An investigation is underway after an Asian-American sixth-grade student in Syosset, New York was reportedly named a “ COVID starter ” in an incident of anti-Asian-American bias.
A group of fellow graders told the student, “Go back to your country,” said a Facebook post from the victim’s mother.
They also reportedly called him a ‘COVID starter’ and uttered the phrase ‘white lives matter too’.
The mother further alleges that the incident turned physical, with the sixth grader being pushed and punched.
An investigation is underway after an Asian-American sixth-grade student at South Woods Middle School (pictured) in Syosset, New York was reportedly named a ‘COVID starter’ in a verbal and physical assault
The mother of the student who was allegedly attacked posted about it on Facebook
“We have to consider the safety of our children against RACISM at school,” reads a Facebook post about the incident. “I am very concerned by this incident.”
District officials tell News 12 that an incident happened last Thursday during recess at South Woods Middle School in Long Island City.
The school said it was promptly investigated into the incident.
“The district acted quickly and initiated an investigation with more than a dozen interviews conducted and additional interviews taking place,” the school said in a statement.
“Multiple communications were sent with the community and a plan was drawn up to build on the existing programs embedded in the K-12 curriculum to combat racism and promote inclusivity in our school community,” the statement continued.
The school also revealed that the investigation is ongoing.
At the end of the building-level investigation, the district will review the findings and take appropriate action to address the problem, the statement added.
Monday evening, days after the alleged incident, a meeting of the school board was held
A concerned member of the community speaks at Monday’s board meeting
Dr. Tom Rogers, Superintendent of the School District, stated, “This behavior has no place in Syosset or any other school.”
The district has declined to describe the specific handling of the investigation and any future disciplinary action due to privacy laws.
Nassau County Police are not involved in the investigation and no charges are pending after the parent declined to press charges.
“This is an internal school investigation and none of the charges are criminal in nature,” police said. “The parents don’t want to press charges at this point either.”
Ariane Lee, who previously helped start a group in HS district called Asians Speak Up
Chief Inspector Dr. Tom Rogers (right) said, ‘This behavior has no place in Syosset or any other school’ in his response to the incident
At a Monday night school board meeting, Rogers spoke of “multiple incidents where different students verbally expressed different types of bias, and at least one of those incidents became physical.”
According to Newsdaytwo of the board members, Carol Cheng and Susan Falkove, condemned anti-Asian bias at the meeting.
“The recent incident of racial prejudice in South Woods has raised a lot of concern about the future and safety of our children here in Syosset, especially if you are Asian,” said Cheng, who is Chinese-American.
“Anti-Asian hatred and racism of any kind, which is so widespread in our world, is really breaking my heart and has to stop,” Falkove added.
During the board meeting, many parents also spoke about the incident and expressed concerns about the issue of bias.
“An act of hatred against a child is an act of hatred for everyone,” said one parent WABC.
“What worries me, was this an isolated incident or was it something more?” another parent asked at the meeting.
Brian Gao and Ariane Lee, current high school seniors, previously started a group called Asians Speak Up to combat bias.
“I want to see more action,” said Lee, believing the school could do more on these issues.
NYSED data from the previous school year shows that South Woods Middle School was 51 percent white students and 40 percent students who identify as Asian or Native Hawaiian / other Pacific Islander.
Due to privacy laws, the district declined to detail the specific handling of the investigation
Nassau County Police are not involved in the investigation (school in photo)
This isn’t the first instance of bias in the school district following a 2017 case of anti-Semitism.
Police arrested five high school students in the district after allegedly spraying painted swastikas and other anti-Semitic messages on walls, doors and windows of the high school.
Last week’s incident comes amid growing concerns about anti-Asian-American bias related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some people think the pandemic started in China, supported by Donald Trump’s use of ‘China virus’ to describe COVID-19.
A recent report from Stop AAPI Hate reveals 6,603 incidents of hatred nationally from March 19, 2020 to March 2021.
Of those reports, 65.2 percent was verbal harassment, while 12.6 percent of the reports related to physical violence.