Racism in our schools and town

To the Editor:

I write today following yet another racist event within our school district this past week. An 8th grade student from John Witherspoon Middle School was caught by his parent after indulging in “pot brownies” with friends. When questioned about where they got the illegal substance, the young man without hesitation named a black boy he goes to school with. A phone call from the parent alerted the black young man’s mother. The black student had nothing to do with the event at all and texted the young man who named him asking him why. His answer was “_______ told me to, he said they wouldn’t ask any questions bc ur black”.

Princeton High School senior Jamaica Ponder wrote a blog post on the situation and stated “Princeton, listen to me, we have a race problem.” She is unequivocally correct!

In April of last year, we were shocked with the revelation that some of our high school students thought playing a game called Jews vs. Nazis was an acceptable pastime. Just this past March we were blindsided by a young woman in the high school posting on Snapchat “I’m on the bus with a bunch of n—— help.” Now this latest event in our middle school. My question to my fellow Princetonians is what is going on?

In a town of over 30,000 people with a median household income of $114,645, where 78% are college graduates and 37% work in education, a town where we have always prided ourselves on and welcomed a very eclectic mix, where exactly have we lost our way?

I read the statement Superintendent Cochrane put out and thought his message was a good one, quickly exonerating the innocent black young man and saying the other children that lied had consequences imposed upon them. What still concerns me though is the collective, district wide follow through. Words on paper is a good first step, but completely useless if not put to constant use.

Racism in our schools and our town is not to be tolerated. Allowing our youth to use hateful words or actions is shameful and appalling. And not taking a hard stand as a district and a town to eradicate this behavior is completely unacceptable.

We, as parents, should know our job is to raise our children to be strong, capable and evolved. That includes raising them to be kind, to be tolerant, to be ready to be a productive adult able to move about in a world made up of many different shades, languages, religions and cultures.

On Mr. Cochrane’s page on the Princeton Public Schools website part of his message reads: “Our goal with diversity will be threefold: 1) to celebrate the cultural richness of our community, 2) to expand our outreach to ensure all families feel comfortable accessing the resources of our school system, and 3) to build our institutional and individual responsiveness to students and families from a variety of racial, religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds.”

I caution the district and the members of our community to heed those words and practice them daily, in actions and policies. We need to take a hard stance on racism to eradicate it. To have our children and fellow citizens realize it will NEVER be accepted. I beseech each and every one of us to look deep within ourselves to be sure we are part of the solution – not the problem. We, as adults, have an example to set – at home, at work, at school, on the practice field, in every facet of our daily lives. I truly hope we do not continue to fail!

Kelly Ryan


  1. Newsflash: Kids are stupid. The intolerable behavior is not being tolerated.
    Ok, good talk.

    1. Newsflash: Kids say what their parents teach them. Racism is a learned and passed down behavior by white people.

  2. Was your first clue to problems within Princeton’s school system a declining enrollment? Possibly the rapid expansion of a certain charter school?

  3. What a joke, as long as Princeton parents keep raising their kids as “elite” the racism will never go away. Anyone born and raised in Princeton knows that

  4. May 8, 2017

    Dear Parents,

    We are writing to let you know that two students discovered an act of vandalism this morning in one of the stalls in the boys’ bathroom next to the gym. Someone had pried off the plastic cover (which usually rests over the toilet-paper roll) and
    written an offensive racist phrase on the side of the roll. Students saw the comment and immediately reported it to the 5-8 office.

    Princeton Charter School is a diverse community that will not tolerate such a
    damaging and hateful statement. The middle school met this afternoon at 2:45pm to affirm our commitment to the value we place on being an inclusive community that is enriched by our differences.

    In my nine years at Princeton Charter School, I have been impressed by the
    rich diversity of the PCS community: Bigotry will not be tolerated on our campus. We have high expectations for the conduct of all of our students in this small tight-knit community. However, as educators, we understand that these incidents do happen. When they do, we need to address them, quickly and unambiguously.

    I want to commend the students who reported it to the 5-8 office immediately. Understanding that this is very upsetting, we have offered the opportunity for
    students to discuss the incident privately with Sue Kushner, Lisa Eckstrom or me. If your children know anything about this incident, please call Lisa Eckstrom (609-924-0575, ext. 2307) or email her at eckstrom@princetoncharter.org.Sincerely,

    Larry Patton
    Head of School

  5. You say: “Where exactly have we lost our way?” But I just want to say that Racism has always been a thing in majority white communities, this isn’t new and it’s definitely not new to Princeton. Maybe everyone forgot or just didn’t want to talk about race but if this is new to you, you’ve probably been living under a rock or have worn a blinder over your eyes for the past couple of decades.

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