Students at the once top-ranked public high school in the nation can add racism to the three Rs of their education.
Jose Torres, president of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Suburban Chicago, posted an open letter on the prestigious school’s website stating a dark-skinned doll with a noose around its neck has been discovered in a student lounge earlier this month. He assured students and faculty alike that the matter was not being ignored.
“I write you with a heavy heart,” Torres posted with regards to the Sept. 17 incident. “Our IMSA community suffers from the same ills affecting our entire American society where hate, bias and racial acrimony have replaced love, acceptance, tolerance and inclusion.”
IMSA was ranked the top public high school in the nation in Niche.com’s annual ratings report in 2018. The school was also recognized as its county’s most diverse in that survey. It dropped to second place in the 2019 Niche report release last month.
According to Torres, IMSA’s associate director of student life and its director of equity and inclusion jointly removed a lynched doll from a public space after being informed an “unknown person tied a pink piece of cloth around a bronze skinned ‘Barbie-like’ doll’s throat, and pinned it up from a cork-board in the student lounge.”
The school is reviewing security video to find the culprit, he wrote. The Chicago Tribune reported the matter has also brought to local law enforcement.
“There is no place for hate crimes at IMSA,” Torres stated. “We take this matter very seriously.”
The effigy was found on the morning of Sept. 17 and removed from a lounge where approximately 10 students were present. Faculty immediately closed down that part of the campus as they began their inquiry over the matter.
Torres described that space as “an area of campus that is meant to be a safe and inclusive space in which students have fun, relax, converse and otherwise unwind with friends.”
He noted that hate is an ongoing national problem to which his tony school was no exception.
“As much as we refer to IMSA as a bunker, we are not immune to our greater society’s influence,” wrote the school president, who holds a Ph.D.
Torres cited noted a report called Hate at School, published on Tolerance.org, as a “call to action” for educators to take a stand against what that study called the “Trump Effect.” That phenomenon, first written about by Tolerance.org in 2016, surveyed 2,000 teachers and found that year’s presidential election was “having a profoundly negative impact on schoolchildren across the country, producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom.”
The study gave examples including a middle-school student in New York threatening to kill a white teacher’s black husband, a 10-year-old Muslim girl in Massachusetts receiving a death threat calling her a “terrorist” and a student in Minnesota being told by another child that his Latina mother should be locked up “with all the illegal immigrants.”