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Amityville teacher suspended over alleged racist comment

An Amityville Memorial High School teacher has been

An Amityville Memorial High School teacher has been suspended with pay after allegedly using racially charged language during a livestream broadcast of a school football game last month. Credit: Barry Sloan

An Amityville Memorial High School teacher and coach, accused of making a racially insensitive comment toward Black players during a livestream of a school football game, has been suspended with pay, district officials announced Wednesday.

In a unanimous vote, the Amityville Board of Education voted in executive session to suspend the teacher, who was not identified, pending a hearing by a state arbitrator, according to a resolution read at the board meeting Wednesday night.

If the teacher, who is white, is found guilty of the charges or declines to go through the hearing process, the board will seek his termination, officials said. The board and teacher will now have 125 days to submit evidence for the hearing, officials said.

The teacher, who is prohibited from visiting the Amityville campus, will not be paid for his coaching job while he goes through the hearing process, board officials said.

While the hearing process is confidential, if the teacher is convicted of the charges, that information will be made public, officials said.

For more than three hours Wednesday evening, parents and members of the community lined up at the high school to condemn the teacher and criticize what they contend has been a slow response by the district to the incident.

"What gets us is being depicted as animals," said Nancy Jones of Amityville, a district parent. "And that we can't be talked to and we can't be directed. And they don't want to deal with us."

Michael McDonald of Amityville said "systematic" racism has evolved over the years but is no less pervasive.

"It's not outright. It's not whips or chains. It's subliminal," McDonald said. "And it's spread throughout the community to our children."

The comment, made after a Black Amityville player scored a touchdown during an April 24 game against Commack High School, used racially insensitive stereotypes, according to the Rev. Saba Mchunguzi, president of the Central Long Island NAACP branch.

In audio of the comment, which is widely available online, the teacher can be heard making a derogatory remark about the football player and then referencing Howard Cosell, the late Monday Night Football broadcaster accused decades ago of using a racial slur in reference to a Black football player.

The Amityville School District's student population is 90% Black or Hispanic, according to State Education Department data.

Amityville varsity football coach Billy Kretz said his student-athletes will rise above the teacher's "hateful" comments.

"The comment that was made does not reflect the morals or the beliefs we have worked so hard to instill within these young men," Kretz said Wednesday. "These hurtful words will not scar the positive accomplishments on and off the field of these young men, nor their futures."

Nikea Wolfe-Williams, president of the Amityville Teachers Association, thanked parents who were advocating for their children and holding the district to high standards.

"No student deserves to be dealt with in a manner that is discriminatory," Wolfe-Williams said. "No student deserves to be dealt with in a manner that is racist. It is important we continue this process and to come together."

In a May 3 letter posted on the district's website, Superintendent Mary T. Kelly said the "teacher does not speak on behalf of our school district. We find the alleged statement to be reprehensible and not aligned with Amityville’s values. While we understand and sympathize with the anger and sadness being expressed by those in our community, the district must follow proper procedures."

But several parents criticized Kelly for waiting nine days to inform the public of the incident.

Kelly responded Wednesday that she needed time to investigate the incident, which she described as "abhorrent and despicable."

Cooper Pernell, a parent from Amityville, said four months should not be needed to investigate and resolve the teacher's fate.

"If I am looking at the tape and I am looking at the audio, what is there to investigate for four months," Pernell said. "The audio is going to change? The video is going to change? What is the four months for?"

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