More than 200 current and past North Quincy High School students have signed a letter demanding an end to racial bias at the school, after students of color at both of the city’s high schools took to Instagram to share stories of enduring racist taunts, bullying, and discrimination from classmates and staff.
Students have described their experiences, frequently in heart-rending detail, through more than 120 posts on Instagram’s “POC At North Quincy” and “Black At Quincy High” pages. They document harassment faced by students due to their race, ethnicity, faith, and sexual orientation at both North Quincy High School and Quincy High School.
“i’ve been called the n word multiple times and when i’d tell these people to stop or that it wasn’t funny they’d just laugh,” one North student wrote on Instagram. “non black people gotta understand the n word isn’t a word they can use.”
Quincy’s school leaders said they are taking the reports seriously and will investigate any reports of racist conduct. But those efforts are falling short, according to many of the city’s high schoolers, who have spoken out on social media and in an open letter sent Monday to North Quincy administrators.
“North Quincy High School is not immune to the enduring history of racial discrimination in America, and we demand that the administration act to address past allegations of discrimination, as well as take steps to create a more inclusive learning space for the future,” said the letter signed by 230 students and alumni.
Interim Superintendent Kevin Mulvey, in a June 26 letter to Quincy’s entire school community, announced that the district will provide professional development in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion for central administrators, principals, and assistant principals in July and August.
“I have read many of the posts and would like the participants in these forums to know that I am listening to their concerns and reflecting upon how our school community can address them and move forward with positive change,” Mulvey wrote.
One Black student at Quincy High wrote on Instagram about hearing racist language from classmates: “It was so painful to [hear] those kind of words.”
Another student wrote that one teacher kept petting the student’s braids: “i hated feeling like a walking petting zoo.”
Similar stories were shared by North Quincy High students on Instagram.
One North student wrote that the school needs to better represent people of color and the LBGT community: “I see people blatantly being racist and homophobic and no one does anything or says anything.”
A student who had difficulty with math quoted a teacher as saying: “I thought Asians were supposed to be smart.”
In their open letter to North officials, students and alumni said the school must implement a protocol for addressing racial violence and hate speech separate from bullying; create a transparent reporting system for hate speech and prejudice; and end racial profiling by faculty.
Jamanee Depina, 19, who graduated from North last year and signed the letter, said there has been a lack of action in addressing racist behavior at the school.
“Maybe [the teacher] personally speaks to the student who was affected by the hate speech, but there is no further accountability, no further change that will happen,” Depina said. “Those students will continue on . . . using that kind of language.”
Sam Hwang, 19, who graduated last year and also signed the open letter to North officials, said the school’s mascot, “Yakoo,” has helped fuel racial issues at the school.
That mascot is a cartoon of a school benefactor depicted wearing a feathered headband, and holding a spear and a tomahawk. The image has been criticized for being a racist depiction of a Native American. A petition to change the mascot has about 7,000 backers, and the students’ letter also calls for its removal.
“That sends a very clear message,” Hwang said of the mascot. “If you have people saying, ‘This is racist,’ and you have the school saying, ‘Oh no it’s not, don’t worry about that,’ I think that is a big reason that we see so much racism . . . among the student body.”
About 1,400 supporters of the mascot have started their own petition.
In Quincy’s public schools, nearly 40 percent of students are Asian, with African-Americans and Hispanics each counting for about 7 percent, according to data collected by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. About 42 percent of students are white.
But staffing at the city’s schools does not reflect this reality: Of nearly 1,200 full-time equivalent staff, about 93 percent are white, state data show. Just 54 full-time equivalent staff are Asian, with a handful of Black and Latino staffers. There is one full-time equivalent Native American staff member, according to state data.
Quincy is in the midst of a search for a new superintendent of schools, and students who spoke to the Globe said they want addressing these issues to be a priority for the next superintendent.
“I want the new superintendent to make a commitment to ending xenophobia,” said a 17-year-old North Quincy student, who hopes that person will be “someone who understands the community as a whole.”
In a statement to the Globe, Mulvey, the interim superintendent, encouraged students, parents, and staff to contact him so specific incidents can be investigated confidentially.
Allison Cox, president of the Quincy Education Association, said in a statement that members strive to create a learning environment that supports and nurtures all students.
“Hearing our students of color express themselves openly and honestly allows educators to reflect and take steps to meet the moment we have arrived at both locally and nationally. The QEA will support educators and students in achieving racially just schools,” Cox said.
Anthony J. Andronico, the School Committee’s vice chairman and a 2011 North graduate, said that, during the committee’s July 8 meeting, he would propose an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Subcommittee to discuss these topics.
Mayor Thomas P. Koch, who serves as chairman of the city’s School Committee, did not respond to requests for comment.
In a June 26 letter to Quincy High School families, faculty and staff said they are opening a broader conversation with students, families, administrators, and members of the community to address systemic issues in the building, and “know there is much work to be done.”
Hwang, who graduated from North, said the push for racial justice in Quincy’s schools is not going to die down: High school must be a safe, inclusive space for all students.
“We have enough momentum now,” Hwang said. “If they try to shut us down . . . we are not going to stop until real change is made.”
John Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.