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Bronx high school students take action and win after locking out administrators in protest over racist video

March 14, 2019 at 11:00 am | News

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

March 14, 2019 at 11:00 am | News

Student leaders during the sit-in in their classrooms -- Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram

Dozens of high school students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx have been successful in their nearly 72-hour peaceful protest on the private school’s campus by locking out administrators for not taking action over a racist video circulating in the school.

The sit-in protesters made a list of 20 demands including the implementation of structural reform, such as long term curriculum changes, the admittance of more students and faculty of colour, and racial sensitivity training for all community members that will “change the culture of racism, hate, and bigotry at Fieldston”.

Student leaders during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram

They are also calling for “a written apology from each of the students involved in the videos,” “the release of the official disciplinary decision” regarding the students involved in the video, an “investigation into the systemic nature of racism” at their school among others.

The video, which was recorded a few years ago but circulated more recently, showed some white students of the school counting down from three before yelling a racial slur.

The school’s officials had condemned the video at the time and announced the withdrawal of one of the students from the school without any disciplinary actions against the other students. The video’s recirculation sparked the protest which involved some parents.

Protesting student during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram

“Today a lockout will take place in the administration building as a means to force our administration to acknowledge the concerns we’ve been bringing to their attention over the past several years,” says a post on the Students of Color Matter Instagram page created by the teens.

“This is the fight for the students before us and the students to come. The time is now to step up and demand change, not only for the improvement of the lives of students of color, but our community at large. Will you join us or sit back and watch?” the protesters also solicited from public support including support from the alumni and parents.

The Students of Color Matter website they created also detailed their demands and actions including a livestream of the protest which showed the overnight sit-ins by up to 200 students led by their commons who solicited a positive response from the administration through a mediator after a series of negotiations in two nights.

Protesting student during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram

“After nearly 72 hours, extensive back and forth with the administration and the overwhelming support of all of you … THE LOCK OUT IS OVER! Fieldston has accepted all 20 demands and have organized a formal plan agreed upon by all parties to implement each demand ASAP,” tweets a teacher and activist Zellie Imani.


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Racist incidents in schools are not new in the United States. In a neighbouring school in Bronxville, New York, a teacher has been placed on leave following outrage over a class history lesson parents have called racist and “deeply insensitive.”

Administrators at The Chapel School called emergency meetings with parents last Thursday after the teacher, Rebecca Antinozzi, made white students reenact history by bidding on their black classmates as part of a mock slave auction during a fifth-grade social studies class.

Last month, teachers at a South Carolina elementary school faced backlash after students were filmed picking cotton and singing “slave songs” during a class field trip meant to educate students about the Great Depression.

Here are some images from the protest.

Protesting students during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram
Protesting students during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram
Protesting students during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram
Protesting students during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram
Protesting students during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram
Protesting students during the sit-in in their classrooms — Photo: studentsofcolormatter/Instagram

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