No anti-Asian remarks or incidents happened on Great Neck school grounds: Prendergast

No anti-Asian remarks or incidents happened on Great Neck school grounds: Prendergast
Parents throughout the Great Neck Public Schools District signed a letter that highlighted alleged instances of anti-Asian comments and racial slurs. (Photo from the Great Neck United Parent-Teacher Council)

Great Neck School Superintendent Teresa Prendergast said that no anti-Asian incidents occurred on school grounds in response to a letter sent by parent leaders saying racist remarks and incidents have occurred in the area. 

The letter, signed by nearly 40 parent leaders in the school district, said younger Asian students were asked if they eat bats and were called “COVID-19 spreaders” by other students.  The letter said the racial slurs and hateful comments have been directed primarily at “young, defenseless children ranging from elementary to high school age.”

The letter did not specify where the alleged instances occurred but parents said there have been “numerous anti-Asian” comments and remarks in the Great Neck community as recently as two weeks ago.

“I do want to reassure and confirm that the district absolutely remains committed to providing a safe, respectful and inclusive environment for students as well as staff, and we denounce any type of bias behavior,” Prendergast said last Wednesday during a virtual Board of Trustees meeting.

Prendergast noted the “longstanding programs” throughout the school district that support and promote inclusiveness and tolerance and educate students on how to act properly.  Prendergast said the schools are committed to promoting diversity of all kinds and will continue to work with students, staff, parents and other stakeholders to further enhance the district’s education on those topics.

“We have practices pre-K through 12 including programs and workshop models affiliated with the Anti-Defamation League and our wonderful partnership with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center,” Prendergast said.

Each of the two middle schools and two high schools in the district were also recognized as “No Place for Hate” schools.  On the elementary and middle school levels, Prendergast said, student center programs centered on social and emotional learning have also been implemented to ensure that classrooms are safe and enjoyable for all students.

Prendergast said she believes these initiatives and others will be a longstanding benefit to the community and drive bias out of the Great Neck school district community.

In the letter, the parent leaders touted the “cultural and spiritual diversity” that the Great Neck peninsula presents, and encouraged everyone to aid in creating a tolerant and safe environment for themselves and their children.

“As a community, we are thankful of the overarching mission of a Great Neck education – to provide a safe environment for our children ‘to become life-long learners and compassionate productive members of a diverse, global society,’” the letter said.

Those who signed the letter were representatives from various parent-teacher organizations at the district’s nine schools. The letter did not specify where these alleged incidents occurred.

“An attack against one of our children is an attack against all of our children,” the letter said. “An act of discrimination against one of our community members is a hateful act against our community as a whole.  Prejudicial comments aimed at one of our children are felt by us all and cast a shadow on our entire neighborhood.”

According to the New York State Education Department, of the 6,564 students enrolled in the district in 2019, 2,555 were of Asian, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander descent.

The news comes less than a year after Margaret Gough, the director of the Manhasset Public Library, was accused of making comments seen as racially insensitive about a group of students of Asian descent, including allegedly calling them “foreigners.”

An independent investigation ordered by the library’s Board of Trustees found in February that “there was an insufficient basis upon which to conclude that racism and anti-Chinese bias motivated” any comments.

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