The Lower Manhattan Community School racially segregated its students this week to grapple with the question, “How do our racial identities influence our experiences?” according to the New York Post.
“On November 23rd and 24th, 7th and 8th graders will explore the question ‘How do our racial identities influence our experiences?’ in affinity groups,” Principal Shanna Douglas wrote in an email sent to parents. “An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest.”
As part of a movement to “undo the legacy of racism and oppression in this country that impacts our school community,” the school divided students by race. Douglas’s email went on to explain that “whites, Asians, and multi-racial students have their own categories, while African-American and Hispanic students are combined into one group.”
Students uncomfortable with racial segregation as the medium for class discussion will be sent to a separate cohort to discuss the question, “Why are we even talking about racial identity?”
Nathaniel Styer, a Department of Education spokesperson, made it “abundantly clear to both students and parents that anyone can opt-out of this two day celebration if they desire.”
Douglas went on to say that her school had failed to deal with racial issues in the past. In placing an emphasis on racial issues at her school — which demographic makeup is “44 percent Asian, 29 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent black” — Douglas says “students are talking about it since race has become a popular topic on social media, or parents are talking even more about it at home due to the recent incidents across the nation.”
There appear to be mixed feelings among parents about the move, according to the Post.
One mother said, “I think a lot of us feel like this is too much. … But most parents are too afraid to say anything at this point. Why are we separating our kids like this?”
A dad thought the idea was “insidious,” saying, “Teach the history. Tell that story. I’m all for an honest accounting. But this is something different. It’s insidious.”
But other parents are supportive of the segregation, as they are placing trust in the school faculty to deal with the issue properly.
“I think our teachers know how to handle it,” one mom said while another said, “The staff is very good about being clear when it comes to race.”
Styer relayed, “This optional program was developed in close coordination with both the School Leadership Team, PTA and families.”