Dear SEEN Community,
On Friday March 17, the Times Union published an article headlined, “Parents complain racial slurs prevalent at Saratoga Springs schools.” We encourage you to read it.
The article describes a pervasive and persistent culture of racism and anti-Blackness within our school community. This includes white students referring to their peers as monkeys, asking for an “n-pass” (permission to use the n-word), or talking about bringing back slavery. Whether framed or excused as jokes, or presented with open disdain, “it’s the atmosphere. And when you report it, they are very dismissive, so you just stop reporting it.”
These accounts are echoed and verified in Facebook posts in the SEEN group, in Concerned Parents for Saratoga Schools (though some comments were deleted), and even in now-deleted comments on Moving Saratoga Forward. No age or school in the district is immune.
A school culture that ignores or excuses overt racism cannot support equity of opportunity, and it has not yet begun to fully tackle the complexities of diverse and inclusive education. SEEN stands with and continues to advocate for each and every student, for confronting bias in the district, and for building a community that fosters learning and development for each and every student.
We support those who came forward, and those who haven’t.
What can you do? First, talk to your kids, check in on them, and see if this is happening to them or around them. Talk to your children about racism, the history of the N-word, and the impact of hate speech. The last quote in the article drives this point home–it is not about punishment, but making sure students know this culture and these words are harmful: “I want them [students] educated.” Talk to your children about the complexity of identity and community and belonging. Talk to them about how to intervene, and how to advocate for themselves or for a friend. If you’re not sure how to start, in this short video, Ta-Nehisi Coates delves into the process of reclamation, and describes why it is okay for some people to use the word and not okay for others. Here are some additional resources. After you talk to your children, don’t stop talking. Racism will fester in our silence.
If your child has been impacted or targeted, report incidents in writing. Every. Single. Time. Reach out to a teacher, staff member, counselor, administrator, or anyone you or your child trusts.
This article is also the latest in an ongoing discussion about the presence of racism in our district and in our community. There should be no debate. Racism exists in Saratoga, and it exists in the Saratoga Springs City School District. The ongoing discussions about what to do or how to address racism in our schools and our community belong at the kitchen table, the conference table, and the Board table.
Reach out to administrators and board members. Share your stories, share your concern, and share your support for the DEI work that is already under way. Become informed by attending upcoming District Equity and Inclusion Committee meetings. The next ones are on March 20 and May 1, each at 6 p.m. in rooms 221/223 of the MacFadden Administration Building. Please note that attendees not on the committee are only permitted to be observers, not participants, and there is no public comment period. Attend a Board of Education meeting and make a public comment. The next BOE meeting is March 30 at 7 p.m. at the High School.
Racism in our schools leaves no room for complacency.
~ The SEEN Team