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EXCLUSIVE: Massachusetts school districts promote 'anti-racist' affinity groups for White teachers

Photo of Brookline High School (Photo: Brookline Public Schools)
Photo of Brookline High School (Photo: Brookline Public Schools)
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Two public school districts in Massachusetts, including the state's largest, are promoting "anti-racist" affinity groups directed at White staff members.

Boston Public Schools (BPS) and Public Schools of Brookline (PSB) each provide resources and guidelines related to affinity groups online. Affinity groups are traditionally described as a group of staff members "linked by a common purpose, ideology or interest."

Both BPS and PSB place an emphasis on creating "anti-racist" spaces, according to reviews of district resources conducted by advocacy group Parents Defending Education (PDE) and shared with Crisis in the Classroom (CITC).

In January, PSB launched "anti-racist" affinity groups directed towards White employees, according to the resources reviewed by PDE. In a flyer, PSB recommends that employees join the "anti-racist" groups if they have ever said certain statements, including "I feel guilty or sad about my whiteness" and "I want to examine my own racial habits and awareness."

During the same time period, PSB also introduced affinity groups directed towards "BIPOC" and "LGBTQ+" staff members, according to the resources reviewed by PDE.

"Separating faculty based on race or sexual orientation to bash others not included in the affinity group creates a toxic work and academic environment for students and faculty alike," Caroline Moore, Vice President of PDE, told CITC. "Brookline should prioritize unifying faculty to educate students.”

READ MORE | Boston school touts 'race-based affinity groups' in the name of 'social justice mission'

On its own website, BPS offers guidance for those looking to "implement effective anti-racist affinity groups." A section under linked guidance is titled "Resources and Best Practices for Anti-Racist Affinity Groups for White People."

"Anti-racist affinity groups for White people are an opportunity to develop their understanding of the historical and current realities of how internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic racism manifest; to face their indoctrination and participation in White supremacy; and become increasingly effective at disrupting racism, applying racial equity strategies, and building authentic relationships with people of Color," the section reads. "These affinity groups are a place for White people to take responsibility for their own learning."

The guidance then lists several affinity groups, including "Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites" and "Building Anti-Racist White Educators."

"It’s frightening that the next generation of young minds are being taught by people who believe that past discrimination can be solved by present discrimination," Alex Nester, an investigative fellow for PDE, told CITC. "Whatever teachers are taught in professional development sessions trickles down to students—and the divisive ideas on race, sex, and gender promoted during these sessions does not belong in K-12 classrooms.”

Wellesley Public Schools, a separate Boston-area school district, ended its own racial affinity groups last year after settling a lawsuit with PDE.

READ MORE | Lawsuit forces school district to end racial affinity groups

A private school in Boston faced criticism last fall for encouraging its community to "actively participate" in social justice activities, which included joining affinity groups. Groups available at The Advent School included "Families of Color Affinity" and "Advent White Family Accountability."

CITC reached out to both PSB and BPS for comment, but did not receive responses prior to publication. This story will be updated if responses are received.

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