Pittsford, N.Y. – A notice of claim has been filed against the Pittsford Central School District amid recent allegations of racism within the school district – including one reported Wednesday.
According to the notice of claim, plaintiffs allege the district and officials failed to prevent acts of racism against one of its students.
The notice alleges the Pittsford Mendon High School student, who is biracial, has been subjected to racist and derogatory language since February by another student. That language is said to have included the N-word and “monkey.”
Several separate alleged incidents are outlined in the notice, including a Snapchat message that is said to have included a photo of the victim with the caption “Don’t brush my (racial slur).”
The student accused of sending that message is also accused, in the notice of claim, of referring to African-American Urban Suburban students in the high school as “lesbians” and various racist expletives.
The claimants allege concerns were brought to both the high school’s Principal Melissa Julian, and Pittsford Central School Superintendent Michael Pero.
The plaintiffs say their concerns were brought to Julian in April, at which point she allegedly told the student “she would handle the situation.”
According to the notice of claim, after the meeting with Julian, the victim found out they had allegedly been referred to by the other student as a “monkey.” The plaintiffs say the victim confronted the other student, telling her to stop saying such things.
The next day, plaintiffs say the victim was called into Julian’s office and told to leave the other student alone, and that there would not be another warning.
The plaintiffs maintain Pero has not taken action he promised to.
Plaintiffs say the victim suffered “emotional trauma, embarrassment, humiliation” and other forms of stress and mental anguish as a result of the treatment.
13WHAM has also learned of a racist incident that occurred Wednesday at Mendon High School. In that incident, a swastika and the N-word were reportedly written on a table of another biracial student.
In an email message obtained by 13WHAM, Julian wrote the staff:
Earlier today we had an incident in a classroom where a swastika and the [N-word] were written on a table. A student saw it and had a visceral reaction. I would ask you all to check your tables/desks and if you see anything similar to please let any administrator know as soon as possible. If a student brings it to your attention, please pull the student aside, listen to them and share with them that you are concerned.
The full notice of claim can be read here:
In a statement released Wednesday night, Pero addressed the offensive vandalism found Wednesday at Mendon.
"Racism, discriminatory actions, and hurtful speech will not be tolerated in our schools," the statement read. "Our administration, faculty and staff are committed to swiftly dealing with all acts of bias that we witness or are reported by others. We are investigating this incident and strong consequences will be administered to the individual who committed this act - if that person can be identified. We need everyone’s help with this. Just as we say in other situations, if you see something, say something."
Pero's full statement is below:
I wanted to address an incident that was covered in the news on Wednesday about a Mendon High School student finding racist symbols and language on a classroom desk. The abhorrent vandalism was immediately removed. I want to thank the student who reported this situation and express my gratitude to all of our students who are standing up to these types of intolerable acts with determination. We will be working with any impacted students in the coming days to ensure that they are supported.
Racism, discriminatory actions, and hurtful speech will not be tolerated in our schools. Our administration, faculty and staff are committed to swiftly dealing with all acts of bias that we witness or are reported by others. We are investigating this incident and strong consequences will be administered to the individual who committed this act - if that person can be identified. We need everyone’s help with this. Just as we say in other situations, if you see something, say something.
Society as a whole, including our community, is experiencing heightened expressions of bigotry. These incidents are deeply troubling and hurtful to all, but they are especially cruel to those who are the direct targets of such views. However, we cannot allow the hurtful actions of a few to define us as they do not represent who we are as a District. The engagement of our entire school community over the past several weeks is indicative of that. As I previously communicated to you, the District has developed specific action steps that will be occurring between now and the end of the school year and we will work over the summer to develop long term plans to help ensure a more fully inclusive culture.
I continue to ask for your help by talking with your child(ren) about actions they can take to foster tolerance and inclusion. This includes speaking out when they witness expressions of hatred and prejudice and also making sure they support their peers.
While both I and the Board of Education recognize the media interest in our District at this time, when issues arise, our communication will always be first with you. In the same vein, we encourage you to reach out directly to us to share your ideas, views and concerns.