Manhattan’s sought-after Eleanor Roosevelt High School is reeling after a racist attack on an African-American freshman prompted a student sit-in — and an all-hands meeting of administrators and families on Tuesday.
Sources said two Eleanor Roosevelt co-eds, one white, the other Middle Eastern, sparked outrage on March 15 when they presented a third student — described as the only African-American ninth-grade girl at the screened, Upper East Side public school — with a tampon wrapper with “n----- don’t have rights” scribbled on it.
The horrified freshman handed the item to back her tormentors, sources said, and her friends reported it to Eleanor Roosevelt staffers, leading to the suspension of the two girls.
Eleanor Roosevelt Principal Dimitri Saliani ended classes early on Monday to meet with parents, students and staff for a discussion of the incident and called a larger meeting with families the next afternoon.
But students weren’t happy with Saliani’s efforts and the racial climate at Eleanor Roosevelt, where only 3% of students are black and 64% of students are white.
That’s in contrast to the overall public school system, where black students account for 26% of enrollment and white students account for 15%.
So roughly 100 students took over a hallway in the school known as El-Ro, which is housed in a former Sotheby’s warehouse.
Sophomore Jesse DeJesus, 15, said he skipped Spanish class to participate in the sit-in, but it was worth it.
“Stuff like this, it happens almost on a daily basis and it goes unheard. It’s not just in this school, it’s in every public school in America,” he said. “It takes for someone to be hurt so badly for action to be taken.”
DeJesus said that other public schools a few blocks away from Eleanor Roosevelt are mostly black and Hispanic, but a broken high school admissions system creates intense racial segregation.
He said Eleanor Roosevelt students are angry and frustrated with the March 15 incident and the overall state of the city schools.
“There shouldn’t have to be only 3% of black people in my school,” DeJesus said. "Why is that? It tells you that the system our schools take to accept students is broken.”
After occupying the hallway for a period, the El-Ro protesters were addressed by school officials and vacated the space.
City Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said Eleanor Roosevelt will offer bias training for all staff and workshops for students in each grade.
“Eleanor Roosevelt High School is committed to safety and inclusiveness, and will continue to take time for these conversations,” she said.
The city’s public school system is one of the most segregated in the country and Mayor de Blasio is struggling to address mounting criticism of complex school admissions, where black and Hispanic students, and kids from poor neighborhoods, are routinely rejected from top schools and sent instead to under-equipped classrooms.
On Friday, de Blasio blamed existing entrance rules for creating “massive segregation” at eight selective public high schools where he’s trying, without luck so far, to alter admissions processes.
Eleanor Roosevelt Sophomore Saviha Ahmed, 15, said that racism is prevalent at the school although it’s not commonly discussed.