GUILDERLAND — Approximately 100 Guilderland High School students staged a walkout on Tuesday, Oct. 18, responding to an alleged blackface incident that previously happened at its football game the Friday before.
Guilderland promoted a “black out” game on Oct. 14, encouraging students and fans to dress in black clothing. The district had promoted similar themes in the past to encourage school spirit. Previous game night themes included all pink or camouflage clothing.
However, some students attended the game with their faces painted black on Friday night. According to the district, building administrators immediately asked the students to leave the bleacher area, directing them to the restrooms and asked them to wash their faces.
“Racism, of any sort, will not be tolerated at the Guilderland Central School District,” Guilderland Central Superintendent Marie Wiles shared in a statement. “Our school community is diverse and varied. It is what defines us and we celebrate that. It is also the very reason for the district’s vision of ensuring a climate and culture that is inclusive, welcoming and affirming; where all students and staff feel safe and valued.”
According to a message shared on the district website, the incident was promptly addressed by building administrators that evening and followed up at school the following Monday. Students, however, still gathered in protest outside of Guilderland High School that Monday, followed by the walkout the next day. In the fallout, district and building administrators listened to students who expressed “hurt, anger and frustration” that was not exclusive to the football game incident.
“[The district] has taken great strides forward to promote respect, understanding, acceptance, kindness and empathy among our students. Not just so they can learn alongside each other but to prepare them for when they leave our halls and become citizens of the world,” Wiles stated. “Certainly there is more work to do; our students told us so this very morning.”
The district said it plans to create a “climate of respect” in the coming weeks by meeting with students through roundtable discussions to gather firsthand perspectives.