Amherst schools have been the site of multiple racist attacks throughout the 2013-2014 school year.
Created by kristinpalpini on Jul 7, 2014
Last updated: 09/11/14 at 12:54 PM
Amherst: A school year of racial tension has no followers yet. Be the first one to follow.
Joshua Coutu, a teacher new to the Amherst school district, was hired to teach math at the high school.
Over fears of "race-baiting," Amherst school official change course and withdraw from an open forum hosted by WHMP on race. The forum went on as planned the next day with black high school alumni describing their experiences in town.
Acknowledging that the Amherst-Regional School Committee has factions that may be causing harm to the school system and student education, a divided board elected a new chairman at its annual retreat Thursday afternoon.
Trevor Baptiste of Pelham received five of the nine votes for chairman, replacing Lawrence O’Brien of Amherst. O’Brien, who had been interim chairman since June, received three votes and Dan Robb of Pelham got one.
Supporting school administrators in establishing a more racially and linguistically diverse staff, and retaining these teachers after they are hired, is an initial recommendation expected to come from a group focused on ensuring that Amherst public schools provide a welcoming educational environment for all students.
Ross will spend her time listening to residents and identifying ways to create an equitable environment for all people.
A quorum of the Amherst Regional School Committee on Monday faulted the decision of its chairman to reprimand member Amilcar Shabazz for allegedly calling an unidentified middle school student a racist.
But to those who signed the memo that chastised Shabazz for his comments, including Chairman Lawrence O’Brien and Katherine Appy, chairwoman of the Amherst School Committee, the afternoon session at the Pelham Community Center violated the Open Meeting Law because it was not called by the chairman.
Seven teachers agreed to meet with the Gazette to discuss racial incidents throughout the school year. In the interview teachers reiterated their regret about how the year unfolded for Gardner, who lives in Amherst and came to Amherst Regional after teaching math for 10 years at Northampton High School. They are sad she felt shunned by them. They are proud of the way students responded to the events and resent the harsh words some community members aimed at the school.
At the close of a school year roiled by racist incidents, members of community groups who planned to voice their social justice-related concerns with the regional school committee Tuesday were upset after their time to speak was limited.
Around 30 members of various groups turned up to speak during the public comment period of the last joint meeting of the school year of the Amherst, Pelham and regional school committees. Some half-dozen of them spoke after the committee enforced a policy that, according to a meeting handout, allows no more than 15 minutes for public comment and no more than 3 minutes for an individual to speak.
School officials send a letter of reprimanded to the Equity Task Force after the panel’s chairman allegedly identified a white student involved in racial tensions at Amherst Regional High School as a racist. The letter says, in part, :The Chair spoke about an incident which occurred this spring when secondary students of color decided to identify and beat up the greatest racist they could find. ... As an official of the Regional School Committee, the Chair risked violating the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) rights of these students by making this public statement,”
Around June a task force was formed to study equity in Amherst schools. The 30-person committee, headed by School Committee member Amilcar Shabazz, was organized in response to the racial threats against math teacher Carolyn Gardner who left school last month as incidents continued. Also, at this time it is unclear if Gardner will return in September.
School officials announce Gardner will not return to finish the school year following the discovery of another threatening note.
Amherst Regional High School Principal Mark Jackson said police have more evidence to work with this time in identifying the author of a threatening note referencing Gardner.
The note said: “We are bringing a gun to school” and was signed “Carolyn Gardner.”
The latest note renewed questions about whether the school is doing enough to address racial hostility.
Protesters went to the school to discuss the issue directly.
uring a vigil Tuesday evening on the Common, about 150 community members, former teachers and local students called for an end to what they termed a culture of “institutionalized racism” in the Amherst regional school district.
The vigil was organized in support of Amherst Regional High School math teacher Carolyn Gardner, who has been the target of racist graffiti and threatening notes since October.
In light of a series of lockdowns in the schools prompted by errant visitors and hostile, racial notes, officials at a School Committee meeting outlined their plan to tighten security. Among the changes: stricter sign-out procedures in classrooms, hall monitoring by staff and the installation of video cameras at the high school and middle school.
On Thursday, graffiti was found on a boy’s bathroom wall that said, more or less, “F--- that teacher,” said Superintendent Maria Geryk.
At the time the discovery was expected to push teacher Carolyn Gardner’s return to the high school back. Gardner was slated to resume teaching on Monday.
Carolyn Gardner, a mathematics teacher at Amherst Regional High School who has been targeted by racial slurs three times since last fall, accused administrators Tuesday night of mounting an “anemic” and “sluggish” response to incidents she said are “attempts to dehumanize all people of color.”
Gardner emotionally addressed the School Committee as more than 100 community members turned out to support her.
Amherst Regional High School Principal Mark Jackson said he and other school administrators are investigating the discovery of racist graffiti in the school targeting a teacher of color, Carolyn Gardener. This is the second racist graffiti targeting Gardener since she began teaching in Amherst in September, 2013. Students create banners, other art, to show support for Gardner.
Questioned by a reporter, school officials say they will not divulge what consequences there were or how many students are involved in incidents leading up to the lockdown.
"Warrior Week" kicked off with activities focused on social justice, equity and anti-bullying and organized by various student groups will take place at the high school. The event was inspired by a visit to Amherst Regional High School last fall by educator and social justice advocate Calvin Terrell of Social Centric of Phoenix, and was in the works long before the Facebook incident.
School officials concluded their investigation into the Facebook threat that closed Amherst Regional High School on Jan. 27, but were still unraveling related allegations of bullying and racial harassment.
On Tuesday, the first day back, students, faculty and administrators spent the day in meetings and discussions as officials continued to unravel the events that led to one student posting on a Facebook page that he is bullied and carries a gun to school. The talks also sought to confront racial antagonism that has flared at the school.
As a precaution, school officials decided to close Amherst Regional High School the Monday after the threat was discovered.
Superintendent Maria Geryk spotted the troubling message on the Facebook page Amherst Regional High School Confessions Sunday Geryk contacted Jackson, who knows who the host of the site is, but not the person who wrote the message. She said she then contacted Livingstone, who called Town Manager John Musante. The town’s information systems’ specialist, Kristopher Pacunas, was called in to help identify the person. She said by 3:15 a.m. Sunday officials had a name. Police then interviewed the student and his family and searched his home, she said.
At 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, the senior involved in the social media dust up, posts a note on Facebook page Amherst Regional High School Confessions that read: “tbh im packin modtly everyday at school. but since im calm and am able to keep my composure noone dies. i have it for protection yet ppl still think they can bully me.”
At some point prior to late-January 2014, a senior school choice student, living in Hampden County, is said to have used the N-word in a social media post congratulating a black friend, who is a member of the Amherst Regional basketball team. The use of the word allegedly triggered the anger of other students and led to exchanges of insults via Facebook, Twitter and text messages as well as confrontations.
At some point in October, 2013, a “threatening note” toward math teacher Carolyn Gardner was found in an ARHS school bathroom.
“This experience has left me feeling very unsafe in this building. That day, it was most difficult for me to teach through to the end of E-period. As soon as school ended, at 2:20 p.m., I locked my door in fear. ... It was Mr. Jackson who unlocked my door that afternoon and escorted me to the parking lot,” Gardener wrote in a statement.