Newton North High School Principal Henry Turner responded to the “not guilty” verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case by offering racially segregated spaces for the “many people in our school community … reeling from this verdict.”
“This divisive case will be seen as a blow,” Turner explained in an email to Massachusetts school staff, adding, “particularly to black and brown people who are regularly reminded that their bodies are treated as less than others.”
Turner appears to be outspoken about political activism and seems to administer his school through a lens that views race as paramount to anything and everything in American life — a key tenet of Critical Race Theory.
The #RittenhouseVerdict is devastating. Staff and students of color will be angry, confused and hurting over the weekend and on Monday.
— Henry Turner (he/him/his) (@turnerhj) November 19, 2021
“We would like to offer spaces for students and staff to process. … Additionally, we will have spaces for students and staff of color Monday and Tuesday,” Turner continued in his message.
“While I can’t be surprised by the decision of the Rittenhouse case, my lack of surprise doesn’t diminish the pain and hurt,” he said:
This decision shows the disparity of our legal system. If Rittenhouse were black, the outcome would be significantly different. Furthermore, self-defense is being used in the Ahmaud Arbery case as well. This is racism– a system that teaches that black and brown bodies are less than others. It is no wonder then that these cases carry significant weight in our schools.
Turner also appears to have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Rittenhouse case, where the then-17-year-old shot three white individuals in self-defense, killing two of them, during riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“There is a long history of acquittals such as this when white people get off for murdering black people,” he wrote. “To ignore racism in these situations just empowers racism.” [Emphasis added].
In response, a Parents Defending Education (PDE) press release asked “Does Turner not realize that the people Rittenhouse killed were white? Did he watch the video footage of what happened that night? Did he listen to the sworn testimony of witnesses, including one of the people Rittenhouse shot?”
If students question Turner’s decision to spotlight the Rittenhouse case, however, he says to remind them that “we are living in a time where racial justice is front and center of our conversations. Additionally, racial justice is a value of our school and district.”