Community Stands Up Against Discrimination


A Valentine’s Day act of racially-motivated bullying at Strong Middle School, has brought the RSD 13 community together to call for change on social media and at Board of Education meetings. Comments on Facebook and during public hearings have universally supported the student. In a town that has had a number of racially motivated hate events in the past, it is extremely important for the community and school district to find the roots of the problem to move forward more equitably. 

The student had faced other race-based bullying (the Devil’s Advocate is not publishing the name of the students involved to protect their privacy)  prior to February 14th that they worked out with the school. The mother of the child said, “Our initial response was as if our child was okay and safe and once we understood what was happening we took her out of school.” They initially started working with the school, “Principal Gonzalez (Cheryl Gonzalez, Strong Principal) and Dean Fitz (Steven Fitzgerald, Strong Dean of Students) were pretty awesome from the start and they understood how serious the situation was and why we were scared to have our daughter come back.” After they met with the Director of Students Service and Special Education, Jennifer Keene, and then eventually the Superintendent, Dr. Doug Schuch. 

The parent first addressed Regional District 13’s Board of Education on February 23rd. Before she went to the Board of Ed, she shared the situation with a social justice and equity Facebook group called Care. In a public comment, she spoke about the “racist comments, actions and threats and the district’s ability to understand these threats on her child and any other children of color, safe, both physically and mentally,” according to the Board meeting minutes. She also shared that she had anxieties about moving to this community in the first place because of how homogenous our town is, and her worries were justified.  Many community members also spoke and shared their concerns. 

At the second Board of Ed. meeting on March 9th, almost ten community members spoke to the Board of Ed, not just parents but students from the high school and middle school. Senior Becca Tobin said “we have to have people come here once something wrong has happened to fix it.” Parent Healther Castigilla said, “I don’t think I have to tell you that racism is wrong…I don’t think I have to tell you that racist acts perpetrated on students are wrong…we all know this, I’m horrified there hasn’t been a written or spoken response from this Board or the Superintendent.” 

On March 15, the Dr. Schuch has put out a message on ParentSquare saying that “RSD 13 does not tolerate bullying, racism, or any acts of discrimination.” He also posted the equity code the school district adopted in 2021, in which the first point states, “adopting procedures to ensure an equitable school community, inclusive of diversity in race, ethnicity, language, gender, cultural values and family belief systems.” A point in which we will hopefully see more development. The parent said that the post, “should have come a month ago.” 

The parent commented that “people’s memories are short, especially if it doesn’t impact them, so we would hope that this is something the community keeps on the front burner.” She also said, “it’s really up to the school and district administrators to make that change and I do believe the school administrators are committed to it.”

To show their support for the student and other students subject to bullying or racism, on Tuesday March 16th, students from Coginchaug wore yellow and pink, the students favorite colors. “The purpose of the pink and yellow day was to show support for the victims of bullying and racism” said Senior, Ellie Castiglia, “the day was meant to support anti-bully and anti-racism in RSD 13.” Unknowingly to the high schoolers, the student’s parents decided to send her back to school that day. The parent commented “[their child] was not nervous, but [we] were very

nervous.” A picture of all the students was shared on Facebook. Castiglia also said, “we would love for it to become an annual day of support within the district.”