classrooms or in our community.”

He added “our district has focused the last few years on racial equity and social justice. Several of our schools are participating in book discussions on this topic. The District Leadership Team and the Reading School Committee are discussing the book, Everyday Anti-Racism, Getting Real About Race in Schools. As part of our 10 days of training, METCO Director Grant Hightower presented to our staff about racial bias.”

“We know that we have a long way to go, as evidenced by this incident, however, we will continue to have the difficult conversations and focus on this work.”

Dr. Doherty issued the following remote learning reminders-As described in the Acceptable Use Policy, parents and students should adhere to the following remote learning guidelines.

• The District strictly prohibits screenshots, pictures, downloading, audio/video recording and distribution of any virtual educational experience by students or parents in order to protect student privacy, proactively prevent potential cyberbullying, prevent the distribution of copyrighted materials and comply with Massachusetts law. Please note that in Massachusetts, it is illegal to audio record another person through any medium without his or her knowledge.

• The District has made good faith efforts to ensure virtual platforms used comply with child Internet protection and confidentiality laws and do not sell, use or disclose any personally identifiable information or data for commercial purposes or to third parties. There are potential risks for Internet interruptions, unauthorized interruption by third party and technical difficulties. You can minimize the risk of breaches in confidentiality by not sharing any links, user name and passwords provided used for virtual opportunities access.

• Students, and where appropriate parents/guardians, agree to engage in virtual educational experiences dressed appropriately, in a quiet, private area to the extent practicable given the circumstances, in order to minimize background noise and distractions and to protect the integrity of student engagement as well as student confidentiality. It is the expectation that students use appropriate backgrounds for their virtual calls.

• The laws that protect the privacy and confidentiality of your child’s personally identifiable information apply to virtual educational opportunities just as they do during an in-person services. Parents/guardians and other household members who normally are not privy to day-to-day classroom and group service discussions agree to respect and keep confidential any personal or private information (e.g. disability status) inadvertently discovered about other students due to proximity of virtual education.

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