Eastchester parents say lack of diversity education led to apparent blackface incident

The district launched an investigation and ultimately determined the student did not intend to be racially insensitive and closed the case.

Jonathan Gordon

Mar 8, 2023, 1:10 AM

Updated 443 days ago

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Several parents of Black students at Eastchester High School said the district's lack of diversity led to an incident involving a student seemingly wearing blackface last week.
"I immediately gasped when I saw what looked like blackface," said Janet Harrison DuBoulay, a parent of two Eastchester High School students.
DuBoulay and her husband Marlo are two parents who raised concerns after they said a student wore a full-face black mask while rapping during the district's annual student-led charity concert 'Rock Against Cancer" event last Friday.
"It's a discomfort, right, because here you feel that you are being made fun of," said Marlo DuBoulay.
The district launched an investigation and ultimately determined the student did not intend to be racially insensitive and closed the case.
"After speaking with the student, as well as others in attendance at the event, the district asserts that this student was paying homage to a specific hip-hop entertainer known for wearing ski masks during performances," wrote Eastchester Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ronald Valenti, in a statement to News 12.
But parents say that response is not enough.
"I get and believe that those kids didn't want to cause harm and that it was part of the act but there was harm caused," said Janet Harrison DuBoulay.
They say not being aware that something is offensive is not an excuse to be able to do it and believe the district's lack of diversity education allowed this to happen.
"Kids are not taught to have empathy for the issues that have gone on in the past with other races," said Marlo DuBoulay.
They along with other parents are calling on the district to implement a stronger Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program to better educate students, faculty, and staff in hopes this prevents something like this from happening again.
The district launched a DEI Task Force during the 2020-21 school year, according to online records.
Last January, the task force presented the Board of Education with a list of recommendations including thinking more critically about the teaching process and curriculum, incorporating more historically underrepresented voices in the classroom, and identifying the barriers to equity. 
It's unclear what changes, if any, the district made. A district spokesperson did not respond to News 12's request for an overview of the DEI curriculum or plan the district currently has in place.
"The district remains committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as continuing to promote the values of good citizenship among our students from grades K-12," Valenti wrote in his statement.  


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