Verona Area High School July 2020

The “social stairs” on the southern side of the new Verona Area High School. The stairs, which are both inside and outside of the building, are a place that district administration hope are heavily used by students during lunchtimes or for studying.

Social media activity by Verona Area High School students earlier this month involving comments about another school’s football team prompted the district to hold listening sessions with dozens of students and families of color.

The Verona Area School District issued a formal apology on Saturday, Sept. 4, to Madison Memorial High School over comments made online about its football players after Memorial won a game the night before. In the apology letter, VASD said it was disappointed in the comments, deeming them “inappropriate” and “racial” in nature. 

The Press is choosing to not publish the comments made by students on social media.

That following week, the district held a series of listening sessions for students and families of color, to gauge how the comments had affected them, according to a letter shared with the Verona Area Board of Education on Monday, Sept. 20. The student listening session was Sept. 8, and two parent listening sessions were held Sept. 8 and 9.

Students told high school associate principal Shawn Harris and restorative justice coordinator Ebrahim Amara they felt the letter from the district was too vague and that they don’t feel safe in the school environment, and they wanted to see an apology and continuity in how discipline is handled, the letter to the board states. The parent listening session reiterated that students don’t feel safe in the schools, and asked that the district call comments racist when they are instead of dancing around it with words like inappropriate or racial.

The board or administration did not address the incident during the superintendent’s report during either of the September board meetings, but superintendent Tremayne Clardy published in his letter to the board his plans for his next podcast address that focuses on respectful language. In the letter, he urges people to be aware of cultural and racial sensitivities when speaking.

“There are certain words and phrases that are offensive and hurtful to others,” Clardy writes in the letter. “Pay close attention to the words and phrases you are using to determine whether they may be offensive. You can’t take back words that have already left your mouth.”

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