Jul 29, 2014

Letter to the Editor: NAACP Seeks Answers

Oranges and Maplewood Unit of the NAACP inquires about racially charged graffiti found at high school

Letter to the Editor: NAACP Seeks Answers

On February 28th, representatives from the Education Committee of the Oranges and Maplewood Unit of the NAACP attended a West Orange Board of Education meeting. The purpose of our presence was an attempt to seek replies to unanswered questions/concerns that had not been proactively responded to in our meetings with Mayor R. Parisi and Superintendent of Schools, Dr. A. Cavanna. In addition, we were seeking to gain insight into contradictory statements that had been provided to our organization, or explained in the police report on the incident and or have clarification of the public statements generated by city officials that were not congruent or consistent with documentation.

As of this writing it would appear that many of the elected and appointed individuals in the township are hoping that the alleged bias incident becomes a distant memory. Since our Unit is not satisfied with the current outcomes or explanations generated on this possible bias crime we will not be deterred until more is known and publicly revealed.

The Oranges & Maplewood Unit of the NAACP, seeks a comprehensive investigation and a public reporting by the township’s Human Relations Commission (Chaired by Pastor Doug Adams) as to why the Board of Education employee, who supervises the weight room did not address the bias graffiti, in accordance with district policies.

Our Unit, wishes to have a meeting with Mayor, R. Parisi, BoE President, Ms. Laura Lab and Superintendent, Dr. A. Cavana in order to resolve concerns:

  • Was the student victim of the assault a drug dealer?
  • Has the assault victim been charged with the selling of drugs within the boundaries of a school building?
  • What specific evidence exists that would conclude that an African American student wrote the bias graffiti?
  • What vehicles has the school district created to generate a more respectful and diverse atmosphere in the high school [a current high school administrator admits that students regularly address their classmates with ethnic slurs without punitive consequences]?
  • Why did high school administrators permit “restricted areas” to exist in the weight room?
  • What activities and programs has the school district proposed that will address and promote racial harmony?
  • What is the school district doing to hire qualified and diverse personnel?
  • What is the school district doing to significantly increase the number of students of color who are eligible to participate in the High Aptitude Program (HAP) or advanced placement courses?
  • What existing academic programs are addressing and reducing the academic achievement gap between students of color and their white peers?)

The West Orange community is diverse. The needs of all citizens should be promoted and proactively addressed. However, our Unit perceives that some segments of the West Orange community do not promote diversity. This is exemplied when a middle school teacher (Ms. Hyde) chooses to teach an irrelevant lesson (Ten Little N_____) to her HAP students. Or, when West Orange adolescents of color, perceive that their civil and human rights are not respected or protected by the authorities.

In closing, the Oranges and Maplewood Unit of the NAACP stands ready to assist in the promoting of racial harmony in our local communities. However, in order for our organization to be of assistance, the truth must be revealed. Currently, on too many fronts, misinformation, unfair treatment and negative perceptions are allowed to be the preferred status of operation.

Our Unit hopes that the West Orange community wishes to promote diversity rather than an alternative community culture. If justice is denied or if racial harmony is not promoted within the West Orange community then something must be done to have state and federal statutes enforced.

The time to act is now. West Orange elected and appointed officials must not allow personal relationships to interfere with the execution of the duties or the commitments that are needed to promote and assist all citizens of West Orange.

Thomas Puryear
President, Orange & Maplewood: NAACP

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