Students at an exclusive private school with campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan staged a lock-in lasting several days in response to a racist video surfacing online.
A video of white students referring to Black people as "crack n****r" surfaced in February, according to The Riverdale Press. The video was reportedly made years ago. A coalition of students named Students of Color Matter spearheaded a sit-in in a building at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx on Monday.
According to local news source News 12, the lock-in ended Thursday when administrators agreed to reconcile racial tensions and adhere to a list of demands.
One of the five students at the center of the controversy withdrew from school. The other four received three suspensions.
Student protesters barricaded themselves in the building preventing administrators from entering Monday morning. Other administrators and board members were met with locked doors the following morning. They also were turned away.
On Day 2, not only did they continue to hold fast, they acquired a new lock-in location, organized educational movie screenings for high school & middle school students with age-appropriate films, & have kept all the spaces they occupy spotless, including cleaning the bathrooms. https://t.co/riQnnEXJ0E
— LemmeDriveDaBoat (@Sweetest_Taboo_) March 13, 2019
“Derogatory language and intentionally harmful behavior are rampant within our community,” student organizers said to school officials via The Riverdale Press. “The absence of a system for reporting and recording these incidents means many of the students involved go unpunished.”
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Photos of young activists sleeping in the hallways and organizing their responses to the school administration circulated online.
Students in the Bronx felt the school’s @ecfs1878 response to their demands to address racism on campus were inadequate..
So they locked them out.
— zellie (@zellieimani) March 12, 2019
This is how the administration has thus far responding to the student protestors’ demands to address the racist video and systemic racism on campus.
— zellie (@zellieimani) March 13, 2019
— SOCDad (@dad_soc) March 13, 2019
What ultimately came from the protests was a list of 20 demands, which included the implementation of a Black studies course.
As part of the demands, protesters want the school to provide racial bias training for parents, end racial profiling on school grounds, protect faculty who choose to speak out against injustice and begin a new reporting system “for all incidents of bias, bigotry, and racism."
Additionally, the protesters want written apologies from the students in the video.
Lists of these demands were posted on campus buildings and online.
According to 17-year-old senior and student leader Isabella Ali, who served as one of the organizers of the demonstration, the school was believed to be a bastion of diversity, but the latest controversy proved otherwise.
“I feel like our school can be a bit deceiving, because we do promote this mission of being dedicated to diversity, ethics, progressivism,” Isabella told The Philadelphia Tribune. “Clearly, that’s not a true reflection of who we are. If anything, these incidents are a true reflection of who we are.”
Fieldston is one of the more diverse private schools in the state. Roughly 40 percent of the school's student body —pre-K to 12th grade— are people of color.
“The current situation arises out of multi-year-racial trauma our students have experienced while at school,” Head of School Jessica Bagby wrote in an email to protesters. “My colleagues and I could not be more profoundly sorry for this reality.”
It has yet to be determined how these demands will be implemented. Students are currently on spring break according to the New York Daily News.
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