HSE Board of Trustees Replaces Microaggressions Policy With CARE Statement

Recently Implemented Microaggressions Policy Removed from HSE Handbook

Lili Perez

The Board of School Trustees voted 5-2 to remove the microaggression policy from the Student Handbook at a public board session March 22, 2023. During the public comments section of the meeting, 27 people spoke on this policy, including students, teachers and parents of current and graduated students. Ben Orr, Tiffany Pascoe, Dawn Lang, Juanita Albright and Suzanne Thomas voted on changing the policy due to concerns regarding free speech and inclusion. Sarah Donsbach and Sarah-Parks-Reese voted against removing the recently added policy from the Student Handbook.  

“The HSE school board voted to amend the student handbook by removing the microaggression statement,” superintendent Yvonne Stokes said in an email. “While the HSE board values student voice, the majority believe the microaggression statement was not inclusive of ALL students and that a more inclusive statement would be garnered via the ‘CARE’ statement.” 

The CARE statement, which replaced the microaggression policy, states, “HSE Schools are committed to providing each student with learning experiences that are deep and relevant and encourage the development of his/her unique identity… HSE supports all students as they foster relationships with character, acceptance, respect, and education for all. 

Prior to the vote, each board member voiced a different viewpoint towards the ‘correct’ way to approach microaggressions and if it is a necessity to include in school rules.  

“My concerns lie in creating (or continuing to create) a culture that suppresses free speech and open dialogue, and produces a generation unable to either engage in, tolerate, or cope with dissenting opinion,” board member Ben Orr said in an email statement. “By codifying microaggressions or what used to be called politically correct speech, students and faculty become more inclined to self-censor what are likely innocent thoughts and comments simply to avoid confrontation. This has a chilling effect on open dialogue and discourse and facilitates a walking on eggshells mentality to the point of avoiding diverse interactions altogether. Unofficial enforcers of politically correct speech and microaggression violations will naturally develop amongst peer groups. The opportunity for weaponization of a loosely defined and subjective rule looms large.” 

Not everyone agreed with Orr’s opinions towards microaggressions and silenced speech, believing that by removing the clause, it is implied that marginalized student’s experiences are invalid and unimportant.  

“The microaggression clause really provide checks and balances for the school district,” senior Chelsea Murdock said. “Removing them put students at a major disservice, specifically because there is a need for that responsibility in a predominantly white community like Fishers.” 

Several parents spoke at the public session, on the removal of the policy because their students are being affected directly by this policy.  

“As public viewers of the board meeting, we kept hearing kids wanted this policy,” the parent of former HSE student Tina Akers said. “Yet we never saw any polls or data to support this, only hearsay. I cannot answer whether it affected anyone in the school having it in the handbook, but I did have concern that it would become an issue of further division. I’m not sure why we have become such a sensitive generation. I have been called so many names and was bullied as a child, but I turned out tougher because of it. The blanket policy of zero intolerance for bullying should be enough of a policy to protect all students from microaggressions, hate speech, physically bullying and more.”  

Despite the conflict and debate, students are divided on their understanding of microaggressions.  

According to a student survey conducted on May 21, 2023 across multiple social media platforms, 51.2% of students are unaware what the term “microaggression” means.  Half of the school district has never heard of the newly implemented and removed policy.  

“Please know that HSE staff will support our students,” Stokes said. “[By] using strategies that value students as individuals while providing opportunity for informative and/or corrective learning.”