A Manhattan school plans to separate students by race during discussions scheduled for next week related to identity and social justice topics, the New York Post reported.
The Lower Manhattan Community School plans to divide students into affinity groups, based on skin color to “undo the legacy of racism and oppression in this country that impacts our school community,” according to an email sent to parents, the NYP reported.
On Nov. 23 and 24, seventh and eighth grade will choose to participate in discussion with either whites, Asians or multi-racial students, while African-American and Hispanic student groups will participate in a separate discussion, Principal Shanna Douglas wrote in the email, according to the NYP.
Another group will be offered to students who are uncomfortable with the format of the program, and those students will reportedly be asked, “w are we even talking about racial identity?”
Students “will explore the question ‘How do our racial identities influence our experiences?’ in affinity groups,” Douglas announced. “An affinity group is a group formed around a shared interest.”
New York Department of Education spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said it was “abundantly clear to both students and parents that anyone can opt-out of this two day celebration if they desire,” in a statement to the NYP. “This optional program was developed in close coordination with both the School Leadership Team, PTA and families,” he said.
Students will be separated by race because “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,” the school principal said in her email. The school has not properly addressed racial issues in the past, she said.
According to Douglas, the school is 44 percent Asian, 29 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, and eight percent black.
“I think our teachers know how to handle it,” one mother of a child at the school told the NYP regarding the affinity groups. Another parent said she didn’t object to the discussions because “the staff is very good about being clear when it comes to race.”
Other parents disagreed, arguing that the school’s plan was divisive and saying they wished the school would focus more on academics and less on political material, the NYP reported.
“I think a lot of us feel like this is too much,” one mother with a child at the school told the NYP. “But most parents are too afraid to say anything at this point. Why are we separating our kids like this?”
Douglas concluded her email by saying “I know that RACE is a complex issue for us all to address” and encouraging parents to contact her with concerns, the NYP reported.
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