A Riverhead High School student is among two district students...

A Riverhead High School student is among two district students accused of using racial slurs against Black children at a school football game. Credit: James Carbone

Riverhead school administrators, following an incident at a high school football game, will meet with a civic association and seek input from the town’s anti-bias task force to incorporate more "racial relations" programs into curriculum, officials said Monday.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore's announcement came nearly 10 days after two Riverhead students allegedly hurled racial slurs at Black children during the incident at Pulaski Street Intermediate School.

Meanwhile, the mother of the two children, ages 5 and 6, said Monday she is not satisfied with how the district has handled the situation.

Tornatore, in a letter to the community Monday, wrote: “We are of course disturbed by this incident and the alleged use of racial slurs and other unacceptable behavior that may have been exhibited during this incident.

"The District will be looking to enhance its programming related to racial relations," he wrote.

The district said it continues to investigate the Sept. 9 incident and has interviewed the two students, a Riverhead High School student and a Riverhead Middle School student, and those who witnessed the interactions. Officials said a third person involved in the altercation was a former student who transferred out of the district and has graduated.

School board member Virginia Healy, who was at the game, said at a board meeting last week the students were told they are no longer allowed to attend games.

The mother of the two children told Newsday that banning them from games is not enough. She called for more disciplinary actions for the alleged aggressors, who are white. The mother did not want to be identified in order to protect the identity of her children, who are attending kindergarten and second grade in Riverhead schools.

The mother said she and her family went to the football game against Bay Shore to cheer for her nephew, who played in the game. By halftime, according to the mother, her children and three nieces from the ages of 6 to 11 went to the playground to play. She soon learned  her children were pushed, her 5-year-old son was knocked off his feet and the children were subjected to racial slurs, she said.

She confronted the three alleged aggressors, two boys and a girl, she said, and was told by one of them that her son bumped into him.

The incident then spilled over to the football stands, where more racial slurs were used, according to the mother. Her son and daughter didn’t know the meaning of the word that was repeatedly used, which the mother called a gift and a curse.

“You want to educate your children, but at the same time I'm OK with them still having this innocence,” she said. “It’s such a touchy subject and it’s so hard to explain to a 5-year-old and 6-year-old.”

After the game, she said she had a conversation with them.

“I'm still trying to teach my children basic life skills and now I have to tell them about this,” she said. “I did tell them … Words can’t hurt you. It’s something we can move on from.”

It was their physical safety that most concerned her, the mother said.

“We're a Black family and this isn't the first or [will be] the last time; we'll handle that accordingly,” she said. “But to put your hands on my children? I'm not OK with that.”

Ron Edelson, a spokesman for the district, said the schools are still reviewing the video footage to confirm whether anything physical took place at the playground.

Tornatore said in the letter any disciplinary action warranted by investigative findings would not be publicly shared due to student privacy laws.

School officials are scheduled to meet with members of the Heart of Riverhead Civic Association on Wednesday.

Cindy Clifford, president of the association and a former co-chair of the town’s anti-bias task force, said Monday she sent a letter to the superintendent last week with some program suggestions to help change children’s perceptions of those who look different from them.

“We also had some suggestions with ways that we thought might be more productive for working with the kids … who had been doing the harassment, rather than just a straight punishment,” she said.

Clifford called the incident “heartbreaking” and said she hopes it gets people talking, including parents to their children.

“If some good could come from it, you know? I think that's the hope,” she said.

Riverhead school administrators, following an incident at a high school football game, will meet with a civic association and seek input from the town’s anti-bias task force to incorporate more "racial relations" programs into curriculum, officials said Monday.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore's announcement came nearly 10 days after two Riverhead students allegedly hurled racial slurs at Black children during the incident at Pulaski Street Intermediate School.

Meanwhile, the mother of the two children, ages 5 and 6, said Monday she is not satisfied with how the district has handled the situation.

Tornatore, in a letter to the community Monday, wrote: “We are of course disturbed by this incident and the alleged use of racial slurs and other unacceptable behavior that may have been exhibited during this incident.

"The District will be looking to enhance its programming related to racial relations," he wrote.

The district said it continues to investigate the Sept. 9 incident and has interviewed the two students, a Riverhead High School student and a Riverhead Middle School student, and those who witnessed the interactions. Officials said a third person involved in the altercation was a former student who transferred out of the district and has graduated.

School board member Virginia Healy, who was at the game, said at a board meeting last week the students were told they are no longer allowed to attend games.

The mother of the two children told Newsday that banning them from games is not enough. She called for more disciplinary actions for the alleged aggressors, who are white. The mother did not want to be identified in order to protect the identity of her children, who are attending kindergarten and second grade in Riverhead schools.

The mother said she and her family went to the football game against Bay Shore to cheer for her nephew, who played in the game. By halftime, according to the mother, her children and three nieces from the ages of 6 to 11 went to the playground to play. She soon learned  her children were pushed, her 5-year-old son was knocked off his feet and the children were subjected to racial slurs, she said.

She confronted the three alleged aggressors, two boys and a girl, she said, and was told by one of them that her son bumped into him.

The incident then spilled over to the football stands, where more racial slurs were used, according to the mother. Her son and daughter didn’t know the meaning of the word that was repeatedly used, which the mother called a gift and a curse.

“You want to educate your children, but at the same time I'm OK with them still having this innocence,” she said. “It’s such a touchy subject and it’s so hard to explain to a 5-year-old and 6-year-old.”

After the game, she said she had a conversation with them.

“I'm still trying to teach my children basic life skills and now I have to tell them about this,” she said. “I did tell them … Words can’t hurt you. It’s something we can move on from.”

It was their physical safety that most concerned her, the mother said.

“We're a Black family and this isn't the first or [will be] the last time; we'll handle that accordingly,” she said. “But to put your hands on my children? I'm not OK with that.”

Ron Edelson, a spokesman for the district, said the schools are still reviewing the video footage to confirm whether anything physical took place at the playground.

Tornatore said in the letter any disciplinary action warranted by investigative findings would not be publicly shared due to student privacy laws.

School officials are scheduled to meet with members of the Heart of Riverhead Civic Association on Wednesday.

Cindy Clifford, president of the association and a former co-chair of the town’s anti-bias task force, said Monday she sent a letter to the superintendent last week with some program suggestions to help change children’s perceptions of those who look different from them.

“We also had some suggestions with ways that we thought might be more productive for working with the kids … who had been doing the harassment, rather than just a straight punishment,” she said.

Clifford called the incident “heartbreaking” and said she hopes it gets people talking, including parents to their children.

“If some good could come from it, you know? I think that's the hope,” she said.

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