Students and alumni in New Jersey are calling for Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian stereotypes to be discussed as human rights issues in school, but administrators say those are “political” issues they can’t touch.
Zach Munro, a former student at Northern Highlands Regional High School in Allendale, New Jersey, claimed Thursday that Superintendent Scot Beckerman believes “all lives matter.” The administrator allegedly made the remark in response to Munro and other alumni urging him to discuss “political movements like Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian hate” with teachers. But the superintendent dismissed the request for such a “safe space” in a phone call with Munro, prompting some current and former students to say the entire district has “normalized racism.”
During Monday night’s board of education meeting, Beckerman declined to offer details of his phone call with Munro, now a student at Tufts University. But NorthJersey.com later reported that Beckerman described Munro as being “as rude and disrespectful as any current or former student I’ve encountered in my 29 years of education.”
Beckerman had set the combative call up with Munro last week to discuss the school’s direction on the topic of racial issues after he was forwarded his email by School Board President Christine Ferrarie.
Other students told ABC7 that the principal of Northern Highlands Regional High School has expressed support for holding such discussions, but the superintendent has been adamantly opposed.
“I just got off the phone with the Superintendent of Northern Highlands Regional High School, Dr. Scot Beckerman, where I asked what was being done to educate students about the rise in anti-Asian hate,” Munro wrote in a Thursday Facebook post which sparked the debate.
“NHRHS does not respond to political movements like Black Lives Matter and anti-Asian hate, and they are political so don’t try to tell me otherwise. I believe ALL LIVES MATTER,” the superintendent replied, according to Munro’s Facebook post.
Student Michelle Bechtel, a member of student government and a representative with the local board of education, told ABC7 Monday the area is overwhelmingly white and has no “safe space” to discuss racism or stereotypes.
“I think what was really alarming to me, especially the statement anti-Asian hate and Black Lives Matter movements are political instead of human rights movements which is what they are,” Bechtel told the local news outlet. “This is the world that we live in today. Even if this area that we live in is predominantly white, that’s not what the world is like outside of here and I think students here are educated enough, we are smart enough to be able to see these problems are so huge and obviously not ok.”
Newsweek reached out to Northern Highlands administrators for additional response or reaction Tuesday morning.