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Boston Public Schools Launches First-Ever 24/7 Respect Week

Initiative Aims to Educate Students, Prompt Discussion of Harmful Nature of Bias-Based Conduct

BOSTON — Monday, February 11, 2019 — Today, at an event in the library of Boston Latin Academy, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) launched its first-ever “24/7 Respect Week,” dedicated to teaching students the importance of staying safe and respectful with their peers in-person and online.

24/7 Respect Week provides comprehensive information to all BPS middle- and high-school students about how to prevent and address bias-based conduct and sexual misconduct in any setting, including in person, through text or email, and on social media. During the week, all students in grades 6-12 will learn how to engage in inclusive and thoughtful interactions with their peers, reinforcing how young people can communicate in ways that are supportive and affirming.

The BPS Office of Equity and Boston Student Advisory Council co-produced the "Stay Out of the Box" video for 24/7 Respect Week, to spur discussion of BPS's policies around preventing and addressing bias-based conduct and sexual misconduct, including in-person and digital communication.

Students will also learn about the dangers of posting derogatory or inappropriate messages on social media. During the week, all BPS middle and high school students will watch a video called “Stay Out of the Box” co-produced by the Boston Student Advisory Council and the BPS Office of Equity, featuring student narrators and actors.

“Teaching our students life readiness skills means preparing them to be thoughtful, considerate, global citizens,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto. “I applaud the student advocacy of BSAC and the constantly extraordinary work of our Office of Equity in bringing conversations about mutual respect and socially responsible communication to the forefront.”

The district will provide a viewing guide and lesson plan, with guidelines for thoughtful discussion following the video and activities for students to interpret certain misconduct scenarios. Teachers are also encouraged to engage students in an open conversation to better understand how bias-based behavior can be harmful to others.

Anti-bullying links and resources are also available for teachers. On the 24/7 Respect Week web page community members are able to report any problems to the Office of Equity via an online form.

“I’m so grateful to the Boston Student Advisory Council and the BPS Office of Equity for this truly collaborative effort,” said BPS Interim Superintendent Laura Perille. “I’m hopeful that the events of this week will extend discussion beyond the classroom and spur dialogue between students and their families about how to stay safe and respectful every day.”

The video includes scenes that are examples of how online communication can violate the BPS Code of Conduct. BPS is committed to ensuring a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for all students. The district explicitly prohibits incidents such as bullying, sexual harassment or misconduct, and racist messages, and in some cases this misconduct could also violate the law. Even if it occurs off school property or outside school hours, such conduct is prohibited by BPS when it impacts the learning or work environment.

“We are leading by example by teaching students the inherent value of being respectful and responsible young adults,” said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang. “With so much harmful rhetoric in the public consciousness, it’s empowering and affirming to see that we are showing our students that bias-based conduct is not acceptable inside or outside of school.”

The Top Three Tips for students from the BPS 24/7 Respect Week video, “Stay Out of the Box” are:

  • Think before you speak, text, or post.
  • Ask yourself: Is it welcome, true, and kind?
  • Remember: Anyone can see what you post!

“If a young person sends or receives an inappropriate message or post, that can result in lasting harm,” said Becky Shuster, BPS assistant superintendent of equity. “We want to make sure our students know that bias-based or sexually explicit communication is prohibited, even if it occurs off school property or outside school hours, because it can disrupt students’ ability to learn.”

BPS students are increasingly aware of the importance of reporting conduct that targets a young person based on their race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or other aspects of their identity, including bias-based bullying and unwanted sexual comments. 24/7 Respect Week aims to ensure they thoroughly understand these rights and responsibilities, including the fact that they extend to interactions outside of school that could disrupt a student’s ability to learn.

The BPS Office of Equity has strong, detailed policies and protocols that are applied consistently to reported incidents, and school leaders, teachers, and other employees are required to report any such conduct if it impacts a student. There are multiple ways to report possible policy violations, including through the Office of Equity website or BSAC and Youth on Board's web-based app, bostonstudentrights.org. An ongoing multimedia campaign has greatly increased reporting over the last three years.

I believe this video will help students in a big way,” said Sophia Kenneally, a junior at Boston Latin Academy and BSAC representative who stars in the video. “This video serves to educate students on the Code of Conduct, and how to use social media in a responsible and productive way. My hope is that this will promote a safer and more welcoming environment for all students.”

The Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) is a body of student leaders representing their respective high schools and serves as the voice of students to the Boston School Committee. Participating members offer their perspectives on education policies and inform their respective schools about relevant citywide school issues. BSAC is the primary vehicle for student voice and youth engagement across the Boston Public Schools. In recent years, BSAC has played a key role in advising the School Committee on policy, working with the Headmasters on student climate issues, and informing students of their rights and responsibilities under district rules. 

Outside of the classroom and academics, sometimes we forget that students are still learning socially and morally, and they are growing up,” said Kendra Allen-Gerald, a senior at New Mission High School. “Sometimes it's good for people to be reminded about how important respect is.”