Racial slur found in Colonial School boys bathroom

Racial slur found in Colonial School boys bathroom

The “N” word was found carved in a bathroom stall in the Colonial School boys’ bathroom near the fifth grade classrooms, Colonial Principal Tonya Wilson wrote in a letter to parents last week. She called it “a disturbing bias incident.”

“To say the least, this is extremely upsetting, as the faculty and I work tirelessly and intentionally to promote friendship, diversity and understanding,” Wilson wrote. “We continuously share the importance with students about the qualities that make all of us unique. That said, our students are in a world that is unforgiving, and it is difficult to protect against larger societal influences that may not align with our values as a community. We are contending with a world that has made the ‘N’ word common place and normalized in many venues. Moreover, YouTube, video games, music and a variety of other influences consistently make their way into our students’ line of sight with heavily charged racial epithets such as the ‘N’ word in plain and accessible view.”

“I am not making light of this as an African American woman, and very much understand the reality of what we are all up against,” she said. “This language is not condoned nor accepted at Colonial School, and we must all work together to ensure that students understand the gravity of this racial epithet even if it is seemingly prevalent in the larger culture.”

Wilson’s complete letter, including student reactions, is here.

“This news is as incredibly upsetting to all of us on the PTA board as it must be to you,” said a letter from Colonial PTA President Mary Hefner in the Growl newsletter. “While the incident is utterly disappointing, as it strikes at the heart of our school community and our values, it has provided an opportunity for Ms. Wilson to speak to the upper classes about her personal experiences.”

The news comes amid an uptick in anti-semitic and racially offensive graffiti in the district, although this is the first to occur in an elementary school.

In October, three swastikas were found in Pelham Middle School boys bathrooms and locker room, spurring a series of sessions on tolerance in the school, as well as condemnations by school officials and local politicians.

This was followed in January with a “racial epithet” found written on a bathroom windowsill of Pelham Memorial High School. An internal school investigation, as well as a local law enforcement investigation followed. In addition, a seminar was held regarding hate crimes, with 12th and ninth graders hearing from a Westchester County assistant district attorney.

Heffner said the Colonial PTA supports the district’s push for cultural competency as a key goal in its strategic plan. “The PTA has also been working with a few parents at all four elementary schools on a larger diversity initiative,” her letter said, adding Superintendent Cheryl Champ and Director of Humanities Maria Thompson are interested in helping move that effort forward.