Parent leaders in the Great Neck school district outlined anti-Asian incidents throughout the community dating back to January in a letter submitted to Blank Slate Media.
The letter, signed by nearly 40 parent leaders, said younger Asian students were asked if they eat bats and were called “COVID-19 spreaders” by other students. The letter said the racial slurs and hateful comments have been directed primarily at “young, defenseless children ranging from elementary to high school age.”
“We stand united in our condemnation of hate speech, negative stereotypes, prejudicial and discriminatory comments of any kind, but especially at this moment in time when we are witnessing the steady rise of anti-Asian bias incidents fueled by rhetoric around the pandemic,” the letter said. “We are asking our entire community to be part of the solution and to not repeat prejudicial generalizations of any nature.”
Parent leaders touted the “cultural and spiritual diversity” that the Great Neck peninsula presents, and encouraged everyone to aid in creating a tolerant and safe environment for themselves and their children.
“As a community, we are thankful of the overarching mission of a Great Neck education – to provide a safe environment for our children ‘to become life-long learners and compassionate productive members of a diverse, global society,’” the letter said.
In a statement on Wednesday, the school district said: “The Great Neck School District stands with our UPTC in denouncing all acts of bias and prejudice in our community. We have zero tolerance for discrimination in our schools. Our goal is to empower our students to be upstanders who show respect for all cultures. Our schools are committed to celebrating diversity and promoting acceptance, inclusion, and understanding through our curriculum and programs. We will continue to work cooperatively with our students, parents, and community partners to address specific concerns and to further strengthen our existing programs.”
Those who signed the letter were representatives from various parent-teacher organizations at the district’s nine schools. The letter did not specify where these alleged incidents occurred.
“An attack against one of our children is an attack against all of our children,” the letter said. “An act of discrimination against one of our community members is a hateful act against our community as a whole. Prejudicial comments aimed at one of our children are felt by us all and cast a shadow on our entire neighborhood.”
According to the New York State Education Department, of the 6,564 students enrolled in the district in 2019, 2,555 were of Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander descent.
The news comes less than a year after Margaret Gough, the director of the Manhasset Public Library, was accused of making comments seen as racially insensitive about a group of students of Asian descent, including allegedly calling them “foreigners.”
An independent investigation ordered by the library’s Board of Trustees found in February that “there was an insufficient basis upon which to conclude that racism and anti-Chinese bias motivated” any comments.