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Post-Election Tensions Reach John Jay, Fox Lane Campuses

President-elect Donald Trump, pictured at an April campaign rally in Poughkeepsie. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Hillary Clinton, pictured after casting her presidential vote in Chappaqua. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

BEDFORD, N.Y. -- Officials at the Bedford Central and Katonah-Lewisboro school districts responded to incidents at the John Jay and Fox Lane campuses following the presidential election.

In a school board report on Thursday, Katonah-Lewisboro Superintendent Andrew Selesnick said that counselors at John Jay High School were "significant busier than usual," as distraught students sought help. The students were not necessarily distraught over actions at John Jay, Selesnick added, but were worried about the election's outcome negatively affecting friends or family.

Selesnick added that students were counseled because they were upset, and not because of Katonah-Lewisboro taking a political viewpoint, as some parents worried.

“If students are distraught, we'll offer them counseling.”

On the Thursday following the election, Selesnick said, officials at both John Jay High School and John Jay Middle School received reports of “unacceptable behavior” from students. The reports came from other students, parents  and teachers. Officials at both schools subsequently got on their PA systems to reiterate what constitutes acceptable behavior, Selesnick said, while he sent out a community letter expressing similar sentiments.

Selesnick declined to get into specifics about the incidents, citing privacy of the individual students involved.

This past Tuesday, about 100 John Jay High School students, in reaction to the post-election atmosphere, held what Selesnick called a "peaceful walkout," which had the consent from the school principal. The walkout was meant to show support for various groups across the country.

Selesnick also emphasized that students and parents with concerns should report them to administrators. In seeking to hear concerns from constituents, Selesnick noted that he attended a parent meeting at the high school on Wednesday, which was hosted by the Sexually and Gender Awareness Group (SAGA).

“It wasn't an accident that I went to that SAGA meeting on Wednesday night," Selesnick said, adding that it was because he wanted his support for concerned students to be visible.

Meanwhile, officials at Bedford Central found themselves in a similar predicament. Schools Superintendent Christopher Manno told Daily Voice that on the day following the election that some students at Fox Lane High School, which he said were "approximately 10 or 12," voiced what he called "unkind words." Elaborating, Manno described the words as "racially motivated."

“None of them were physical," Manno said about the incidents. "They were all verbal in nature.”

Some of the language used was intended to be biased, while others involved inappropriate language heard during the election cycle, Manno added.

There were also incidents involving Fox Lane Middle School, which Manno said happened early on the same day.

Officials at the high school and middle school addressed the students who were involved in the incidents, Manno said, and they addressed the broader student bodies.

By Wednesday afternoon, Bedford Central officials, including administrators and counselors, increased their presences in the school hallways and checked up on students, Manno added.

The tensions have since subsided, Manno sad.

At Wednesday's Bedford Central school board meeting, Erica Charpentier, a Mount Kisco resident, called on officials to re-emphasize the district's code of conduct, which prohibits discrimination and bullying of students based on race, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

“In the wake of last week's election, many school districts across the country, including BCSD, have witnessed incidents of bigotry and misogyny on their campuses. Fortunately, BCSD does not rank high in the number of incidents, but even a few incidents of bigotry and misogyny in our district is too many.”

President-elect Donald Trump has an incidental connection to Bedford Central. He has owned a large estate in Bedford, called Seven Springs, since 1995. As a result, he is a school property taxpayer.

Trump a celebrity businessman and Republican nominee, defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who lives near by in Chappaqua.

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