Photo: Principal Dr. Dan Richards with Barbara Joseph. BHS student organizer.
[Editor’s note: Below is a letter sent to students, parents and staff from Belmont High School Principal Dr. Dan Richards concerning the protest rally and march by students on Friday, May 29.]
Dear Belmont Students, Parents, Guardians, Faculty, and Staff,
I am writing to inform you and provide clarity about the student march on Friday, May 26, 2017 around the pond at Belmont High School.
At 7:00am on May 26, one of our students brought to my attention that a racial comment was posted the night before on Snapchat by a student who does not attend Belmont High School. The post was discovered by a Belmont High School student who forwarded it to our school’s Black in Belmont student group, which mainly consists of African-American/Black students.
I then met with students representing Black in Belmont to gain a better understanding of the situation. They explained the details of the incident and shared with me the Snapchat post. Throughout the course of the discussion, the students shared their feelings about the incident and the need to continue the conversation with the school administration and other staff members to help process the situation and discuss how best to respond to it.
Throughout the better part of the day, the Belmont High School administrative team and a group of teachers met with students to process the incident and to strategize short and long-term proactive solutions. Together, we agreed that a clear message of solidarity was needed. The message should clearly show unity and that derogatory messages and/or behavior of this nature are not tolerated by the Belmont High School community. After much discussion, a voluntary student, faculty, staff, and community march around the pond was planned for that afternoon.
At 1:30 pm, members of the student body, faculty, staff, representatives of Belmont Against Racism and the Belmont Police Department gathered at the front of the school to hear an inspirational speech by a student member of the Black in Belmont group. The group walked in peaceful solidarity around the pond chanting slogans of unity. The march concluded at approximately 2:00 pm back at the school.
I am proud of our faculty, staff, community members, and especially our students who chose to react to a hateful and hurtful situation in a peaceful and productive manner. Their decision to come together and support our African-American/Black students by marching together with one voice, is a symbol of our strength, values, and steadfast commitment to equality.
I am continuously impressed with the maturity, emotional strength, and positive spirit with which our students respond to such incidents which can only serve to undermine the inclusive culture at Belmont High School. We remain committed to the important work that lies ahead of us to ensure that everyone is a welcomed, respected, and valued member of the Belmont High School community.
Daniel E. Richards