Rise in racial slurs in Smithfield schools prompts new training

Rise in racial slurs in Smithfield schools prompts new training

SMITHFIELD – Anti-defamation training will be implemented this year in Smithfield schools in an effort to combat a rise in racial slurs and bigotry voiced against students, according to Supt. Judy Paolucci, pictured.

Paolucci said she is happy to put into practice training from the Anti-Defamation League to confront what she says is an increase in slurs and religious discrimination in the schools.

She said the training will be in the middle and high schools where school officials have seen the most significant increase in such words used. She said upon learning of the incidents, the School Department investigated ways to combat it.

Assistant Supt. Sara Monaco said she originally noticed the increasing trend of racially or religiously charged interactions at the end of last year when she was reviewing student data at the middle and high schools.

“We were like whoa, whoa, whoa. Something is going on here,” Monaco said.

Monaco said the interactions were not often related to sexual orientation.

“Who knows what’s happening that’s not actually being reported,” she said.

According to Monaco, the data has not been compiled to show the specific number of incidents yet, but she said it was enough to cause action by administration. By the end of last year, a few students sat with her and SHS Principal Dan Kelley to make complaints about the language.

She said the group had an open dialogue about the verbal attacks and realized the school needed to attack the problem.

“These are just the incidents that rose to a formal level. It’s not just unkind behavior,” Monaco said. Training began with two administrators and three teachers over the summer. The teachers will then choose students who will train to become peer leaders. In January, peer leaders will then begin teaching other students about diversity, conflict management, intervention and prevention strategies and facilitation skills. Training will also address biases that teachers may not recognize they have, she said. Paolucci said the overall cost for the training program was $25,000, and the district was able to secure a grant to pay for it.

She said the Anti-Defamation League training, or the World of Difference, will be extended to parents and the community as well through a workshop. She pointed out that this type of language is often learned at home.

The community training session will be held Oct. 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the high school auditorium, 90 Pleasant View Ave.

“This is important to do,” Paolucci said.

School starts next week in Smithfield

Next Tuesday, Aug. 27, Smithfield schools will usher in the new year with new opportunities and faces to fill the corridors, classrooms, and offices.

After a sit-down to review routes with bus company Durham School Services, Supt. Judy Paolucci said there will be better and more efficient routes this year.

She said the routes have been streamlined but there could be some neighborhoods where students may now need to walk to the end of the street. She's urging parents to check out the district’s website, www.smithfield-ps.org , to know when and where their children’s bus is coming.

“There’s not going to be a ton of difference, but it’s nice to have a nice week (of) advance notice,” she said.

Paolucci said in addition to a number of retirements, budget cuts eliminated several teaching positions this year and there will be many personnel changes at the high school.

She said some teachers are moving from building to building, and students will see familiar faces taking on new roles in the schools.

Included in preparing for new roles, teachers spent time over the summer doing professional development, new curriculum and math training.

The most significant change over the summer was the addition of an external public address at the high school. She said the $7,000 system was funded by a grant from the National Rifle Association, and was recommended in a safety audit.

Over the summer, custodial staff worked hard to clean classrooms, finish flooring, and make minor repairs to the facilities to prepare them for the upcoming school year, Paolucci said.

Gallagher Middle School received a fresh coat of paint in the hallways and bathrooms as well.

“What a difference a fresh coat of paint can make,” Paolucci said.

Paolucci said there are no administrative changes in staff, and teachers and staff there are “really raring to go.”

“It is the work we do. It’s nice getting ready and feeling like you’re ahead. You don’t really see any fruits of the labor until you see the students in the classroom” Paolucci said.

Find schedules and bus times on the district website as well.