The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Legislature passes bill targeting racist incidents

Although Legislature passed the bill this year, it will not go into effect until the 2024-25 school year when it gets printed in the handbook.

Following a student walkout protesting the administration’s inadequate response to a racist video in March of 2022, five students worked for two years to establish a new protocol to guide the administration in responding to these incidents with transparency in mind.

In October of 2023, Legislature passed the “Tackling Injustice Bill,” which includes a five-step procedure for administrators to follow in a report of discrimination or harassment. It requires that the administration notifies anyone involved in the incident or associated with them, debriefs and discusses with educators, organizes listening sessions and follows other additional student safety measures. The bill goes into effect in September, 2024.

Seniors Adaeze Anyaosah, Matthew Nock and Legislature member Laura Cleves began the bill’s formation after the administration did not adequately address a racist video shared in March of 2022. Nock said their aim was to preempt frustration about the administration’s response to any future similar occurrences.

“Many students, including myself and my fellow bill writers, were not happy with the school’s response to that incident,” Nock said. “We wanted to make the vague handbook a bit clearer for students and teachers.”

The group and two additional Legislature members, junior Jesse Givens and sophomore Eric Bardon, had big ambitions for the bill: Not only did they intend to instruct the administration’s public response to discriminatory incidents; they also wanted to establish the consequences for perpetrators. Nock said the magnitude of their ambitions made passing the bill a challenge.

“We faced a lot of pushback, mainly because the bill was so large and there was a lot of content,” Nock said. “Our bill wanted to mandate and create a procedure for a lot of things that we may not have had full control over. It was very tough because a lot of us were not well-versed in the law of Brookline or Town Hall and how it operated.”

Traversing these challenges was time-consuming, Bardon said, but the group kept pushing.

“We had seven drafts of this bill over two years,” Bardon said. “We presented it in Legislature, we had to meet with lawyers, we met with the principal Mr. Meyer and many deans over the two year period. The bill was a very extensive process.”

According to Anyaosah, the group eventually had to discard the section that outlined consequences for perpetrators due to legal complications with the proposed consequences. Soon after, though, the bill was passed.

Student Government Liaison and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Jen Martin said she was impressed with the students’ perseverance throughout the process and proud of the legacy they left.

“It’s the longest sustained effort at trying to pass a bill I’ve ever seen,” Martin said. “I’m really grateful to the students for having held fast so that even after they graduate, they’ve left us with something that’s useful for the school—kids won’t even know that they did it, but I will remember.”

Martin said the bill was significant because it represented the link between advocacy and legislation.

“It’s the idea that you can turn activism into actual legislation to solve an actual problem—I think that’s really important,” Martin said.

Givens said passing the bill made him realize the unique influence that students hold at the high school and the legacies they can create.

“Through the creation and passing of this bill, what I’ve come to realize is that the power is in our hands as students at BHS in a way that’s not that’s not really seen in other schools,” Givens said. “We have the ability to directly edit and impact the school handbook, and through that power comes great self-advocacy from students at BHS that I don’t really see replicated in a lot of other places.”

Givens was an organizer and speaker at the very walkout that ignited the bill’s creation. He said the bill serves as more than merely a legislative document; it is a support system.

“I don’t want BHS to ever feel like a place where students don’t feel protected in their own school,” Givens said. “So, through this bill, I wanted to connect people so they can know there’s a network that supports them after an incident.”

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