April 15, 2004

Council Discusses IHS Bias Incident

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In reaction to the racial tension that has manifested itself in the form of bias incidents that occurred at Ithaca High School last month, the Ithaca Common Council discussed the issue of race and racism during their monthly meeting last night.


The Ithaca High School incidents included a fight between six white and three black students, 80 students showing up to school dressed in camouflage, and biased graffiti on students’ lockers.

Community members attended the meeting to show their support for the discussion, and several were invited to speak to the council about their views on what should be done to prevent similar events in the future.


Prof. Emeritus Don Barr, policy analysis and management, said that education is very important in fixing the problem of racism.

“Public education is not doing its job,” Barr said.

He also added that history is an enormous factor in the problem and that “the impact of slavery continues.”

Phoebe Brown, a community member, who watched the meeting on television, decided to drive down to the meeting to lend her support.

“We need to talk about the incidents,” she said, adding that having meetings about the issues is not enough and that something needs to be done.


Councilmember Michelle Berry (D-2nd Ward), recognized that “women and people of color do not have access to City Hall.”

Berry said that the media is very important in spreading the word about racism and ultimately in dealing with the problems that exist.

“The local news media has to recognize that the things they write can make or break [the situation],” she added.

Other Council members added that students are now afraid to attend Ithaca High School and that middle school students are afraid to enter the high school in the fall.

There were no representatives from the Ithaca school district present at the meeting.

Common Council member Michael Taylor ’05, formulated a list of things that he believes Ithaca can do in order to address race issues.

Taylor said that the Common Council should issue statements to the media condemning the incidents of racism that have come up in Ithaca and that could come up in the future.


He added that the Common Council should “walk the talk” and lead by example by looking into the city’s hiring practices, having ongoing discussions about racial issues and sticking to its principles.

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein
Sun News Editor