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Mamaroneck Schools Sued for “Pervasive Racism”

The racial unrest dividing the nation has not spared the Mamaroneck School District.

A federal civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of  A.A., a 15-year-old African-American teenager, and his now 14-year-old sister, B.A., against the Mamaroneck Union Free School District and Mamaroneck High School “for their indifference to years of racial harassment.”

The lawsuit (filed anonymously to protect the children’s privacy) alleges “school administrators took inadequate steps to ameliorate pervasive racism,” according to a press release from Andrew Wilson and Emma L. Freeman, lawyers for the plaintiffs.

In the complaint, specific examples of taunting and racism are reported throughout the two children’s 2nd- 9th grade years. The complaint says the children were eventually taken out of the schools and home schooled.

COPY OF COMPLAINT

 

Through the years, the Mamaroneck Union Free School District has been the subject of several investigations for racial discrimination by state and federal agencies, including by the Federal Office of Civil Rights and the State Education Department.

In 2011, two Kindergarten families at Central School raised concerns about the racial and ethnic make-up of a particular Kindergarten class.  The  District would later announce the class placement guidelines to be race-neutral, contrary to the report by the Federal Office of Civil Rights.

Concerns were raised again in 2019, when local parent David Martin, a Mamaroneck resident with two children in the District, reported that his daughter and two other black students, who attend Hommocks Middle School in Larchmont, were called the n-word by a white classmate at an after-school program.

Martin addressed the School Board and recounted the taunt involving his daughter.

A week after that School Board meeting, Schools Superintendent Robert Shaps sent an apologetic letter to the community saying,  “To be perfectly clear: the District did not initially react properly to this matter.”

In the latest case, “The School District did not stop it,” reads the complaint.  “The School Board did not stop it. The schools’ administrators did not stop it. Instead, Defendants made vague reassurances and offered platitudes about inclusiveness and diversity. Any action they took was insufficient to curb the daily racial harassment and discrimination A.A. and B.A. faced.”

A District spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the latest allegations.

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NSS
NSS
1 month ago

I’m a 2006 MHS alum and attended K through 12 in the district. I’ve found myself looking back recently at how this education system often played a role in shaping or confirming systematic racism in the community. Without digging into statistics, policies or anything you might find “on paper”, I can speak to my experience as one in which students of color were consistently othered, separated and disciplined in ways that their white fellow students rarely were. Rather than putting forth meaningful, broad efforts to address the racial and economic inequalities of the community, the schools put walls between students based on race and wealth. Where these walls already existed, there seemed to be little effort to deconstruct. The results (the roots of which go well beyond the school district) are underlying bias and pervasive racism that students carry with them through elementary, middle, high school and beyond. When I look back at my time in these schools, it’s painfully clear that I (a white man) received treatment and ultimately an education that wasn’t fully afforded to many students of color. As we move forward, these PUBLIC institutions, which we claim to be amongst the best in the country, ought to focus on making communities better and being a source of not just education but social growth and healing. If you happen to think your costly real estate and property taxes give your children greater rights than others, please think about the role you’re playing. Our collective impact has deprived countless students from their right to an equal education and in the case of the Martin family, denied that basic right all together.

Mamk UFSD Alumnus
Mamk UFSD Alumnus
1 month ago

First of all, the whole point of protesting against anything is to draw attention to voices that aren’t being heard. So to anybody here who seeks to simply dismiss Or silence opinions that are different from yours (read: the white status quo that many people are comfortable embracing in this community), try listening to others instead. Don’t assume that just because you disagree that those people are wrong. Just because racism doesn’t affect you doesn’t mean it’s not real. The family bringing this lawsuit exists. They are real people. This is their real experience.

I grew up in Mamaroneck and I attended Central School, Hommocks and MHS for the entirety of my K-12 education. I’m not here to point fingers at commenters, but I am here to confirm the systemic bias that exists in the local school district. I had one teacher of color in all of elementary school (the ONLY teacher of color in Central School at the time, though there were a small number of non-educator staff of color). So that’s one teacher out of 6 (and actually I had 7, because in 5th grade my two teachers worked collaboratively as a team), over 6 years. In middle school, we had about 8 periods a day, different teachers for each period. That’s approximately 24 unique teachers per student per 3-year attendance. Let’s round down and call it 20. In my 3 years at Hommocks, I don’t recall having a single teacher of color, though there were probably a few employed at the time. But over three years and 20ish teachers to not personally work with a single educator of color seems related to the lack of diversity among the educators. In 4 years of high school, 8 periods a day, that’s potentially 32 unique teachers. Let’s round down and call it 25. Of those 25 teachers whose classes I attended, I recall having 2 teachers of color, one who was of Asian decent and one who was black. I had a baseball coach who was black so we can count him as number three, but then we have to account for all the coaches I had who were white. Anyway, 2 teachers out of 25ish over 4 years. And not a single guidance counselor of color out of 8 total at that time (and they were mostly male). I couldn’t tell you the exact ratio of students of color to white students, but it seemed roughly similar to the ratio of teachers of color to white teachers. To be fair, I think the ratio of students of color was a little bit more than that of educators of color. Regardless of numbers, look at any class/staff photo and it will tell the same story. Now, I could get into the topic of how systemic racism has led to the economic conditions that has kept the Mamaroneck/Larchmont community relatively racially homogenous, but we’ll be here all day and night. The lack of diversity among the educators and the students themselves is what has led to even more racial bias and manifested in incidents like those documented in the lawsuit.

Suffice it to say that those who wish to absolve the school need to look at the bigger picture. The school system is just one manifestation of the even greater issue facing this community and our nation and humanity on the whole. I’m really grateful to have grown up where I did, but at the moment I’m not proud of it. However I am proud and grateful to see meaningful action taken by people to expose the issues that have simmered in this community for decades and beyond. Change starts with addressing the issues. Well, here’s an opportunity. What kind of community do we want to be, the kind that tolerates racism and systemic bias or the kind that sets an example of a community that can nurture ALL of its citizens?

Laughing
Laughing
1 month ago

This is a joke. The school is not responsible because a kid said a racist word. Black kids in that school often go out if their way to act “ghetto”. Rich kids from Larchmont who want to be “gangta” act like ghetto thugs because they think it’s cool. Then they want to cry discrimination? Much of the staff is black. These are just liars who want a free payday and probably think every time their kid isn’t treated like the star of the school, it’s because of racism. What a joke.

Laughing at Laughing
Laughing at Laughing
1 month ago
Reply to  Laughing

Your post is disgraceful and screams of racism. Racism is deeply ingrained in our culture, and our community is no exception. We can do better and you can move elsewhere.

Laughing Because You Know Nothing!
Laughing Because You Know Nothing!
1 month ago
Reply to  Laughing

This is not a joke! People like you make situations like this worse! No the school is not responsible for the kid saying a racist word, but the school can certainly not tolerate it within its walls. It does not seem that you know much about culture. Black kids do not have to go out of their way to “act ghetto” as you so eloquently stated. No matter what Black kids do, no matter what they say, no matter how they sound, people like you will label them as “ghetto.” What exactly makes them seem as though they are acting ghetto? Could it be their clothes? Could it be their shoes? Could it be their hair? Could it be their speech patterns? What would cause you to approve a Black person and give them the non-ghetto stamp of approval? “Rich kids from Larchmont who want to be gangta [gansta] act like ghetto thugs because they think it’s cool.” Why aren’t you out there teaching them how to be proper. Not sure if you are the only person who received the Caucasian Behavior Manual, but maybe you need to make copies and begin circulating it, so every Caucasian kid in Larchmont can begin the assimilation process. You sound ridiculous making these statements. Children and adults alike experiment with their personal fashion, music, interests and to varying degrees other cultures. You still go on to show how much you are unaware. Most of the staff in the school district is not Black, that’s the first thing. Just as you have accessed this site, do some research. You will find that most of the staff of color in the district have positions such as teacher’s aids. How many people of color are classroom teachers and administrators in the district? I know I’m asking a lot of questions, and a lot of you, but it is important that you do your research before making such ugly comments. You then call these children and their family liars and accuse them of wanting a “payday.” Did you even take the time to read the complaint? There I go with another question, I know; there are more to follow. Did you go through the entire complaint and see the disgusting things that were said to these children on different occasions and nothing was done? Do you have children? Would you like for your son or daughter to return home from school one day and tell you that they were threatened with rape in school and nothing was done? Would you like for your son or daughter to return home from school day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year telling you how they are being threatened and you try working with the school district, yet nothing was done? Yet again, your response reeks of a basic lack of knowledge or cultural understanding. “And probably think every time their kid isn’t treated like the star of the school, it’s because of racism.” This statement is a joke! Black people do not want to call attention to themselves due to racism, especially in a predominantly White community. Black people would rather go about their business just like every White person is freely allowed to do. You seem to be victim blaming here. I won’t ask you if you know what that means, based on your post, there is a general understanding that your prior knowledge and overall exposure is lacking. Victim blaming is when the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible. Here are some books you may want to read prior to your next post on anything having to do with race: White Fragility (this one may scare you – don’t read before bed), How to be an Antiracist (you may want to take a gander at this one first), So You Want to Talk About Race (you probably don’t want to talk about this, so read this one last), Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria (this will help you answer those first few questions posed about labels like “ghetto”). Have a great time informing yourself about things you do not know! By the way, a payday is a candy bar, this family is looking for justice and if that comes in the form monetary reimbursement for psychological abuse, pain and suffering, then so be it! HAPPY READING!!!

Janine Bevilacqua
Janine Bevilacqua
1 month ago

I’ve witnessed discrimination in the schools and unfair treatment to my Puerto Rican step daughters.

Curious
Curious
1 month ago

Please, tell us what specific discrimination you’ve seen from the school itself and how you know it was based on the fact that they were Puerto Rican?

Lorraine Martin
Lorraine Martin
1 month ago

There probably will not be a response from the school district regarding this case. However, what is Dr. Shaps talking about in his most recent ramble to the community? He is a part of the problem e.g., this lawsuit. His tone deaf, opportunistic letter to the community on June 1st is a slap in the face to families of color in Larchmont/Mamaroneck, especially when there are pending complaints like this. He even begins his empty message with words like “chaos, violence and unrest.” No, Dr. Shaps it’s hurt, frustration and anger! He then has the NERVE to include a link to a young Black man singing “I just want to live.” What about all those Black and Brown families who were begging you to do anything to help them so they could live with less racial trauma in the Mamaroneck UFSD? “Right now we have an opportunity to talk to our children about social justice, institutional racism, and nonviolent vs. violent protests. Right now we have the chance to discuss what it’s like to be a young person of color in America. Right now we have the chance to continue with courageous conversations about bigotry, hate, racism and other forms of discrimination.” This statement is laughable at best! Now is the opportunity? You had ten years worth of opportunities and countless families to help! Dr. Shaps, The Selection Committee and The School Board of The Mamaroneck UFSD are a part of the problem by continuously exercising willful blindness to racism and bullying that ends up crushing families of color. Dr. Shaps retract your statement in the name of George Floyd! Stop and think about how many children of color you and Mamaroneck UFSD have crushed with your indifference… say their names! Begin with the children you’ve wronged in this complaint!

Nancy C Wasserman
Nancy C Wasserman
1 month ago

I totally agree.
This racism has been rampant in MUFSD since I came here and
Became involved in MAS in 1964.
Time to end system wide racism and hate by ridding our district of those who perpetuate inequality with actions that are unjust and illegal.

Lori Green
Lori Green
1 month ago

“The Federal investigator ultimately found the class placement guidelines to be race-neutral”.
Reporter…. the loop has in their archive the original decision of the U.S. Department of Education OCR’s findings in the 2011 case. Dr. Shaps called the class placement race neutral in his famous rendition “Dr Shaps’ Statement in Response to OCR Complaint & Media Reports”(Google Video)….https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_uOms-TwCY…..not OCR in their findings. “After an almost yearlong investigation of kindergarten students at Central utilizing data from school years 2010-11 and 2011-12, the OCR concluded on August 17, 2012 that the District had applied its criteria “inconsistently and subjectively,” and that non-white students had, in fact, been disproportionately assigned to Class #1 for both school years. All kindergarten students residing in —two Hispanic and one African-American—were assigned to Class #1, the OCR report found, although school officials denied that they had access to student’s race prior to their assignments, they did, however, have access to their addresses.” It should be noted back in 2011 prospective kindergarten students were invited for an interview and they had access to their applications.

Lori Green
Lori Green
1 month ago
Reply to  Lori Green

I might add…class #1 had the only black teacher at Central. In the 2011-12 kindergarten class the proportion of white students to non-white students was 71% non-white and 29 % white(it should be the reverse) and it happened in the prior year of 2010-2011 as well…and yes, with the same teacher….in other words…NO ACCIDENT!

lori
lori
1 month ago

I hate to say it …. but I am so not surprised …… years ago when they made the super teams at Hommocks ….. there were huge issues with bias ……… and they did nothing …….

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