Schools across the country are making the news as sites of heated political debates and culture wars as parents and teachers waste the school board meetings on defining Critical Race Theory and political flags. Students in one school district are doing something about the sudden uptick in racist incidents at their schools.
On Wednesday morning, students from the Pittsford Central School District in New York walked out of their high schools to protest the district’s response to a racist video that circulated on social media this week.
According to NBC affiliate News10, the district’s handling of the incident was the final straw for the hundreds of students who walked out.
“It felt like Pittsford always just tries to sweep racism under the rug and sort of toss those issues aside and try and cover it up ... save their reputation,” said Pittsford Sutherland senior and organizer of Wednesday’s walk-out, Jaylen Wims. “I hope to see sort of fine lines ... and more of a ... a sense of security, fine lines drawn in the code of conduct and serious penalties for racism. Things that are clear and concise.”
Superintendent Michael Pero, who released this letter to the Pittsford community earlier this week, supported the students’ protest and said he has worked with students for their input on the current code of conduct.
Superintendent Michael Pero estimates that between 300 to 400 students were a part of the demonstration.
The video in question showed a student with an airsoft gun saying he carries it to “Kill N-words.” Pero, who involved the Monroe County Sheriff Office, was alerted about the video on Friday. According to Rochester First, officials from the office announced on Sunday that the video is months old and there is no credible threat to students. However, MCSO still stationed deputies at the school to make students and parents feel safe.
Rochester First also notes that in an email Pero sent to parents titled “Recent Racist Incidents,” the superintendent mentions other cases occurring on social media and in text messages alongside the video.
“What our code of conduct would say in situations like this is that we suspend a student, and then we have a hearing where an impartial hearing officer comes in, listens to the case, and makes a recommendation based on what the next steps should be,” Pero said at Wednesday’s demonstration, according to News10.
He confirms that the student responsible for the video is no longer in school, but it is unclear when the hearing will happen, News10 notes. Pero says the district plans to have a student assembly on Friday and will have parent forums to discuss recent incidents.
He also says that they will work with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to increase the current police presence if needed.
I mean, no wonder students are protesting. The fact that a possible response to racist incidents includes an increase in police presence at school is tone-deaf. School policing contributes to the criminalization of Black and brown children, introducing them to the school-to-prison pipeline that traps marginalized individuals for the rest of their lives. Real change comes with informed action, Pittsford.