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Hastings High School First Racial Equity Day

Racial Equity Hastings High School held its first racial equity day this past week, a day designed to provide students with the opportunity to analyze how racial equity affects the world. 

In place of the traditional midterm exam week, three of the four scheduled exam days this past week were held as regular instructional days while the fourth day was filled with workshops and discussions examining racial equity and how it shapes the world. Although discussing race and racism is not new in the Hastings-on-Hudson School District, this is the first time it has been scheduled as a full day focused on equity. 

“I would call this an expansion of the discussions that we’ve been having over the years,” said Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator Jenice Mateo-Toledo. “Obviously things have changed since we started these conversations, so the way we do things has to change as well.”

Students participated in workshops that encouraged them to reflect personally about their own beliefs on race and racial equity. Led by Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, associate professor of English and Dr. Detra Price-Dennis, associate professor of education in the Department of Mathematics, Science, and Technology of Teachers College, Columbia University, the workshops also focused on racial equity in the media and social change.

“The vision for the day included the goals of promoting positive community-building across diverse backgrounds, fostering connection across lines of difference, understanding structural inequities, elevating diverse perspectives, and bringing students, administrators, and faculty together as a community,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Melissa Syzmanski.

“This is a day of learning for all of us,” added Mateo-Toledo. “We really need to have these conversations and I think this is a good way for people to participate and learn.”

Designed by a team of administrators, teachers, and community leaders, the racial equity day culminated with keynote speaker, Kevin Richardson, one of the “Exonerated Five,” one of five young black and Latino boys who were wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in a high-profile case dubbed as the “Central Park Jogger Case.” Richardson spoke on the themes of knowing and making use of personal rights, and the importance of perseverance. 

“We are grateful to our speakers for helping us to meet these outcomes,” said “We are committed to inspiring a shift from isolated theoretical social justice, race, and equity conversations to a district-wide movement towards race, equity and social justice practices.”

Students were also asked to complete a short survey conducted by Hastings High School graduate Yakira Sameth. Sameth is working with the local organization, Hastings RISE, on matters of racial awareness. The survey was designed to support increased dialogue and foster multiculturism. 

“I think as a school district and a community we are not just talking the talk, we are walking the walk,” said Mateo-Toledo. “We are doing the things that need to be done and we have an administration that has taken a lead on the issue and showed the importance of this work.” 

A Racial Equity Learning Day for the middle school is being planned for March.