Pittsford students walk out of school, protesting district’s response to racist video
PITTSFORD, N.Y. (WHEC) — Students in the Pittsford Central School District walked out of class on Wednesday morning in response to the district’s handling of a threatening, racist video that made the rounds on social media earlier this week.
Superintendent Michael Pero estimates that there were between 300 and 400 students protesting at each Pittsford high school.
News10NBC’s Emily Putnam was at Pittsford Sutherland High School while the walk-out was happening, and spoke to student organizers and the superintendent after it ended.
Correction: Superintendent Michael Pero estimates that there were 300-400 students protesting today. https://t.co/l0Wjuvlbrx— Emily Putnam (@whec_eputnam) September 29, 2021
Students said they’re not just upset over the video, but the way the district handles racist incidents in general.
"It felt like Pittsford always just tries to sweep racism under the rug and sort of toss those issues aside and try and cover it up… save their reputation," said Pittsford Sutherland senior and organizer of Wednesday’s walk-out, Jaylen Wims. "I hope to see sort of fine lines … and more of a … a sense of security, fine lines drawn in the code of conduct and serious penalties for racism. Things that are clear and concise.”
Superintendent Michael Pero, who released this letter to the Pittsford community earlier this week, supported the students’ protest and said he has worked with students for their input on the current code of conduct.
Pero confirmed that the student wielding the airsoft gun in the four-month-old video, saying he carries it to “kill N-words,” is not in school.
"What our code of conduct would say in situations like this is that we suspend a student, and then we have a hearing where an impartial hearing officer comes in, listens to the case, and makes a recommendation based on what the next steps should be,” Pero said.
It’s unclear when that hearing will happen.
Pero said there’s nothing more severe or significant that the district could have done as far as consequences for the student in the video. He says he and administrators were made aware of the video on Friday when a student emailed him about it.
After speaking to the media, Superintendent Pero addressed student organizers directly.
"You need to know we love you. We care about you, we want you to be safe. I want to end this, and I want to work with you to end it. Today was a big start,” Pero said. "Keep being brave, keep being trendsetters and work with me to end this. I don’t want to see hate anywhere in our schools."
The district plans to gather students at an assembly on Friday and hold parent forums to discuss incidents like the threatening video.
There is already a police presence at Pittsford schools, but Pero says he will work with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office to increase that presence if needed.