The superintendent of schools in Shelton is speaking out days after a white student in the district spit on a black patron at a Washington, D.C. museum.
A group of Shelton middle school students on a field trip were kicked out of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Friday because a white student reportedly spit over a balcony, allegedly hitting a black patron. That incident came about a month after a different student at the Shelton Intermediate School apologized to her classmates for wearing blackface in a Snapchat photo.
“I was very disturbed and upset to hear about it,” said Christopher Clouet, the superintendent of schools in Shelton, on Wednesday. “It certainly does not reflect our values -- both our values as a school district and as a community. And it’s unacceptable. Whether it was rude or racist or both, it’s just not part of who we are.”
He said the school will take steps to address bias, racism, and stereotyping of any kind. One thing he’s considering is training high school students in social justice and cultural diversity – and then asking those teens to mentor the younger students.
“We think a ‘big brother/little brother,’ ‘big-sister/little sister’-approach is going to be helpful as part of this,” Clouet said.
The school district has been criticized for not doing enough. Greg Johnson, the president of the Ansonia Valley chapter of the NAACP chapter suggested the student involved face a school suspension and criminal charges. He pointed to the timing of the spitting incident -- coming after the blackface photo -- as the reason to act swiftly.
“I just stood in front of the board of education in Shelton and the superintendent and pleaded with them to hold these students accountable for these racists behaviors or these behaviors would fester,” Johnson said Monday. “It holds true to what happened in Washington D.C.”
Clouet said he won’t comment on the punishment, but he said there will be “disciplinary action” as a result of the spitting incident.
He also said he couldn’t guarantee there wouldn’t be another similar act like this in the future.
“This not just a Shelton situation,” Clouet said. “There are lots of examples of bias, stereotyping, sexism, racism throughout the world. My job, as an educator, is to help prepare students to function in a world that they can eliminate those things eventually and certainly have the tools to work in a multicultural environment to work through it with partners of all different backgrounds.”