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SALEM Students are mixed on blame for racial intolerance at school



Published: Mon, April 22, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Intolerance is an exception, not the rule here, students say.

By NORMAN LEIGH

VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU

SALEM -- Recent events paint an unflattering picture of Salem High School.

In March, a mother removed her daughter, who is black, from the school because she said she had been subjected repeatedly to racial slurs and sexual taunting by a small group of fellow students. The 17-year-old hasn't returned.

Last week, a high school assembly on tolerance was marred when a student shouted "Jew!" at a rabbi who had attended the event.

Do these episodes mean there's a lack of racial tolerance at Salem high, whose student body of nearly 829 is overwhelmingly white?

Mixture of responses

Students interviewed about the situation gave mixed responses.

"I don't hear much of anything" in terms of racial slurs or taunting, said Jessica McIntosh, a senior. But reports that it happened at her school bother her, she added.

Jessica chalked up such episodes to isolated offenses committed by just a few students.

"Sometimes students do make racial slurs," said Shani Jones, a junior who is of black and Greek descent. She's also class president.

"For the most part, there's nothing you can do. The teachers try ... but you can't stop it," Shani said.

"It's just a few kids" who are doing it, she added.

Jeff Walter, a freshman, agreed. "There's just a few individuals who are worse than others. It's not the whole school," he said.

Fellow freshman Elizabeth Sampedro denounced the intolerance and taunting. "It's wrong," she said. "I don't understand why you would do that."

Her companion, Kerri O'Donnell, a freshman, said, "It's not worth cutting other people down to make yourself seem better."

Sophomore Shea Whinnery said she frequently hears one of the worst racial slurs at school.

"People say the n-word a lot," Shea said. It's primarily uttered by one white kid to another as a joke, she explained.

The "Jew" outburst after the tolerance assembly was "pretty low," Shea added.

"Especially when the whole assembly was about not to do that," put in her friend Allie Rich, a sophomore.

Boy punished

Superintendent Dr. David Brobeck said the boy who voiced the epithet was identified and has been disciplined. Brobeck wouldn't elaborate.

For the most part, students at Salem are tolerant of diversity.

"We're always going to work to get better," Brobeck said. But there typically are some people who don't get the message.

"There's nothing going on at Salem that's any different than at any other place," Brobeck said.

leigh@vindy.com




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