A Catskill, N.Y., mom is furious after her crying fifth-grader detailed how a support-staff employee at Catskill Elementary School told the child and her black friends that they shouldn’t be sitting together because they looked like a black "gang in the hood," the Catskill Daily Mail reports.
The employee who allegedly made the remarks has not been identified but has since been given duties that remove her from interactions with students while the district investigates the matter, school officials have said.
According to Celeste Jordan, when she picked up her daughter on Monday, the child was upset and would not stop crying. When she first heard about the comments, Jordan said, she thought that another child had made them, but eventually her daughter revealed that they came from an adult.
It all started, according to the little girl, when student monitors of the school safety patrol—who, coincidentally, are majority-black—asked for an area where they could sit together to eat their lunch. After the monitors took a seat at an open table, the woman approached them and reprimanded them for sitting together, saying that they should mix with white students at other tables. She said that when they were seated together, they looked like a black “gang in the hood,” Jordan related to the Daily Mail.
Jordan immediately took up the issue with the school district, speaking to CES Assistant Principal Lisa Schlenker, who assured her that the matter would be investigated and addressed. Jordan also said that she spoke to Catskill Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Farrell, who also assured her that the issue would be fully investigated and addressed.
“They interviewed each student separately,” Jordan said, “and all the children told the same story.”
“We are in the process of completing the investigation, and appropriate action will be taken,” Farrell told the news site. “The employee and the students have been kept separate so there is no current contact.
“We are confident that any action that caused our students to be distressed or feel uncomfortable has been corrected," the superintendent added. “We are a multiethnic, multiracial community, and all members of our community, students and staff alike, should be addressed in a respectful manner at all times. And we are taking measures to ensure that such an action does not again arise.”
Although the employee was said to not be interacting with children, Jordan told the Daily Mail that some of the students have seen the employee, causing them to be upset all over again. Jordan wants to know why the employee has not been put on administrative leave.
According to the Daily Mail, Jordan said that her daughter is still suffering from the incident—that she is having difficulty sleeping and wondering if “her white friends will still like her,” the mother said.
“She wouldn’t need counseling if no one was seeing [the employee],” Jordan insisted. “I’m upset and I’m irate.”
Read more at the Catskill Daily Mail.