For the second time in four months, students in a Hudson Valley school are in hot water for making alleged racist remarks toward student-athletes at an athletic event.
In Rockland County, Pearl River students have been accused of racist behavior toward Nyack students during a modified track meet, similar to an incident that happened in February during a basketball game.
It is unclear what was said or done, though the incident led to swift reactions from both school districts and Rockland County's top elected officials.
“For the second time in less than four months, racist behavior was exhibited by Pearl River Middle School students during a recent athletic event against Nyack Middle School,” Rockland County Executive Ed Day said in a statement.
“As a former youth coach, I’m very disappointed to learn that more racist taunts were made during a school track meet, and I strongly condemn this appalling behavior which has no place in our community,” he continued. "I urge the school district to hold these individuals accountable.
Day added; "As I stated back in February, the actions of a few does not define the mindset of the many but we all have a responsibility to speak out against any, and all, acts of intolerance.”
Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, who represents parts of Rockland and Westchester counties also condemned the incident.
"School athletics are supposed to teach students about sportsmanship, teamwork, and striving for excellence," he said. "Instead, for the second time this year, students from Nyack have been subjected to racist outbursts at sports events.
"Student-athletes need to know that they will be treated with respect and dignity wherever they are competing, and school districts have an obligation to teach their students not to harass people based on their race or other personal characteristics.”
In Nyack, the Board of Education and School Superintendent Eudes Budhai issued a joint statement following the incident calling for “expedited action and accountability from the Pearl River School District.”
They said that they are “exploring all legal recourse possible to safeguard our athletes from any future acts of racism and emotional harm.”
“In addition to this,” they added. “We are also exploring all options available through Section 1 Athletics and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHAA).”
Pearl River Superintendent Marco Pochintesta also condemned the incident and said that the students involved have faced severe consequences.
“These offensive and unacceptable actions are hurtful and have led to serious consequences for those responsible,” he said.
"While we have identified and held accountable the students involved, I know this behavior in no way reflects the true character of our school community and we have zero tolerance for such hateful thinking."
Pochintesta said that the district will be creating an Equity Taskforce to ensure that it provides "schools and classrooms where all students feel safe, welcomed, and accepted regardless of their race, religion, identity, cultural background, and/or ability/disability.”
He said that a letter will be sent out to the school community requesting volunteers to apply to join as members of the Task Force.
“We are reminded that we all have an obligation to not only confront racism when it occurs, but also to implement programs and allocate appropriate resources to prevent its continuation in our district,” Pochintesta said.
“We must reiterate how absolutely essential it is to the core values of our school community that all persons be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”
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