Themes from our Civil Rights Forums

At the February 26 School Committee meeting staff from the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) will present themes and recommendations from listening sessions they recently facilitated with GMRSD parents, students, and staff. CES has also provided us with a report that presents a thematic analysis of those listening forums. The introduction to the report is excerpted below.

Thematic Analysis of Social Justice and Equity Listening Forums
Prepared for the Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee by the Collaborative for Educational Services, Northampton, MA
February 2019

Introduction and Summary

In January of 2019, the Gill Montague Regional School District retained the Collaborative for Educational Services to facilitate listening forums with parents, students, and teachers/staff at Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School. Dr. Safire DeJong and Dr. Keisha Green served as forum facilitators. The purpose of the forums was to hear from those stakeholders about their thoughts and feelings regarding matters of Social Justice and Equity as they pertain to the schools. This document presents a thematic analysis of those listening forums.

How the thematic analysis was conducted

At least one note-taker from the Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) attended each of the listening forums facilitated by Drs. DeJong and Green. A qualitative coding process was then used to to draw out the dominant themes that emerged from the notes. Several members
of CES’s Research and Evaluation Team validated and refined the themes, and contributed to the final analysis.

It is critical to note the following limitations of this analysis:
This document reflects the broad/dominant themes that emerged during the recent listening forums; it does not necessarily capture the nuances of those discussions.
The themes distilled in this document summarize the perspectives, perceptions, experiences and ideas of those participants who attended the listening forums. It is not possible to generalize from them, or treat them as representative of all stakeholder
opinions. Though these forums were not intended to yield data that could be generalized from, it may be important to consider levels of participation among prospective stakeholder groups:

  • About 9% of total MS/HS students attended a forum.
  • About 20% of MS/HS faculty and staff attended a forum.
  • About 44 people attended a parent session. For a number of reasons, it is not possible for us to estimate the percentage of total parents/guardians represented by this number, but we suspect it to be between 6% and 12%.

Themes that cut across stakeholder groups

The following analysis separately details themes that emerged in the student, parent, and teacher/staff forums. Themes that were common across two or more stakeholder groups include:

  1. The sense that a culture of racism/intolerance persists at the schools.
  2.  A perceived lack of institutional/administrative commitment to social justice and anti-racism work.
  3. Concerns that policies regarding student discipline are unclear/vague. When students encounter the discipline system, it is ineffective and/or discrepantly applied.
  4. Need for meaningful, ongoing, and systematic social justice and anti-racism training for students, faculty/staff, and administrators.
  5. The perception that social justice and anti-racism problems extend beyond the schools, and are complicated by racism that may be prevalent in the community

Read the full report