A New York school district in the wake of a series of racist incidents has drawn a line in the sand.
In a town with a diverse population, the Menands school board is talking about creating a “zero tolerance” policy for everything from Halloween to birthday parties in order to control a climate that has led to harassment, intimidation and threats of violence.
“People are embarrassed, embarrassed, they’re scared, to be honest,” Menands superintendant Richard McCarthy said. “For some of these kids, this is going to be a school experience that they’ll never want to be around again.”
Menands, a working-class, working-class town on the lower Hudson River in western New York state, is a town of about 10,000, and about two-thirds are white and one-third are Hispanic or Latino. Since July 20, when the school sent a letter home to parents addressing the incident, the number of hostile, threatening and racist comments has dropped dramatically.
But its superintendent says there’s still a long way to go.
“We’re a small community; we’re all connected, so when these things happen, it causes a lot of friction,” McCarthy said. “We are trying to break the chain. We are not going to tolerate this type of behavior in our district. We’re going to have zero tolerance for it.”
McCarthy says the district is looking to support students and faculty at all levels. He’s also hoping that open communication can stem the tide of threatening and degrading messages sent to students and teachers.
“The district hasn’t banned Halloween or any other holidays,” McCarthy said. “We just want to make sure we support students when they participate in a holiday.”
He said students are being told that negative comments aren’t to be shared on social media or over the phone with anyone.
“We are going to remain vigilant,” McCarthy said. “Our students want to go to school and feel safe.”
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