High school students lock out administrators in protest over 'racist' video

PHOTO: Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York.PlayGoogle Maps Street View
WATCH Outrage at New York private school over video

Students at a private high school in New York City are staging a protest and locking administrators out of one of the campus buildings in an effort to demand change.

The protest comes two weeks after a recording showed students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, located in the Bronx, using "racist, homophobic, an misogynistic language," according to school officials. The video was circulated among students, which the head of the school confirmed in a letter to the community.

In the letter, which was sent out in mid-February, head of school Jessica Bagby wrote that the video was "made a few years ago" and that an investigation ensued after the video was shown to school officials on Feb. 13.

One student involved in the video withdrew from the school, Bagby wrote, but the consequences for the other students were not released.

PHOTO: Students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York, protest in response to the schools handling of a disciplinary incident relating to a racist video. Zoe Casdin
Students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York, protest in response to the school's handling of a disciplinary incident relating to a racist video.

None of the students' names were included in the letter and Bagby wrote that the school would not be commenting on the disciplinary process further "as it is confidential and involves teenagers."

The decision to withhold information about the disciplinary process seems to be at the root of the protests on campus on Monday.

Students have been posting videos of the protest on social media, with dozens of students shown sitting in a hallway and stairway.

A spokesperson for Fieldston released a statement Monday, saying "a group of Upper School students and parents initiated a peaceful sit-in protest in the administration building, locking out employees from entering."

In another video posted in an Instagram story on the page created by the group "Students of Color Matter," a student is shown addressing a group of protesters, saying that "the disciplinary process has yet to provide mandatory briefing on the conduct and punishment."

Another student protester is later shown saying that they "will be here until our immediate demands are met."

The group's immediate demands, as listed in a press release, involve having the disciplinary actions against the students in the video be made public. Among their other demands is the call for "a global investigation into systemic racism at Fieldston."

Several of the protesting students spoke to ABC News, saying that administrators did speak to them on Monday morning but would not immediately commit to addressing their demands. The protests will continue, the students said.

Bagby released another statement Monday afternoon confirming that she and other administrators went to meet with the protesting students and “were turned away by the students until their most immediate demands were met in writing.”

The lengthy statement goes on to respond, point by point, to their listed goals. The letter states that in addition to the one student who withdrew, it was recommended that three others be suspended and one receive no punishment.

“Given the climate in the Upper School as the Discipline Committee was meeting (and even still), the administration asked the students to take an indefinite leave, unless and until their return is tenable,” the letter reads, though goes on to note that “no one will be surprised by their return.”

PHOTO: Students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York, protest in response to the schools handling of a disciplinary incident relating to a racist video. Zoe Casdin
Students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York, protest in response to the school's handling of a disciplinary incident relating to a racist video.

The letter promises that a multi-faceted investigation into systemic nature of racism at the school will take place and that the principal will reach out to the four punished students about making a public apology, though the letter notes that they “have wanted to apologize from the outset, but the [upper school] administration understood that many students and adults were not in a place to receive or hear that apology at that time.”

Adia Santos, a senior at the school, said her fellow students "definitely had to consider" how the protests might impact their college acceptances.

"We just came to the conclusion ... it would be doing ourselves a disservice by not participating," Santos told ABC News.

"This is something we honestly dedicated our lives to so nothing was going to keep us from here," Santos said.

In the letter addressed to the Fieldston community Monday afternoon, Bagby said that students who engaged in the protest “are supported academically and appropriate accommodations are made.”

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