Equity FAQ's

  • About 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    The Office of Equity web site at www.bostonpublicschools.org/equity/ provides all Equity policies, called “circulars.” The circulars are provided in English and several other languages.

    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.

    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

     

    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 bpsequity@bostonpublicschools.org. Student concerns can also be sent to our office through the Boston Student Advisory Council app grievance form available at www.bostonstudentrights.org.

    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.

    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 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.

    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

     

    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.

    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.

    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.

    The length of Equity investigations varies depending on a number of factors, but most investigations are concluded within one month.

    You are welcome to bring legal and/or union representation. If you plan to bring a representative, you must inform the Office of Equity in advance of your meeting.

     

    Title IX Compliance

     

    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.

    Juna Pierre 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, Juna can be contacted at bpsequity@bostonpublicschools.org or 617-635-9650.

    If you wish to report a gender bias concern, please contact the Office of Equity at 617-635-9650 or bpsequity@bostonpublicschools.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.

     

    Reasonable Accommodations

     

    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.

    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.

    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.

     

    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.

    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.

    Steven Chen is the Section 504 Coordinator. You can contact him at schen2@bostonpublicschools.org or 617-635-8305.