The Arlington County Fair says it will find a way to remove or cover an image that at least one fairgoer decried as “racist.”
The fairgoer tweeted an image painted on the “Monkey Maze” fun house that depicts a monkey with braids putting on lipstick.
“This is not OK at our county fair,” the man said in a tweet. “Racist caricatures don’t represent our values.”
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol agreed.
“This is awful,” Cristol tweeted in response. “We’ll connect with the Arlington Fair Board about this vendor.”
Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, the fair followed up with a pledge to take action.
“We appreciate you reaching out us,” the fair said via Twitter. “We are working with our ride vendor to ensure the image is no longer visible.”
@DaveMRosenblatt, we appreciate you reaching out us. We are working with our ride vendor to ensure the image is no longer visible.
— Arlington Co. Fair (@arlingtoncofair) August 16, 2018
Monkey Maze fun houses are used by other traveling carnival companies, though photos posted online show different illustrations on the front of the trailer. A Google search did not turn up any other references to the Monkey Maze and accusations of racism.
The fair runs through Sunday on the grounds of the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (125 S. Old Glebe Road).
Photos courtesy David Rosenblatt (photo illustration by ARLnow.com)
Taylor Poindexter says she was weaving through the construction at the Ballston Quarter development when she saw something she could hardly believe.
Poindexter was bound for the Sport and Health gym early Tuesday morning (Aug. 14), when she spotted a group of workers near the former mall’s elevators. One of them, she noted, had Nazi symbols tattooed all over his arms and neck.
“I was just surprised a company would allow their worker to wear a tank top with such tattoos on his neck and arms,” Poindexter told ARLnow.
When her workout was wrapped up, Poindexter, who is black, made her frustration with the situation clear to a Ballston Quarter employee nearby. She then grabbed her phone and opened up Twitter to make it clear just how she felt about what she saw.
Walking through the renovations of Ballston Common Mall and see a @ClarkBuilds employee with the SS lightning bolts on his neck and swastikas all over his arms. I would think at the very least this employee would have to cover these up.
— Taylor Poindexter (@That_Poindexter) August 14, 2018
I’m a proud resident of @ArlingtonVA partially because it’s an accepting community. To have a worker that is helping to renew our mall show such bold hate makes me feel uncomfortable in my own town, and I’m hoping something can be done about this.
— Taylor Poindexter (@That_Poindexter) August 14, 2018
Because she mentioned the construction company overseeing the work at Ballston Quarter, Clark Construction, in the tweet she says she soon heard from the company that they were investigating the situation, but otherwise heard nothing.
Since then, however, the company says it determined that the man Poindexter saw was an employee of one of its subcontractors at the site. A spokeswoman for Clark did not offer additional details on whether it could confirm what Poindexter saw, but it seems she was not mistaken.
“Clark Construction became aware of a violation of its anti-harassment policy on a job site in Arlington, Virginia and immediately took steps to investigate,” Brian Abt, division president and CEO for Clark’s Mid-Atlantic region, wrote in a statement. “Clark engaged the subcontractor employee who was involved and has taken appropriate action to resolve the situation.”
A spokeswoman for Clark also did not clarify whether that action included firing or otherwise disciplining the employee involved.
Army-Navy Country Club Employee Alleges Supervisor Used Racial Slurs — A former golf cart attendant at the club claims that one of his bosses repeatedly used racist language to refer to him and former President Barack Obama. It seems the supervisor has been fired, and the club’s employees are receiving sensitivity training. [Falls Church News-Press]
Crystal City Hotel to Host Anti-Muslim Group’s Conference — ACT for America will hold its annual gathering at the Crystal City Hyatt this fall. The group has alleged that Muslims can’t be loyal citizens of the United States and held “anti-Sharia” marches across the country, prompting Muslim groups to call on the hotel to abandon the event. [DCist]
Man Accused of Indecent Exposures Around Rosslyn Previously Convicted in Alexandria — County police arrested Fairfax County resident Santiago Rodriquez Campos on indecent exposure charges Monday, and it seems he’s been convicted on similar charges in the past. Immigration officials also believe he entered the country illegally. [WJLA]
Arlington Police Chief Reviews Restructuring — Chief Jay Farr says all has largely gone smoothly with the county’s restructuring of the department to cope with a staffing crunch, which kicked off in May. The county even has its largest class of recruits ever currently in training. [Arlington Connection]
County First Responders Make a Special Delivery — Arlington medics were hoping to get an expecting mother to a D.C. hospital, but her baby had other plans. They made it to the Virginia Hospital Center in the nick of time. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
As white supremacists prepare to march through D.C. this weekend, on the first anniversary of last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville, an Arlington college student hopes to match every step they take through the city by raising money to push back on hate.
Allison Herrity, a Washington-Lee graduate and a rising junior at George Washington University, kicked off the “Stomp Out Hate Walk-A-Thon” ahead of the “Unite the Right 2” rally coming to the city Saturday (Aug. 11).
While the white nationalists participating in the event, led by many of the organizers of the deadly demonstration in Charlottesville, may very well be outnumbered by counter-protesters, Herrity and fellow GW student Kendall Keelen say they wanted to find some way for people across the region to show their opposition to “Unite the Right” without actually heading into D.C. this weekend.
“We see this as a way for individuals who are unable to protest physically for a variety of reasons to make it clear that the actions of these white nationalists are not okay, and will not be accepted here or anywhere,” Herrity told ARLnow via email.
Herrity, who grew up in Ashton Heights and still lives in Arlington, says the proceeds of the fundraiser will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization dedicated to monitoring hate groups across the country. Herrity and Keelen will accept donations of any size, but the online fundraising site they’ve set up gives people the option to donate “per step” that the rally-goers take through D.C.
They estimate that the group will take roughly 1,700 steps if all goes according to plan and they march from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to Lafayette Park. Herrity said she was inspired by people in the German town of Wunsiedel, who similarly donated money to an anti-extremist organization for every meter neo-Nazi demonstrators marched through the town.
“We would have done a per mile pledge, but the protesters will not even be walking a mile,” Herrity and Keelen wrote on the fundraising page. “But hey, carrying around all that hate must be exhausting.”
So far, the pair have managed to raise just under $1,000, and they’ve set a $5,000 goal for the effort.
Photo via MightyCause
Local Leaders Brace for White Supremacist Rally Sunday — “Unite the Right 2,” stemming from last year’s violent demonstration in Charlottesville, comes to D.C. this weekend. Counter-protesters are are set to greet participants, who plan to march from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to Lafayette Park. D.C. and Virginia officials alike have heightened emergency precautions, particularly around Metro stations, as rally participants plan to ride from Vienna into the city. [WTOP]
Federal Court Rejects Airplane Noise Appeal — Some D.C. residents suing over noise generated by Reagan National Airport, a contentious issue among Arlingtonians as well, now have only the U.S. Supreme Court to turn to, after an appeals court tossed out their case last month. Maryland’s attorney general is pursuing a similar case, targeting noise from BWI. [Washington Post]
El Salvadorian Residents Face an Uncertain Future — The Trump administration’s decision to rescind “temporary protected status” for immigrants from El Salvador means that many who’ve settled around Northern Virginia and D.C. are left wondering what comes next. [Washington City Paper]
Korean War Veteran’s Belongings Return to Arlington — Nearly 68 years after an Army medic disappeared in North Korea, the Pentagon arranged an emotional reunion with some of his possessions for his family at a Crystal City hotel. [Washington Post]
Photo via @thelastfc
Some residents of an East Falls Church neighborhood say they discovered Ku Klux Klan recruitment fliers full of racist and anti-Semitic language this past weekend.
Eliza Thompson says she discovered a flier sitting at the foot of her driveway on Saturday morning (July 21), placed in a small bag and weighed down with birdseed. She says she quickly learned that several of her neighbors along N. Roosevelt Street also received the fliers, which advertise membership in a group dubbed the “Loyal White Knights.”
“I’m a talker, and I couldn’t even talk after we saw those,” Thompson told ARLnow. “Why did they choose our street, our neighborhood? It just doesn’t make much sense.”
The fliers don’t list where the group is based, with most of the space dedicated to screeds about how Jews control the media or how immigrants are destroying the country, but they do list phone numbers with North Carolina area codes. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Loyal White Knights are active in two different parts of that state, as well as in Maryland and Richmond.
Thompson’s discovery comes less than a month after some Lyon Village residents discovered anti-Semitic fliers in their neighborhood, and other KKK fliers, similarly placed in bags and weighed down with birdseed, turned up in Gainesville and Bristow. A flier for a white supremacist group was also found in Clarendon in late May.
“You wouldn’t expect it in Arlington,” Thompson said. “It’s just not the area you’d think the KKK would be recruiting out of.”
Thompson says some of her neighbors reported the incident to county police, but the neighborhood is also planning a larger response to the fliers’ arrival.
Not only has she ordered 10 signs proclaiming “hate has no home here” that she hopes to distribute, but she’s working with some of her neighbors to hand out baggies of their own, filled with candy and messages about diversity and inclusion.
“Simply being outraged isn’t enough,” Thompson said. “This is real, and I think a lot of white people need to realize the racism non-white Americans face on a regular basis in our country. It’s easy if you live in North Arlington not to pay attention to racism. But it’s there all the time.”
(Updated May 22 at noon) Shana Silver says she was walking along Washington Blvd in Clarendon today (Monday) when she made a disturbing discovery: a flier advertising an Alexandria-based white supremacist group.
She snapped a photo of the slip of paper, distributed by the group Identity Evropa, before promptly taking it down. The flier shows several tattooed white men with the text “Our Generation, Our Future, Our Last Chance” overlaid over the image, and Silver says it was posted near the pedestrian crossing to reach Northside Social.
“I know what neo-Nazi, white supremacist propaganda is when I see it,” Silver told ARLnow. “As a Jewish woman, I can’t let that go.”
One likes to think their community is a safe & inclusive home for all. Then they find Neo-Nazi recruitment signs posted.@ArlingtonVaPD @ARLnowDOTcom , found this on the corner of Washington Blvd. and Wilson this afternoon (I’ve already trashed it) and I’m sure there are more. pic.twitter.com/UD055reotz
— Shana Silver (@SASilverLining) May 21, 2018
Silver, who works for a D.C. nonprofit focused on battling systemic racism in the region, suspects that the flier must have been new, as it had plainly not been soaked by the rain plaguing Arlington for the last week. She says she hasn’t spotted other, similar fliers around Arlington, but she plans to take down any others she might encounter.
“It’s not surprising, but it is very upsetting and disappointing,” Silver said. “It’s really quite sad. You see it happening all over the country and all over the world, this resurgence of white supremacists. They feel like they’ve been emboldened in this political climate.”
Sam Harrington, a spokesman for Identity Evropa, wrote in an email that the group is “a movement for European Americans seeking to preserve our identity and restore the American nation.”
“People of European heritage are being replaced as a result of mass immigration and globalization, and we shouldn’t be expected to find this desirable,” Harrington wrote.
The group argues on its website that it does not believe in white supremacy, but both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League categorize the organization as a white supremacist group. The SPLC also notes that one of its founders helped plan the infamous “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville last summer, marked by the death of a protester, allegedly at the hands of a man with white supremacist beliefs.
Harrington would not say whether the group has any members in Arlington.
“We’re a nationwide organization, and our members participate in peaceful activism and fliering everywhere,” Harrington wrote.
Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says her department has not received any reports about the fliers, dating back to Friday (May 18).
Photo via @SASilverLining
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington will host two workshops this weekend to help participants combat racism in their communities.
The first workshop at the church at 4444 Arlington Blvd in Barcroft is tomorrow (Saturday) from 1-5 p.m. Multicultural consultant Paula Cole Jones hosts a free session entitled, “How do we engage in racial justice as UUs?”
Then on Sunday, the church hosts a training in partnership with Rosslyn-based nonprofit Service Never Sleeps on the organization’s signature program, Allyship.
“Allyship is about moving people to a new paradigm of thinking about privilege and marginalized communities,” the event registration page reads. “Allyship promotes the idea that we can be bridge-builders who work together, and support each other toward the common purpose of ensuring equality, equity, and inclusion for everyone.”
The workshop lasts from 1-6 p.m. at the church, and says it will “teach you about the causes of social injustice, how to be an effective ally for marginalized communities, and how to actively influence and educate others.” It is one of four Allyship trainings to be hosted at UUCA this fall, and registration online is required.
Other Allyship trainings at the church are set for October 11, October 18, November 2 and November 5.
Someone keyed the words “black bitch” onto a black man’s car on a block in Arlington’s Barcroft neighborhood, where some residents are up in arms about outsiders parking on their street.
The man, who works as a contractor at the Army National Guard Readiness Center (111 S. George Mason Drive), parked his car near the corner of S. Pershing Drive and 1st Street S. this past Thursday morning. When he arrived back at the car that afternoon, he found the words carved onto his driver’s side door and called police.
Officers photographed the car and dusted it for fingerprints. They also took “elimination prints” from the man and Evie Bernard, who carpools with him.
Bernard says she suspects the vandalism was actually targeted at her. She said some residents on the block have confronted her and other commuters about parking, even though it’s a public street and — unlike other nearby streets — not zoned for resident-only parking.
The prior Sunday, Bernard said, she had just returned from a brief vacation when a resident came out of his house and “started yelling and saying never to park there again.” The man, who was pointing his finger and “being very aggressive,” was soon joined by his wife and one of their children, who were all yelling at Bernard for parking in front of their house, she said.
“How would you feel if I parked in front of your house in Waldorf, Maryland?” one of them asked, according to Bernard’s account. The residents had somehow obtained Bernard’s name and apparently looked her up on Facebook, also referencing where she went on vacation and saying “I know where you work.” After about 5 minutes, Bernard drove away and then decided to call police.
“I was so upset that I got in my car and drove away,” she said. “I could only take so much… I was really upset. It was pretty much a nightmare.
Police took a report, Bernard said, but because her life was not threatened it was determined that no crime had occurred. An Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman corroborated that a report of verbal harassment had been filed.
Though Bernard initially suspected the people who confronted her — who are white — might have been responsible for the vandalism, police said today (Tuesday) that the residents have been eliminated as suspects.
Bernard and another Army National Guard contractor who contacted ARLnow.com said the parking issue is not likely to be solved anytime soon. Parking at the George Mason Drive campus is limited and most spots are reserved for employees; contractors are instructed to take transit or park on nearby streets.
While there were plenty of spots available on the 4400 block of 1st Street S. when an ARLnow reporter visited Monday afternoon, a resident said that there are times when the block is filled with cars, including many commuters. He said that residents have tried to apply for zoned parking, but a county parking study did not find enough commuter parking to meet the program threshold.
Earlier this month new zone parking applications were halted indefinitely, pending a review.
A block away, 1st Road S. — which is closer to a walkway to George Mason Drive — is zoned for resident-only parking and also had numerous open spaces. Bernard said she understands residents’ frustration, but at the same time that does not justify harassing commuters who are parking legally and trying to get to and from their jobs.
“It’s public parking,” she said. “The drivers of those vehicles are not the people they should be yelling at.”
According to Bernard, the Army National Guard held a town hall meeting recently where the parking issue was brought up and several people relayed stories of being confronted by residents, including those that yelled at her.
“I don’t want to park there, I wish we did have parking… but that’s still no reason to treat someone that way,” said Bernard, adding that her employer has provided temporary garage parking for her and has been supportive following the incident.
The 1st Street S. resident who spoke to ARLnow.com said the neighborhood is generally friendly and filled with residents who have school-aged children — as reflected by the nearly half-dozen portable basketball hoops that line the street. He said that he understands that the commuters “have to park somewhere.”
Police, meanwhile, say they are continuing to investigate the vandalism and engage with local residents.
“Parking in this area is not restricted by zone or permit parking,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The Third District Community Policing Team is aware of the issue and has reached out to residents of the area to address.”
School Board Approves House Purchase — Despite the objections of some nearby residents, the Arlington School Board last week approved the $525,000 purchase of a home next to Glebe Elementary to provide better emergency vehicle access. “This was not a cohesive, inclusive process – it was done while people were on vacation,” said the head of a local civic association. [InsideNova]
Bat Invades WJLA in Rosslyn — An errant bat caused a commotion at the WJLA (ABC 7) newsroom in Rosslyn Tuesday morning. Eventually the flying mammal was caught by an employee and released outside. [Patch]
Priest Reveals KKK Past — A priest in the Diocese of Arlington revealed in the Arlington Catholic Herald that he was a former KKK member who burned crosses and did other hateful acts, before having a change of heart. Fr. William Aitcheson said he felt compelled to write about his conversion following the events in Charlottesville. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Hundreds Ticketed for Passing Stopped School Buses — Last year, 618 drivers in Arlington County received a $250 fine for illegally passing a stopped school bus. A police spokeswoman said it was “very alarming” that so many drivers were ignoring the lights and stop arm on buses. [WJLA]
Firefighter Places Fourth in Bodybuilding Competition — An Arlington County firefighter, Capt. Tiffanye Wesley, finished fourth in the 40+ figure bodybuilding competition at the 2017 World Police and Fire Games in Los Angeles. [Twitter]
Arlington Bishop’s Statement on Charlottesville — Bishop Michael Burbidge released a statement earlier this week about the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. Burbidge condemned “racism, bigotry and self-proclaimed superiority,” writing: “For Christians, any form of hatred, no matter who it is against, is an offense — a sin — against the Body of Christ. Each person is created by God and bestowed with His unyielding love.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
Hate Groups in Arlington — The Southern Poverty Law Center lists three hate groups as being headquartered or having a presence in Arlington, though the local connection is questionable for at least two of them. ProEnglish, an anti-immigrant group, is listed by the SPLC as having an Arlington headquarters, but it has a Washington, D.C. office address listed on its website. The National Policy Institute, headed by white nationalist Richard B. Spencer, lists an Arlington P.O. box but its headquarters is in Alexandria, according to news reports. The Center for Perpetual Diversity, a white nationalist organization that is fighting immigration in Europe and pushing for African Americans to return to Africa, is listed as having an Arlington headquarters. It has an Arlington P.O. box with a 22204 ZIP code. [Southern Poverty Law Center, Patch]
Arlington Near Top of Va. SOL Results — “Pass rates for Arlington Public Schools students on Standards of Learning tests taken last spring were up in 11 cases, down in 12 and unchanged in six from a year before, according to new state data. The county school system met or exceeded statewide passing rates in all but one of 29 exams, and exceeded the statewide rate by 5 points or more on 17 of the assessments.” [InsideNova, WTOP]
Sale of Reeves Farmhouse Moves Forward — From a press release following yesterday’s Arlington County Board meeting: “The Arlington County Manager today recommended that the County move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse, and that the County not be a financial partner in the farmhouse’s restoration and reuse.” [Arlington County]
‘No Systemic Problem’ Led to High Water Bills — Arlington County says it has investigated resident complaints about unusually high water bills and found “no systemic problem.” Errors in billing or meter-reading were found in only five percent of complaints, the county said, adding that customer-side leaks and a hot and dry summer help to explain many of the remaining cases. [Arlington County]
Arlington Millennials Willing to Move — According to a new study, 77.5 percent of Millennials in Arlington say they would leave the region for the right job offer. That’s the highest response of any D.C. area jurisdiction surveyed. Millennials make up 35-40 percent of Arlington’s population, but real estate affordability remains a concern. Only 28 percent of Millennials in Arlington said they can afford to buy a home in the D.C. area. [Washington Business Journal]
Another Phone Scam Warning — Arlington residents are getting phone calls from scammers claiming to be Dominion Virginia Power technicians collecting unpaid electric bills. “In some cases, scammers have deliberately falsified the information transmitted to the victim’s Caller ID display to disguise their identity,” warns the Arlington County Police Department. [Arlington County]
Talk By Black Man Who Befriends KKK Members — Daryl Davis, a musician who befriends KKK members and convinces them to leave the organization, gave a talk in Arlington earlier this week. Of our current political climate, he said: “This is the best thing that has happened to this country because we have been so much in denial of racism in this country, xenophobia and all these kinds of things… Now we can no longer turn a blind eye to it.” [Fox 5]
Arlington’s ‘Cafe Urbanism’ — A new article in a publication written for state and local government officials asks poses the question: “Hip restaurants have helped revive cities. But is the boom fizzling out?” As a prime example, the article cites recent restaurant closures in Clarendon. [Governing]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Gutshall Running for County Board — As predicted, business owner Erik Gutshall is running for County Board this year, seeking the seat being vacated by Jay Fisette. Gutshall says on his website that his candidacy will be announced at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting on Wednesday. Gutshall unsuccessfully challenged County Board member Libby Garvey in last year’s Democratic primary. [Erik Gutshall for County Board]
Oscars Flub Involved W-L Grad — Warren Beatty is back atop the national consciousness, after an envelope mix-up led to perhaps the worst mistake in Oscars history, with Beatty and Best Picture co-presenter Faye Dunaway at the center of the fiasco. As many long-time Arlingtonians remember, Beatty spent his teenage years in Arlington, reportedly living on N. Huntington Street. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School and, as noted in a yearbook photo, was a star football player and the senior class president. [InsideNova]
Arlington Elementary Schools Top Rankings — In new rankings of D.C. area public elementary schools, Arlington elementary schools tallied a sweep of all the top 10 spots. [Niche, Washington Business Journal]
ACPD Trying Out Uber Lane — This past weekend in Clarendon, the Arlington County Police Department set up a designated rideshare pickup lane to improve safety for those using Uber and Lyft to get a ride home from the bars. The police department described the action as a “pilot program” that was the result of “creative problem solving.” [Twitter]
Arlington’s ‘Segregation Wall’ — A new historic marker notes the significance of a 1930s-era wall in north Arlington. The wall was built by white residents of the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood to provide a physical barrier between them and the historically black Hall’s Hill (High View Park) neighborhood. [InsideNova]
Loan for Affordable Apartments Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a $7.4 million loan to help build 125 new affordable apartments at the Berkeley on S. Glebe Road. Nonprofit developer AHC is expected to seek another loan for the redevelopment, from the county’s affordable housing fund, next fiscal year. [Arlington County]
Per-Student Spending to Rise — Under a new budget proposed by Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, per-student spending would rise 2.9 percent to $19,521. APS has been straining to keep up with rising enrollment, issuing bonds to build new schools and renovate others. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Author, actor and musician Daryl Davis is scheduled to host a discussion entitled “Klan We Talk?” at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre (125 S. Old Glebe Road) on Monday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m.
During the event, Davis — who authored the 1998 book “Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan” — will discuss “how his approach caused several Klan members to walk away from those beliefs.”
As detailed in his book, Davis has devoted decades of his life to converting members of the KKK through friendship and discussion. His efforts have been notably chronicled on The Atlantic and in an episode of the Love + Radio podcast.
Davis has also widely discussed his mission on media outlets such as CNN, PBS and NBC. He was most recently the subject of a documentary called “Accidental Courtesy,” a film featured as a New York Times Critics’ Pick.
Dozens of students, teachers and community members spoke at the Feb. 16 Arlington School Board meeting, many voicing concern about incidents of intolerance at Yorktown High School.
The 41-person turnout for public comments “might be a record,” according to School Board Vice Chair Dr. Barbara Kanninen. Many of the speakers addressed the ongoing controversy over signs in classrooms, which some say are politically motivated, and allegations of discrimination at the school.
One by one, students clad in shirts emblazoned with some of the signs’ slogans — such as “We Are Yorktown” and “Facts Are Not Political” — weighed in on reports of bullying and harassment.
“Yorktown has a problem. There is no denying it,” said one student. “Since November, we have seen a dramatic rise in incidents of racism, homophobia and hate.”
Yorktown administrators have done little to combat that rise, instead choosing to “run and hide” instead of facing controversies, he alleged.
“The reason that we’re all here tonight is in many ways the the fault of the Yorktown administration,” he continued. “The first wave of hate was in November, and after those incidents, nothing happened.”
Another student told the room about how school officials made her take down a “Black Lives Matter” sign after parents complained earlier this month. The student alleged that, after taking down the sign, she and some of her friends were subjected to racist remarks from their peers.
“Why are there so many incidents at Yorktown at which kids feel empowered to carry out such actions?” she asked. “How do you think minority children feel every day going to a school in which their culture is disrespected and deemed insignificant?”
One student, a sophomore, complained that students “are not allowed to use gay in posters… which makes it seem that it’s not okay to be gay.”
“Some people still eat lunch in the bathroom and they cry,” the student continued. “You might not agree with them, but you should accept them for who they are.”
The speakers also included some teachers, who voiced concern over recent incidents.
“In the past month, a Sudanese student asked me if he could keep coming to school. A Muslim student told me that her family has decided that they will move to Canada. A Honduran student reported that he’d been asked by another student if his bags were packed because he was going to be deported,” one teacher said. “I posted signs on my walls and in my hallway windows to let my students know I stand by them and for them.”
The public comment period lasted more than an hour and fifteen minutes. After it concluded, APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy said that the alleged bullying and discrimination “will not be tolerated” and vowed to put an end to it.
“I’m stepping up. This is not acceptable,” he said, to applause from the crowd. “Our goal continues to be to provide the best learning environment for every child, regardless of their personal belief, race, religion, ethnicity or gender.”
Murphy turned the floor over to Cintia Johnson, an assistant superintendent, to share some of the steps that APS has already taken.
“We have had the opportunity to meet with the administrative team at Yorktown and begin the steps to designing an action plan that is intended to continue to show a commitment to the positive community as well as the climate of both dignity and respect for each and every student,” she said.
Dr. Brenda Wilks, another assistant superintendent at APS, said the school plans to host student-led forums where students’ voices will be heard. The first such meeting was held earlier that day, she said, and had approximately 130 in attendance.
School Board member Reid Goldstein, who attended the forum, said it was “articulate and honest.”
“I’m delighted that students… felt deeply, thought maturely, stood up for their convictions and spoke eloquently,” he said.
James Lander, another School Board member who attended the forum, said the school’s priority to create a safe environment for students was paramount.
“I will reiterate the sense of commitment that this board has to the safety of all students,” he said. “If any student comes to school and doesn’t feel safe, that is our issue to deal with, and we will deal with it accordingly.”
School Board member Tannia Talento applauded the many students who had “the courage to come up here and speak to us today about such challenging conversations.”
“It is so hard to tell your story, to tell your pain, to tell your fears, to tell your stance, especially if it’s an unpopular one,” she said. “I’m proud of you guys having these conversations, and of our teachers. This is what America is.”
Talento continued: “I am a daughter of immigrant parents. I am fearful for our immigrant community here in our country. The one thing I remind myself every day is you guys showed me tonight, that in this country, we have freedom of speech.”