State will investigate alleged racist incidents at Heuvelton school, lawyer says

Published: Mar. 25, 2022 at 5:48 PM EDT
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HEUVELTON, New York (WWNY) - State investigators will take a hard look at alleged racist incidents in the Heuvelton Central School District. That’s according to a lawyer for two parents.

Alleged racial incident complaints are not only piling up at Heuvelton schools, parents Amy and Travis Chisholm say they’ve filed a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Their lawyer said she understands about nine others have done the same.

“Alleging human rights violations of racial bullying and racist attacks happening – that have occurred and continue to occur at the school,” said attorney Andrea Marotta.

It isn’t just about a racist stunt that came to light in February – students spelling out the N-word on the gym floor. The complaints allege there were racist incidents before that and more after.

Rudy Ford has filed a complaint with the state’s human rights division on behalf of his daughter.

“Nothing has changed at the school since the first initial incidents that have happened,” said Ford, parent of Heuvelton 12th grader. “She has still encountered people saying the N-word to her here and there.”

Marotta, Chisholm, and Ford all say tensions have escalated in the community since the initial incidents came to light.

“Some of these kids think it’s you and them. Or us and them. But no. It’s “we.” We are in the community. I’ve been here for 42 years. My daughter grew up here. She’s a native,” said Ford.

Marotta says the Division of Human Rights is also lodging its own complaint against the school. It’s called a division-initiated complaint.

The division did not respond to 7 News’ request for confirmation.

If the state finds there has been unlawful discrimination, it can order the school to change the way it does things. And it’s policies. And even levy monetary fines.

A school spokeswoman, in response to allegations like the above, said any incidents of bullying will be handled according to the school’s code of conduct. It also plans to hire a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion coordinator.

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