Racism Suit Filed against Elite New York Private School

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The Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City is facing yet another scandal, this time involving allegations of discrimination against black students, according to a new report.

Kim Emile, the parent of one former and one current student, has filed a lawsuit against the elite private school in the Bronx claiming that her children were met with racial hostility and bias there for more than a decade, according to the New York Post.

Fieldston “proved itself not to be the bastion of educational, racial, and social justice it has long proclaimed itself to be,” claims the suit filed in Manhattan federal court.

The lawsuit alleges that the school’s administrators, including head of school Jessica Bagby, did not take appropriate action against students who participated in racist behavior. School leadership also failed to provide black students with the same academic opportunities as white students, the claim alleges.

The suit details an alleged incident in which a group of white male students participating in a challenge that prohibited masturbation for one month encouraged each other in a group chat to view pictures of black and brown female students whose photos were posted to the chat as a way to sexually ‘turn off’ the young men participating in the challenge,” according to the suit.

“This objectification and denigration of Black and Brown young women and their bodies at Fieldston are clearly rooted in racism, sexism, and classism, and serve to continue their oppression dating to the slave era, when Black and Brown women were considered subhuman,” the suit states.

Emile, who is also an alumna of the school, says two white students called her son a racial slur during an October 2020 Snapchat conversation. Those students were allegedly given leniency while Bagby retaliated against Emile’s son with an investigation into his behavior, according to the suit.

She also claims that her daughter was bullied over her hair and placed into academic groupings beneath her qualifications.

In a letter to the school community on Thursday, Bagby said that “certain allegations date back many years and have already been investigated by the School.”

“We were actively in the process of investigating newly disclosed reports when the suit was filed, and we take these allegations seriously,” the letter adds. “We remain committed to our values and goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the ongoing transformational work we have been engaged in as a community.”

Bagby continues: “Additionally, we have seen statements on social media claiming the existence of video and audio recordings of current seniors using racist and derogatory language. ECFS takes these reports seriously; however, we have asked for the recordings to be shared with the School, and they have not been produced. If any such video or audio recordings are provided to us, we will investigate them.”

The suit is seeking damages and calling for the immediate removal of the school’s entire board, as well as Bagby, who announced last month that she would step down from her post after next school year.

The lawsuit is the latest in a string of racially and politically motivated scandals that have plagued the school in recent years.

Last year a teacher at the school was terminated after making anti-Israel social media posts and allegedly making an obscene gesture at a school assembly. 

In 2019 a video of students using racist and homophobic language sparked student outrage and protests. In 2018, an interracial couple with a child who attended the school filed a lawsuit accusing staffers of lodging false child neglect accusations against them after they made allegations that the school was allowing kids to self-segregate.

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