In a letter to parents of Newton Public Schools this week, Superintendent David Fleishman announced that starting with the 2016-17 school year, all Newton Public Schools will be declared a “safe zone” for left-handed students. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2013 enacted 40L, or what some legislators refer to as “No Left Child Behind,” as part of a larger anti-discrimination education bill; in it, the state mandates that schools should be more accommodating to the roughly 10% of the student population that is left-handed.
From the letter:
To ensure that all students have access to the same safe, positive learning environment, the City of Newton is bringing itself into compliance with 40L. This includes the addition of left-handed equipment made available to students, as well as sensitivity training for teachers and staff and classes for students, starting in elementary schools, to create empathy for their classmates who were born left-handed and need to navigate in a sometimes hostile world.
Attention to the issue started in Newton in 2012, when a parent of a left-handed Newton North baseball player attended a pre-season parents meeting with the coaches, and noted the lack of left-handed desks available. “Signing up for the team contact list was a potentially injurious chore, due to having to lean over the desk just to write my email and phone. I can only imagine what left-handed students, like my son, have to go through on a daily basis,” said the parent, who preferred to remain anonymous.
There had been controversy on the issue as Newton had contended that it was already in compliance with 40L; after several appeals, however, the City has acknowledged that it needs to do more to meet the needs of its left-handed students.
Students who arrive at Newton Schools in September will notice a few differences, such as:
- Additional left-handed desks
- Designated hallways where passage will be to the left rather than to the right
- Classes honoring great lefthanders in current and past history, such as Barack Obama, Babe Ruth and Jimi Hendrix
Also, local merchants are participating: Staples is providing discounts to left-handed students for supplies such as left-handed scissors, rulers and pens. Sports is not being left out either: Modell’s on Needham Street and Extra Innings of Watertown have pledged to donate materials, such as left-handed baseball and softball gloves, lacrosse sticks, bats, tennis racquets and basketballs.
An open forum is being held on August 13 (International Left-Handers Day) at Albemarle Field to celebrate and introduce residents to the changes.