A group of about 100 Wellesley Public Schools (WPS) parents, students, and others gathered on Wednesday morning in front of the high school before classes began in a show of support for a Wellesley High School student attacked by peers over the summer near Bates Elementary School. The demonstration, also attended by Wellesley High’s The Bradford and several Boston-area news agencies, was peaceful as attendees held signs and voiced their outrage over what the family of the victim has described as the ineffective way the WPS administration handled the disciplinary phase of the incident.
Dylan Ade, the father of the victim, addressed the crowd with his wife, Allyson, and his son at his side. “We’re all sick of the administration brushing it under the rug and thinking it doesn’t need to be talked about.”
Ade and his family have opened up about the situation over the past week, both during citizen speak at a Wellesley School Committee meeting and in press interviews.
Ade has repeatedly questioned why the school did not issue any communication to the broader school community about the attack on his son. In July, Ade’s 15-year-old was lured into a wooded area near Bates by one boy. While another boy briefly captured the attack on a cell phone, according to the police report, others beat the teen.
Ade says he has been told the reason a school-wide communication was not sent out was, “we need to protect the kids in this. Well what about protection of my son? What about protection of everyone else that gets bullied?”
The student, his family, and their supporters say that by not communicating to the wider school community about the incident, and not delivering stronger consequences to the students who beat and urinated on his son, the administration has not taken the issue seriously enough.
Out of the 6 students involved in the incident, 2 have left the Wellesley public school system, and others were suspended. Some have returned to school.
A change.org petition is circulating that demands “David Lussier be removed from his role as Superintendent of Wellesley Public Schools immediately.” The petition has almost 800 signatures so far.
After the protest, we sat down with Supt. David Lussier and WHS Principal Jamie Chisum to discuss the community’s reaction to the incident and the district’s response. Lussier noted that the school has not been at liberty to make available details about the events. The incident has been documented in a police report, and relayed by the Ade family. “It’s challenging for us because the privacy constraints we’re under,” Lussier said. “There are some things that for everyone’s protection we can’t get into, given our responsibilities.”
The administration’s emphasis on protecting their son’s bullies is in large part what rankles the victim’s family. The reality is that right now some of those involved and who remain WHS students are back in school. That the Ades’ son has to see them, perhaps on a daily basis or even in class, understandably upsets them.
“When something like this happens to your child, the serious nature of it is shocking and horrifying and so I think for any of us we’d probably feel the same way,” Lussier said. “So the notion that anyone attached to this is never going to be back in school, it’s unreasonable. In this case we didn’t have the legal authority to even implement that. But No. 2, people also participated in different ways. We’re still responsible for those kids and often in cases like this while people are rightly concerned about the victim we also have a duty of care for the perpetrators. We’re still responsible for them. We’re responsible for figuring out a path forward to recovery in some sort of restorative way along with consequences.”
Regarding the lack of communication, Chisum said, “We were advised to let the police run their investigation first. I had to hold hearings, I have to adjudicate those hearings, and so it became challenging for me to put out a communication denouncing the specific event and be seen as a neutral arbitrator of a hearing I had to adjudicate at the same time.”
As for whether peace can be restored between the school and the Ade family, Chisum remains optimistic. “The team that works closely with the student continues to have a good relationship with the family,” he says.
Dylan Ade at the protest sounded less ready to trust the administration saying it took three months, a news story, and “the threat of a protest” for Chisum to put out a statement in response to bullying concerns.
Here’s Principal Chisum’s statement:
October 19, 2021
Dear Members of the Wellesley Public Schools Community:
All of us in the Wellesley Public Schools care deeply about the safety and education of our students. We recognize there are ongoing community questions and concerns about a horrific bullying incident that occurred during the summer adjacent to school property in our district. While we cannot comment specifically about that incident, we know that incidents of bullying hurt our entire Wellesley community. We take any reported allegations of bullying very seriously and follow a specific process of investigation and action, as outlined in our Bullying Policy. Beyond the due process that is required by state law, as educators, we also have a responsibility to care for and teach every student. It is a role we take to heart. We work hard to prevent bullying by creating relationships within our schools so all students can feel supported and safe and have trusted adults they can turn to if needed. We work as a team to provide support to victims after an incident and to create safety plans to help ensure that any bullying is not repeated. This duty of care extends to all of our students, even when they make poor decisions. Young people make mistakes; they should be allowed to learn from those mistakes. To that end, we strive to have a balance between appropriate consequences and a path forward to recover. This is the nature of public schools and we remain committed to doing everything we can to support the growth of the young people entrusted to our care.
We ask everyone in our community to help and support us in these efforts.
Update (Oct. 21): An agenda item for the School Committee meeting either on Oct. 27 or Nov. 2 (depending on how long Special Town Meeting runs) reflects that there will be a discussion of the current WPS bullying policy. The discussion was postponed from Friday, Oct. 22.