Thursday, May 5, 2022

Racial posters found at Plymouth Canton campus

Two racially-based incidents recently reported in the Plymouth-Canton schools did not surprise some students or parents in the district.

During a meeting of the members of the board of education last month, Black Student Union President Jacob Jackson said the recent posting of a racially threatening video on social media was not a surprise to him or other Black students. He told the school board members that there is a climate of racial taunts prevalent in the schools that is often experienced by Black students.

“Honestly, when I heard what was on the video, I wasn't shocked because we experience things like this all the time,” Jackson told the board members. He said he has heard white students laughing at the racist message of hate on the video and that the atmosphere was “scary” and that change was needed. 

Since the video, created and posted by a district student was discovered, three racially biased and threatening posters have been found in the high schools. 

District Superintendent Monica Merritt and administrators took swift action following the discovery of the video including reporting the action to the Canton Police Department where an investigation took place. Merritt also sent a district-wide letter to parents informing them of the school policies which do not tolerate such actions. As the student who allegedly made the threatening video is a minor, police and school officials are prohibited from releasing the identity of the individual responsible for the video. Merritt said the discovery of the racially-biased posters has also been reported to police and that the issue is being handled in accordance with the district policy regarding such situations. She said police discovered the individuals responsible for the posters within 48 hours of the report and that the appropriate action was being pursued. The identity of these students is also protected by state law due to their ages.

Parents expressed their concern about the student who made threats of lynching and used the N-word on the video remaining in classes along with their children. One parent initiated an online petition demanding district officials address racism and intolerance more aggressively. Nearly 500 signatures have been reported on the petition to date.  The parent told the board members that her son had been called the N-word on his 10th birthday and her daughter being excluded from playing with a classmate because of her skin color.

A forum to discuss both the video and the posters is planned for 6 p.m. May 11 at Discovery Middle School in Canton. The district has also implemented an online form for students to report incidents of hate or racial bias in the schools. There is also an accessible QR code students can use posted in classrooms and hallways. Reports can be submitted anonymously or with contact information, officials said. 

“At P-CCS, we do not tolerate acts of hate or bigotry within our schools,” Merritt said in a second letter to parents following the discovery of the posters. “Only by working together will we be able to eradicate these types of incidents across our communities. Thus, I would urge (parents of district students) to continue to have an open dialogue with your children about the importance of fostering an inclusive environment where all are welcome. If your student experiences or witnesses anything of discriminatory nature, please have them reach out to a school administrator, counselor or trusted school personnel.”