Colonial School community calls on school board to ‘take decisive action’ on ‘racism, hate and bias that students are experiencing’

Editor’s note: This is the prepared text of a statement endorsed by the Colonial Diversity Committee and other members of the Colonial Elementary School community that will be read at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Members of the board, Dr. Champ and members of the administration,

On behalf of the Colonial Diversity Committee, the undersigned parents, caregivers and alums of Colonial, and together with past and present leadership of Colonial’s PTA, I stand here tonight to ask that you take decisive action to put an end to the racism, hate and bias that students are experiencing in our schools.

Last Monday, Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ issued a statement notifying the community that a swastika was found in a stairwell at the high school. By many accounts, the notice we received was commendable. We were notified of the incident promptly, Champ unequivocally condemned this act of hate and bias, stated in no uncertain terms that symbols of antisemitism have no place in our schools and confirmed that an investigation by local law enforcement had been initiated and responsible parties, if identified, would face consequences according to the district’s code of conduct. There was something disturbing, however, beyond the subject matter of that statement: It was uncomfortably familiar. In fact, the Colonial PTA was here addressing the board exactly one year ago because of a different act of racism found on school property, asking that the district take decisive action. We refuse to accept this as the new normal.

We recognize that adults and children have been emboldened nationwide to voice racist ideology, discriminate against those they perceive to be “different” and commit acts of violence against others based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc. We have witnessed that Pelham is not immune from racism, homophobia, xenophobia or white supremacy. But our schools must stand as safe havens against this intolerance.

Last year, we asked that the district implement its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policy, train teachers and have meaningful conversations with students teaching them what hate speech is and that it won’t be tolerated. We asked that a DEI professional be engaged to steer the district in these efforts and ensure that DEI is front and center in each building. We all agree that hate has no place in our schools: The last board of education election confirmed that our community is united in its desire to support diversity and inclusion in our schools and a budget that includes a DEI coordinator role. Today, we urge the board to follow through on this mandate by prioritizing this work, as the need is clearly pronounced and urgent, starting with the immediate onboarding of a DEI professional.

Beyond this, many of our newly elected board members ran on a platform of accountability, communication and transparency. We ask that the board deliver on those commitments, not just around testing and academic achievement, but on the implementation of the district’s DEI policy and the benchmarking of progress made against its goals. Members of the board, what are the actionable measures the district is undertaking to eliminate acts of hate, racism and bias from Pelham schools? We are here to support the process however we can. Let’s not allow history to repeat itself, yet again.

Liza Schaeffer and Kevin Leonard

Kim and Steve Espinosa

Sarah and Mark McKee

Lisa and John Horten

Josie Carbone

Amy Fierman Moore and John Moore

Katie Glantz

Lauren Frasca

Ashley Matts

Marisa Panzani

Maggie Adalian

Mark Cho and Sabrina Glaser

Ariane Ortiz-Bollin

Emily Upshur

Allison Anderson

Lauren Dehler

Kevin Duffy

Becca Behar

Nadira Boodhoo

Chris Morris and Maura Monaghan

CC Jiao and David Garvett

Cameron and Karin Potts

Matt Maron

Katie Portman

Tina Scepanovic

Caitlin and Adam Mattina

Annette and Brian McCann

Monica Terry

Anna-Liisa Corsi and Dan Gonda

Sabrina Clark

Brittney and Brian Price

Jeff and Kristin Austin

Kristen and Sidney Burke

Lisa Doughten

Stacy Gatto

Jane Sweeney

Lisa Martino Alves and Jorge Alves

Julie Murray

Raeka Talati and Justin Han

Stephanie and  Mike Kaplan

Darby and Dave Mingey

Heather Eliezer

Erin and Patrick Bane

Sarah Whitney

Beatriz De La Torre