EDUCATION

Students share stories of racial abuse at McNair High School

BY Joanna Gagis, Producer/Correspondent |

A’Dreana Williams said she’s been racially abused by her peers at McNair Academic High School in Jersey City since she was a freshman. She said some classmates have even used what’s called the whipping app.

“Move your hand like this and the app would make a whip noise. And they would follow black students around the school and whip them,” she said.

Finally fed up, Williams started an Instagram post to share some of her classmates’ text messages and social media posts that contain racist language and content. Someone else was fed up too and shared the stream to a Twitter account called McNair needs to be seen. That led the school to launch an investigation of 21 students, and three have been suspended.

“We are going through the investigation of all the students that made these posts and we will follow with the code of conduct that we have for the district. Was it a conversation that was inappropriate between friends using unacceptable, or is this how they truly feel? Is this really their perspective?” said Jersey City Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Norma Fernandez.

“I mean, no matter how it happened, it still disrupted our instructional process, so that is part of the code of conduct,” she added.

McNair is a magnet school in Jersey City’s public school district and one of the most diverse schools in the state. Students have to apply to attend. Pending the results of the school’s investigation, some could face expulsion, although Fernandez says the district’s focus is more on rehabilitation than punishment.

“We are in the process of creating the next generation. We need to help them find the best in them. We’re looking to make sure that, what was lacking in their education that led to this moment?” Fernandez said.

But Williams disagrees and says they need to go.

“These students should not be allowed to go to school at McNair or anywhere. The thing is that people do not understand what it’s like to have to see your abuser every day,” Williams said.

When asked if any students could face criminal charges if the content is deemed hate speech, the Attorney General’s Office said in in a statement: “Whether any particular conduct or speech may give rise to criminal or civil liability is fact-sensitive, and the office is unable to comment on how the laws apply to particular facts. However, under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD), students have the right to be free from discriminatory harassment in school and schools must take action to stop harassment of which they know or should have known.”

In a statement, McNair’s principal said the school will start anti-racism and cultural sensitivity seminars and mediated dialogs for all students and staff. But Williams says the administration has been responsible for the some of the abuse, forcing girls to take off their cultural hair wrappings, and never holding anyone accountable after countless reports of abuse.

“It makes you feel like you’re not a human being, right,” Williams said. “It’s like, we are really having to explain, you’re really having to explain why I deserve to be treated nicely?”

She said if they do have sessions, she hopes no black students have to sit through them.