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March 25, 2019

Anti-racism protest at Fieldston private school in Bronx ends with students declaring victory

March 14, 2019
Students hold hands outside the Ethical Culture Fieldston School Thursday, March 14, 2019 in the Bronx, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

The anti-racism protest and occupation that plunged the posh Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx into chaos ended with the administration meeting students’ demands just ahead of their spring break deadline Thursday.

The Daily News broke the story in February of racial unrest at the famed Riverdale school after an shocking video of white students repeating the phrase “crack n—-r” went viral.

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Students with a group called Students of Color Matter began their protest Monday, taking over school buildings for three days to protest the lack of response to the racist video.

About 90 students stayed in school buildings that first night, demonstrators said, with another 50 teens occupying a second building on Tuesday night.

Late Wednesday, the students reached an agreement with school administrators over their demands to end the occupation.

Among other things, school administrators agreed to overhaul school discipline procedures, hire more faculty of color, implement racial bias training and recruit more students of color.

The protesters call themselves Students of Color Matter, at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, NY.
The protesters call themselves Students of Color Matter, at the Fieldston School in the Bronx, NY. (Zoë Casdin)

Students who participated in the Fieldston occupation are very happy with the deal, said senior Chassidy Titley, 16, who helped organize the protest.

“Everyone is just overwhelmed with joy right now,” said Titley. “We’re so happy that we’ve finally begun the beginning of positive change that will benefit not only us but also student generations after us.”

Fieldston administrators sent an email to families just before midnight Thursday in which they announced that the lockout had ended and outlined the terms of the school’s settlement with protesters.

The letter, identified as a joint message from Students of Color Matter activists, Fieldston administrators and the Board of Trustees, said the 80-hour student occupation was “essential in bringing this institution closer to fulfilling its mission” and contained an apology from Head of School Jessica Bagly over her handling of negotiations with students.

The letter outlined a wide-ranging set of 16 actions for “immediate long-term improvements” at the 140-year-old institution.

Student Negotiator Kiah George, 18, left is embraced by Claire Scavone, 18, outside the Ethical Culture Fieldston School Thursday, March 14, 2019 in the Bronx, New York.
Student Negotiator Kiah George, 18, left is embraced by Claire Scavone, 18, outside the Ethical Culture Fieldston School Thursday, March 14, 2019 in the Bronx, New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

Reps for Fieldston didn’t respond to a request for comment on the letter and the end of the demonstration.

Former state lawmaker Keith Wright, who graduated from Fieldston in 1973 and served as a mediator between students and staffers in the occupation, said that the teens led intense negotiations with school officials.

“I’m shocked that some of the same things we demanded forty-nine years ago are the same things students are asking for now,” said Wright, who participated in an occupation of Feildston in 1970 over racial problems at the school.

“The way to cure cancer is to expose cancer,” Wright added. “These student are on the way to curing the cancer of racism.”

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