NAACP files complaint with state over alleged racism among Southwick students

NAACP files complaint with state over alleged racism among Southwick students

Local News

A racist conversation regarding an online “slave auction” last month exposed deeper patterns of racial discrimination in the school district, according to the Greater Springfield NAACP.

A racist conversation among students at a Southwick school reportedly occurred on Snapchat, sparking a wider outcry over alleged racism in the district. Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

After students at Southwick Regional School in Southwick allegedly conducted an online “slave auction,” the NAACP filed a complaint with the state taking issue with school officials’ handling of the situation. 

In a complaint filed with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Problem Resolution System, the Greater Springfield NAACP said that all but two students involved in the incident have returned to school. President Bishop Talbert Swan II said that the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District should have a “zero tolerance” policy for racist actions and called for the students responsible to be expelled, MassLive reported. 

District officials and the Greater Springfield NAACP did not return requests for comment Tuesday. 

  • Southwick students allegedly held a ‘slave auction’ on Snapchat.

  • Parent: ‘Serious lack of understanding’ from Southwick school after online ‘slave auction’

A spokesperson for DESE confirmed that the Problem Resolution System received a complaint from the Greater Springfield NAACP, but did not elaborate on the details.

The conversation in question occurred on Snapchat outside of school in early February, officials have said. She called the conversation “highly inappropriate and racist.” Superintendent Jennifer Willard said last month that the district notified police, and conducted an investigation that concluded a week after the incident. 

At the time, Swan contacted Willard on behalf of one of the victims, a Black student, who was apparently never contacted by the administration as part of the investigation, previously reported. 

Allyson Lopez, the mother of one of the students who was targeted, said in a statement to local news station WWLP that a meeting with district officials left her “profoundly disillusioned.” She said that the conversation was indicative of a “systemic failure” within the school district, and that she would “explore alternative avenues to seek justice.”

Willard said that the district was committed to open communication about the issue and providing additional resources for students and their families. She called for a special assembly after February break. 

At a School Committee meeting last week, Chair Robert Stevenson said that the behavior was unacceptable. He said that he wished the district could have disclosed more details about the investigation and the consequences facing the students involved, The Boston Globe reported. 

Swan said at the meeting that the conversation exposed a deeper pattern of racist incidents in the district. Parents have moved out of the district after their children were bullied, he said, and teachers of color have drawn attention to discrimination. 

State education officials and Attorney General Andrea Campbell’s office have both been in touch with Willard about the incident, Stevenson said at the meeting, according to MassLive. Both reportedly told her that it appeared the district handled the matter appropriately.

The Problem Resolution System is used to handle complaints that allege a school or a district is not meeting legal education requirements. Typically, DESE handles these complaints by reaching out to the district and giving the complainant an opportunity to provide more information before reaching a conclusion. If noncompliance is found, DESE often orders corrective actions like additional training or changes to the policies and procedures of a district, according to the DESE spokesperson.

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