Fellow Residents of Acton,
On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, an anonymous report was sent to Acton Boxborough Regional High School, and subsequently, the Acton Police Department. This report, which occurred one day following receipt of an initial report, identified several students and indicated that they were in potential possession of a firearm. Each of the students identified was Black. ABRHS went through lock-down procedures after the Wednesday report.
These students were detained for several hours without their parents or care givers. From the information shared, it’s unclear why six students were accused, or what procedures were followed for questioning the students. It was later determined that none of the Black students detained was in possession of a firearm.
After the incident, there were statements from the school district and the town. These messages have provided some details regarding the event and have prompted discourse and discussion within our community. A community feedback session occurred during the September 22nd School Committee meeting.
During this meeting members of our community shared the very real impact of the event -- the trauma response that our young people can experience from having been isolated and detained. Our Black individuals and families felt the collective harm experienced by the students being removed from the classroom, being identified as persons of interest, being implicated in a potential crime, and being excused without discussion. How can we adequately communicate care or concern for these innocent students in order to make them whole again?
We applaud the young people detained for keeping their composure and operating with integrity, while facing what was likely a difficult and scary experience. We recognize the value of each member of our community, including these young people. We will continue to strive towards a community where safety, accountability, and equity are at the center. However, we also recognize that there was harm done that tore the fabric of our society, which will not heal without being directly stated and directly addressed. We are disappointed that the official public response thus far has not included acknowledgement of harm nor an explanation for the general public to understand why it was harmful.
These, and events like them, negatively impact feelings of safety and belonging, and have done so in this place where we live, learn and grow. Data highlights alarming outcomes for Black people in the United States particularly as it relates to police involved events. Police brutality, racial profiling, threats of death as an outcome of police brutality, are tangible, fact-based fears. It was in this context that the students found themselves being questioned by police.
We, as members of the Acton Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Commission (DEIC), stand with the young people directly impacted by this event.
We remain motivated to engendering change in our community, and do so via the charge of assessing diversity, equity, and inclusion in Acton. We remain dedicated to suggesting ways to improve any problems found. We applaud the School Committee for addressing it at their meeting, but this is a start – not a finish.
We recognize that incidents of racism are neither infrequent nor diminishing. Best practices must be incorporated into standard procedures followed by the District, including:
- Prompt official statements regarding incidents, including acknowledgement of harm caused and resources for restoration;
- Holding of community forums specifically and only about incidents to support transparency and fact sharing, acknowledgment of harm and being intentional when holding space for restitution and healing;
- Offering trauma-informed support to members of the community, including that of students and their families;
- Expressing care and concern for the targeted individuals while maintaining a commitment to all dimensions of safety, equity and inclusion;
- Sharing resources available within our community -- including on campus, when it is a school related incident, to support students.
Yours in Service,
Acton Diversity Equity and Inclusion Commission