Victoria Love has had enough of the onslaught of racism within the predominantly white Pittsford Central School District, which is 8 miles outside of Rochester, New York. She pulled her sixth grader and eleventh grader out of the Pittsford school district to a smaller school after they were faced with repeated racist slurs.
“My husband and I made the tough decision to remove our students because we felt like five years was long enough. … A lot of the racist incidents do involve Black students, but it’s not only Black students,” said Love, a Pittsford, New York parent.
Pittsford Schools are in the national spotlight following a recent New York Times article which draws attention to a series of racist incidents that has happened over the past few years. The district has a student population of 5,588 and 4,249 of the students are white, 172 are Black, 641 are Asian, 294 are Hispanic or Latino and 278 identify as multiracial.
The string of racist incidents includes Black soccer players being called racist slurs and subjected to monkey sounds at a game, repeated use of the N-word from white students towards their Black classmates and in September, a social media video surfaced which shows a white Pittsford student with a toy gun in hand claiming he wanted to kill Black people.
The incident caught the attention of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which placed a deputy at the school the student attends out of an abundance of caution.
“The students at that particular high school, were scared, and the point of someone making a video like that is to frighten and harm other people,” Love said of the racist video.
Love and her family moved to Pittsford, New York from San Diego, California, in 2015 to be closer to her husband’s family and the high-quality education.
She places most of the blame on white students but also recognizes teachers are not doing enough to mitigate the culture of racism, in fact, she says some of the classroom assignments her sons were given were racially insensitive which added to the trauma they were experiencing.
Love and other parents pleaded for years with the Pittsford Central School District to do something about the culture of racism within its schools, but often, Love says the district chose to offer statements claiming they are addressing racism rather than do something tangibly.
She says she would rather see the district hire more diverse teachers, and ensure assignments are culturally sensitive, including assigned reading material that contains racial slurs are explained with sensitivity.
“I think we’ve all been in a state of anxiety for the last several years, as we’ve worked through some really steep barriers in an attempt to effectively communicate with the district,” Love explained.
Atlanta Black Star requested an interview with someone from the Pittsford Central School District to address the ongoing racial issues, and Superintendent, Michael Pero, provided a statement:
“The Pittsford Central School District is not immune to the problem of racism in our nation. Today’s New York Times article again shared past unacceptable and racist behaviors that we have been working through in school. Staff and resources are in place – and expanding – in an effort to educate and facilitate these conversations among our students and in our community.”
As for the community which has a population of around 29,000 residents and 85 percent identify as white, 1.7 percent Black, 8.7 percent Asian, 3.2 percent Hispanic or Latino.
Love understands racism discussions begin at home. “Learning about racism and learning how to treat other people starts at home, but some parents don’t have the right tools because if you’re white and you don’t know people of color and if they don’t have family members that are people from diverse groups how can they understand well enough what the issues are,” she said.
Love also says within her own experience, there is an unwillingness to have the hard conversations about race which could turn contentious racial issues around. “I’ve had a couple of white friends tell me they don’t have time to think about racism or they feel overwhelmed when they discuss these problems and some of them really close the door to have one on one conversations,” she said.
Despite some reluctant Pittsford residents to address racial issues directly, Love applauds the parents and student who are willing to call out racism when it happens at schools.
The Pittsford Board of Education appointed Vincent French, who is Black, to serve as Coordinator of Equity and Inclusivity on Nov. 15, 2021. Love hopes French has the support to make a difference so students of color can take advantage of the high-quality education the district is known for.
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