Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
About the Office of Equity
What is the Office of Equity?
The Office of Equity is a department of the Boston Public Schools that works to ensure that all students, employees, and families learn and work in an environment free of bias or discrimination.
What does the Office of Equity do?
The Office of Equity responds to concerns regarding possible bias-based conduct based upon one’s membership in a protected class, such as ethnicity, gender, race, disability, religion, or sexual orientation. We work to promote equitable, inclusive practices throughout the BPS community. As part of this mission, the Office of Equity supports and trains BPS employees on how to recognize and address possible bias-based conduct or other potential inequities.
When should I contact the Office of Equity?
You should contact the Office of Equity any time you feel you experienced or witnessed possible bias-based conduct while you are attending or working in a Boston Public school, or participating in other school or school-sponsored activities. If you are not sure whether the behavior might constitute an equity issue, please contact us and ask.
Who can contact the Office of Equity?
Any member of the BPS community or person who interacts with the Boston Public Schools is welcome to contact the Office of Equity. This includes students, parents/guardians, staff members, and visitors.
Are my conversations with the Office of Equity confidential?
The Office of Equity maintains confidentiality to the extent possible. Depending on the circumstances, our investigation or other steps to address the matter may require us to discuss the incident with various individuals. Anyone who reports possible bias-based conduct, or is a witness, is protected against any form of retaliation. If any employee, student, or parent feels he or she has experienced retaliation for speaking up about bias, please contact the Office of Equity immediately.
Where can I find the BPS Equity policies?
The Office of Equity website at www.bostonpublicschools.org/equity/ provides all Equity policies, called “circulars.” The circulars are provided in English and several other languages.
As students, what groups are protected from bias?
Students are protected from bias based on race, color, age, disability, sex/gender, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, retaliation, sexual orientation, genetics, military status, or homelessness.
As employees, what groups are protected from bias?
Employees are protected from bias based on race, color, age, criminal record (inquiries only), disability, sex/gender, gender identity, religion, national origin, ancestry, retaliation, sexual orientation, genetics or military status.
Reporting a Concern to the Office of Equity
How do I report a concern to the Office of Equity?
To discuss a concern with the Office of Equity, please call or email us. Our phone number is 617-635-9650 and our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Student concerns can also be sent to our office through the Boston Student Advisory Council app grievance form available at www.bostonstudentrights.org.
Can I be retaliated against for speaking with the Office of Equity? Can my child?
Anyone who reports possible bias-based conduct, or is a witness, is protected against any form of retaliation. If any student, employee, or parent feels he or she has experienced retaliation for speaking up about bias, please contact the Office of Equity immediately.
If I am unsure if my concern is related to equity, should I still contact the Office of Equity?
The Office of Equity welcomes all calls. We believe that BPS should be a welcoming community for all and are happy to discuss your concerns. If we feel a concern does not fall under the purview of our office, we will help you find the assistance you need.
If I tell the Office of Equity that someone treated me in a biased manner, will he or she find out I spoke with you?
If the Office of Equity opens an investigation based upon our conversation, the individual will be informed about the concerns that were raised. However, the Office of Equity does seek to maintain confidentiality to the extent possible. For example, if multiple people heard a specific remark made, there is generally no need to reveal which person reported the remark to Equity. In addition, anyone who reports possible bias-based conduct, or is a witness, is protected against any form of retaliation. If any student, employee, or parent feels he or she has experienced retaliation for speaking up about bias, please contact the Office of Equity immediately.
Does speaking with the Office of Equity affect my ability to file a claim with a civil rights law enforcement agency or file a lawsuit?
Speaking with the Office of Equity does not limit your ability to pursue other avenues to address your concern. Please note that agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Office for Civil Rights have statute of limitations that may affect your ability to file a claim.
Office of Equity Investigations
Under what circumstances does the Office of Equity open an investigation?
The Office of Equity will open an investigation if there is evidence to indicate an Equity circular (internal policy) may have been violated. Some investigations are conducted by Office of Equity staff; others may be conducted by school administrators or operations staff with guidance from the Office of Equity. In either case, the subjects of the investigation and the individual(s) who reported the concerns will be informed that an investigation has been launched, and informed when the investigation is complete.
Will I be informed if my conversation with Equity results in an investigation?
Yes, anyone who reports possible bias-based conduct is informed when their concerns result in an Equity investigation. The subject(s) is also informed at this point.
If I report possible bias-based conduct, will I find out the outcome of the investigation?
The Office of Equity will contact you at the conclusion of the investigation to inform you whether a violation of an Equity circular (internal policy) is found. The subject(s) of the investigation is also informed. Because of privacy laws, we are not able to share specific details about any personnel actions that may have been taken. If you have any questions about the outcome of your investigation, please contact the Office of Equity.
How long does it take for the Office of Equity to complete an investigation?
The length of Equity investigations varies depending on a number of factors, but most investigations are concluded within one month.
If I am a BPS employee, can I bring a lawyer or union representation to my Equity interview or investigatory meeting?
You are welcome to bring union representation to the meeting.
Title IX Compliance
What is Title IX?
Title IX is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex (gender). Title IX states: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Who is BPS’ Title IX coordinator?
Quinnelle Gomez is the Title IX coordinator for Boston Public Schools. If you believe you have experienced or witnessed gender bias in any aspect of the Boston Public Schools, including disparities in athletics or sexual misconduct toward students, Quinnelle can be contacted at email@example.com or 617-635-9650.
How do I report an incident of possible gender bias or sexual misconduct?
If you wish to report a gender bias concern, please contact the Office of Equity at 617-635-9650 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if you are unsure if the behavior you experienced or witnessed could be gender bias, we are happy to speak with you about your concerns.
What is a reasonable accommodation?
A “reasonable accommodation” is any modification or adjustment to a job or work environment that allows an applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, perform the essential functions of a job, or enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment to employees without disabilities.
What qualifies as a “disability”?
State and federal law defines a person with a disability as someone who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as seeing, hearing, walking, or lifting; (2) has a record of such an impairment; or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Accommodations are available for individuals who fit either of the first two categories.
How do I request a reasonable accommodation?
Any applicant or employee seeking reasonable accommodations may contact the Office of Equity to begin the process. We will ask for relevant information, including medical documentation, needed to conduct an interactive dialogue. During the dialogue process, the Office of Equity may interview the employee, his or her supervisor, and other relevant staff to determine whether the requested accommodation is reasonable based on the essential functions of the position and other factors.
Please be advised that the accommodations paperwork is available upon request.
What is Section 504?
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) is a federal civil rights law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities who participate in programs that receive federal financial assistance. Section 504 requires school districts to provide a free, appropriate public education to eligible students with disabilities. This means that the educational services provided to students with disabilities must be equivalent to those provided to students without disabilities. For more information, please see the district’s Section 504 circular.
What does the Section 504 Coordinator do?
The Section 504 Coordinator oversees the policies and procedures for the district’s Section 504 evaluation and implementation process. Students, families, or third parties may file a report with the Section 504 Coordinator if they believe that their rights under 504 have been violated. The 504 Coordinator does not participate in IEP meetings or determine appropriate services.
Who is the Section 504 Coordinator for BPS?
Steven Chen is the Section 504 Coordinator. You can contact him at email@example.com or 617-635-8305.