Students at a New York City high school have ended their days-long lockout of a campus administration building sparked by outrage over a racist video that resurfaced earlier this week.
“Y’all. After nearly 72 hours, extensive back and forth with the administration and the overwhelming support of you all … THE LOCKOUT IS OVER!” New Jersey activist Zellie Imani tweeted about the protest at Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx.
On Monday, dozens of students staged a protest locking administrators out of their offices following a racist video circulating around school, according to New York Magazine’s “The Cut.” The video, first reported on in February, reportedly showed Fieldston students using “racist, homophobic and misogynistic language.”
Head of School Jessica Bagby sent home a letter to parents last month explaining the video was made “a few years ago,” and added that an investigation was launched after administrators were made aware of it on Feb. 13.
One student involved in the video withdrew from Fieldston, according to Bagby. However, the administration was tight-lipped about what disciplinary action was taken or would be taken against the other students involved, although it seems that all of the students involved in the offense are no longer at Fieldston, as the school said they were seniors. This seemed to be at the root of Monday’s protest, in which students expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency about how the school handled the incident.
“We’re 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,” the group “Students of Color Matter” wrote on their Instagram page, which featured photos and video from the campus demonstration.
“Today a lockout will take place in the administration building as a means to force our administration to acknowledge the concerns we have been bringing to their attention over the past several years,” it continued.
In an interview, a student named Josh told the New York Daily News that students of color at the predominately white private school are treated like “second-class citizens” compared to white kids.
“The lockout is to try to shed light on the fact that students of color really aren’t being represented here at all,” Josh said.
The students’ immediate demands, laid out in a press release, include having the disciplinary action taken against the students in the video made public, a written apology from each of the students involved and a “global investigation” into the culture of racism at Fieldston. Students also called on the administration to recruit and retain more minority students, hire more faculty of color, require bias training for ALL employees and implement a mandated Black studies course, among other things.
“While Fieldston prides itself on its dedication to diversity, ethics, and progressivism, active reform surrounding these issues has been delayed for too long,” the group wrote. “We are no longer willing to let the necessary changes be pushed to the sidelines. Our actions aim to prevent future generations from having to face the same forms of emotional trauma and harassment we have faced daily.”
Students received support from school leaders throughout the lockout but refused to abandoned their efforts until administrators agreed to “meet their most immediate demands in writing,” reported ABC News. That moment finally came late Wednesday.
“Fieldston has accepted all 20 demands and have organized a formal plan agreed upon by all parties to implement each demand as soon as possible!” Students of Color announced in an Instagram post. “Stay tuned, more information coming! #STUDENTSOFCOLORMATTER”
The news was cheered by thousands of supporters across the country who had been following the students’ peaceful protest to demand change.
“Congratulations and thank you for standing up for what is right and just!” one user wrote.
“What wonderful news! Thank you all for your perseverance, activism, and strength. It’s beautiful to see, especially in light of the state of our country,” wrote another.
One woman exclaimed: “You courageous young people are an inspiration to us all!”