Statement from Dr. Tom Rogers
May 10, 2021
For the past 5 days, the District has been deliberately and thoroughly investigating a bias-related incident at South Woods Middle School. The District has been careful not to release details about the incident in order to avoid leading or otherwise compromising the objective testimony of students who were still being interviewed as witnesses. I understand that has been difficult and confusing for our community, which is accustomed to clearer and more detailed reporting from the school district.
At this point, the investigation has progressed to a stage where we can share that there were multiple incidents where different students verbally expressed different types of bias and at least one of those incidents became physical.
This behavior has no place in Syosset or any other school. As we have repeatedly made clear in a statement this March regarding anti-Asian hate, last June in the wake of a national reckoning on racism, and in 2017 after our vandalism incident: “racism, bias, intolerance, and hate have no place in Syosset. Period.”
Teaching that lesson must start young and never end. What we’ve done as a district in the last 7 years is remarkable: we’ve instituted programs from elementary to high school to teach kindness, empathy, respect and tolerance. We’ve developed trainings and programs through partnerships with social justice and community organizations, we’ve redesigned our code of conduct -- in collaboration with these organizations whose very existence is to oppose racism -- to hold students accountable, but to also provide a path to heal the harm they’ve caused.
Syosset has intentionally defined itself as a welcoming community for its diverse population. The PTA’s Cultural Unity committee works to ensure newcomers are fully embraced by our families, the Board of Education was one of the first to develop a more inclusive holiday calendar and we provide translation broadly to make sure whole families are able to access information from the District.
That is not to say there isn’t work remaining, but rather that we’re just as committed to continuing as ever and incidents like these remind us of the urgency of the work. We have been in contact with local government and partner organizations who have offered us resources so we can continue to educate our staff and students about how to make Syosset the most inclusive environment possible.
Over the past several days, I’ve received a lot of email -- too many to reply to -- from Asian-American and non-Asian parents alike, angry and anguished that this could happen in their community, their Syosset. I am glad I work in a community that is upset by an incident like this and asks that we do everything we can to make their schools safe and inclusive. We have more work to do, with our investigation and with our learning community and we will see both through.
Statement from the Syosset Board of Education and Dr. Tom Rogers
We have witnessed in horror the rise in violence, hatred and discrimination against Asian American communities that has taken place over the last year. As a District that celebrates its diversity, works hard to promote inclusivity, and strives to promote equity in school and beyond, we condemn this abhorrent behavior and stand in solidarity with any members of our community who have been affected by it.
As leaders and educators, we believe our work is fundamental to building a future where every individual is equally valued and celebrated, and every person's potential can be realized and fulfilled. To that end, the Board and the District have set policies in place and supported the important work of examining our school environment to promote an inclusive and supportive culture for all. Our schools and classrooms must be places where students feel safe and know they belong.
Racism, bias, intolerance, and hate have no place here in Syosset.
Our Diversity and Inclusivity Task Force, established over a year ago and now over 65 members strong, has bolstered and guided our work in building on the strength of our diverse community, creating a socially cohesive climate and supporting equitable access and opportunity for all. Members of the task force range from District administration, teachers, parents, community leaders, members of the Syosset Interfaith Council of Clergy, members of our Board of Education and of course, students. The group is focusing on the student experience, our curriculum, professional development for staff, our hiring practices, and our community outreach. This ongoing effort to engage our students, faculty, staff, and community in important and thoughtful dialogue has advanced our cultural competency and our efforts to support a socially cohesive climate, and we are committed to building on and broadening this work.
Through intentional effort to understand one another, we can appreciate the similarities that bond us together. Our implementation of K-12 social-emotional initiatives, efforts to build a restorative culture, partnerships with local and national anti-bias organizations, student-led efforts, intentional shifts to the curriculum, professional development for our staff and the ongoing work of the Diversity and Inclusivity Task Force, helps empower our learning community to contribute to an inclusive climate.
We have worked hard and made some significant advancements, but this work is never done. We remain committed to provide safe, inclusive, and supportive environments in our schools. And we encourage all in our community to speak up and take a stand against hate.
This is a difficult time. Our team of administrators, school counselors, social workers, and psychologists are ready to assist students with anxiety or concerns. Alternatively, help can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or here. We urge every member of our community to listen to and support one another.
To our Asian American students, families, and staff, we are one community. We value you, we support you, and we stand with you.
The following two statements were read at the June 17, 2020 Board of Education Meeting.
Ms. Tracy Frankel, President of the Syosset CSD Board of Education, said the following on behalf of the Board:
Statement by Dr. Rogers, Superintendent: