Chappaqua, NY— Growth. The banner sign outside the administration building for the Chappaqua Central School District could not be more symbolic. For we are all learning. No community is immune or free of the ravages of systemic racism that is being addressed in unprecedented protests in cities and towns around the nation following the death of George Floyd while in police custody-aggravated by the delay in bringing murder charges against the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s for his actions in Floyd’s death.
That includes the community of New Castle, where last night, the Inside Press learned, a group of Chappaqua students and parents, especially those who have been directly impacted, are holding the Chappaqua school district and school board accountable for experiences they say indicate a tolerance for systemic racism within the school district.
Currently, a Tik Tok video circulating in social media depicts a group of Greeley teens offensively using the N-word. According to parents calling out the incident and by those discussing it in social media, there was a weak/inadequate disciplinary response–a brief suspension. A new source points out, however, that the video was withheld from the school district for an unspecified period impacting the disciplinary action. But the problem is more ‘systemic’ too, according to these same discussions.
An on the record open letter received last night by one former Greeley student to the Inside Press was within hours retracted by a legal team for this student who reversed course and asked that it not be published. The student offered, however, that it can provide insight of pain and trauma experienced by students of color inside the school district.
The Chappaqua School board, in the meantime, this morning responded to a collective voicing of “grief and outrage” with the following statement promising to bring about change:
Dear Chappaqua Central School District Community,
As our nation confronts the continuing scourge of racism and oppression faced by African Americans and people of color, and as we continue to witness horrific and brutal events around our country and racist incidents in our own community, we know that we must commit to change.
We are appalled and devastated by racially divisive incidents in our schools and our society as a whole. We know that our staff, students, parents, alumni, and community feel the same. From the many letters which were sent to us today by our students and alumni, we are bearing witness to an outpouring of grief and outrage, and the recounting of personal experiences of racism in our school community. We thank you for reaching out to us and want you to know that the actions you have taken will make you a part of the solution.
We are resolute in our commitment to address and support social justice education in our schools. Here are some examples of what we are doing to help bring about change:
- The District will continue to work with Facing History & Ourselves so that our curriculum can better address and examine racism, anti-semitism, and prejudice at pivotal moments in history, and so that we may help students connect choices made in the past to those they will confront in their own lives.
- Our faculty will engage in professional development to help facilitate important conversations with our students that address racism and enable all of us to meaningfully process the events unfolding in our country and our community.
- We have made a commitment toward addressing diversity in our staff, and have made progress in doing so, through our involvement in the Regional Diversity Recruitment Fair.
- The District has created an Equity P.R.I.D.E. (Promoting Racial Inclusivity, Diversity & Equity) Fellowship. This is a team of K-12 educators who will focus on understanding bias and how it impacts our work as educators as we strive to promote equitable, diverse and inclusive learning spaces where all learners, both adult and student, can feel seen, heard, valued and respected. The Equity PRIDE Fellowship will analyze feedback sent to the Board of Education and our District Administration as a part of their work. They will present recommendations to the Board of Education on how we can enhance our social justice instruction District-wide.
- We continue to support student-led initiatives including the Black Student Union and ENOUGH at Greeley, and the Diversity Clubs at both middle schools. These student clubs are focused on promoting equity, inclusivity and diversity in our schools and the larger community.
- The Board of Education has recently accepted a substantial grant from the Chappaqua School Foundation, which will enable us to further diversify our elementary classroom libraries.
We acknowledge that we can, and must, do more as we work and interact with our students, especially students of color, to listen to and understand their experiences with incidents of racism in Chappaqua schools. We will continue to review our curriculum to ensure that we are educating our students and school community about systemic racism which continues to perpetuate discrimination and oppression in the nation and within our own school community.
We are committed to doing better and will work to do so by maintaining and promoting an anti-racist stance. Please continue to provide feedback. Please continue to report incidents. We will listen, we will share information with our community, and we will hold ourselves accountable in helping our district bring about change.
The Chappaqua Central School District Board of Education
Jane Kimmel Shepardson, President
Holly McCall, Vice President
Hilary Grasso, Member
Warren Messner, Member
Victoria Tipp, Member