Back in February, during a varsity basketball game at Pearl River High School, fans made monkey noises as Black Nyack players shot free throws.
Then, this week at a middle school track meet in Suffern, a seventh grader from Pearl River Middle school allegedly used the n-word against a competing athlete from Nyack Middle School.
The exact allegations have not yet been detailed, but officials from both schools have released statements.
“The Nyack School District and Board of Education have been made aware of another incident of reported racist behavior displayed by Pearl River students, this time towards our modified track team members,” Superintendent Eudes Budhai wrote. “Our district is pressing for expedited action and accountability from the Pearl River School District while exploring all legal recourse possible to safeguard our athletes from any future acts of racism and emotional harm. In addition to this, we are also exploring all options available through Section 1 Athletics and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHAA). We thank the Nyack/Valley Cottage community for continuing to support our athletes and all of our courageous, resilient students through this tremendously challenging period. Together, we remain grounded in dignity, respect and equity. We are Nyack Strong.”
Pearl River Superintendent Dr. Marco Pochintesta also addressed the community.
“These offensive and unacceptable actions are hurtful and have led to serious consequences for those responsible,” he wrote. “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. 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. 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.”
He said the district is moving ahead with steps indicated in the Board of Education policy on Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity in Education adopted on April 12, 2022, which calls for the creation of an Equity Task Force to ensure that schools and classrooms can be places where all students feel safe, welcomed and accepted.
“The work of addressing these incidents is challenging and necessary,” he wrote. “However, our greatest challenge and best path forward in creating inclusive, safe and respectful environments in our schools and across our programs is recognizing and understanding what fuels this hateful behavior and what can be done to prevent it in the future.”
Three months later however, it is still in the planning stages. That’s not good enough says the head of the local branch of the NAACP.
“If you are going to create something and this means so much to you and you think this is very horrific and it’s traumatizing and you know all these things, then you need to be on the ball, it happened February 9 and we’re now in May,” said Nicole Hines of the NAACP.
Rockland County Executive Ed Day also addressed the situation.
“For the second time in less than four months, racist behavior was exhibited by Pearl River High School students during a recent athletic event against Nyack High School,” he wrote. “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. I urge the school district to hold these individuals accountable. 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.”
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