student protests

Private School Students Lock Out Administrators in Protest Over Racist Video

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York. Photo: Google Maps

On Monday, dozens of high-school students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a privately run institution in the Bronx, staged a protest locking administrators out of their offices following a racist video being circulated around school. The video was created a few years ago, according to school officials, and shows white students saying racial slurs.

The video was first reported on in February, when it resurfaced and began circulating among the students. It showed white students counting down from three before yelling the slur. At the time, officials from the school condemned the video and announced that one of the students involved had already withdrawn from the school — but they did not announce what disciplinary actions would be taken against the other students.

According to the New York Daily News, the students organized the protest because they felt that the administration did not respond adequately to the video, as well as to other racist incidents at the school. They posted photos and videos of their sit-in to Instagram, including to a page created by some of the teens called Students of Color Matter.

“We are here today in light of recent events, imploring those who desire to see our institution move forward to stand in solidarity with the students of color and white allies of the Ethical Culture Fieldston Community,” reads the caption of one of the posts from the Students of Color Matter Instagram page. “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.”

A student named Josh told the Daily News that students of color are routinely treated worse than white students at the institution, and that “students of color, specifically, are treated like second class citizens.”

“The lockout is to try to shed light on the fact that students of color really aren’t being represented here at all,” Josh explained.

School officials emailed parents informing them of the protest, and acknowledged that the students made an accompanying list of demands. “The group has shared a list of demands prompted by recent events in the Upper School, but rooted in systemic and cultural concerns that have persisted over the course of their educational experience at ECFS, from Lower School through Upper School,” reads part of the email.

During a livestream posted to Instagram, some of the participating students explained that they chose to peacefully blockade the administrators’ building until their demands — which have also been posted online — were met. They called 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 other demands.

The school did not close classes for the remainder of the day, and the students organizing the protest have posted a petition to their website, seeking public support.