Sign our letter to the East Ramapo state monitors
The following sign-on letter was drafted by NYCLU Student Ambassadors and East Ramapo students to express the need for better school conditions and supports for students. Please add your name to support their demands.
Dear Dr. Denise Lowe and Mr. Bruce Singer, state monitors for the East Ramapo Central School District:
On June 29, lawmakers passed a law to restore fairness by empowering you to take action against our school board when needed. The bill that was signed will help make sure that all students in the East Ramapo Central School District have access to the same educational resources as those in other school districts.
While this is a significant victory for the school community, we must still ensure that we will be protected. We ask you, as state monitors for the East Ramapo Central School District, to please take into consideration the urgent needs of our students:
Cleanliness and sanitation:
- We are concerned, especially with the rise in cases related to COVID-19 and the Delta variant, that our schools are not being sanitized enough so that students feel safe returning to class. At the start of the pandemic, the buildings were cleaned every Friday but that is no longer the case.
- Most of the time, the restrooms in our school are not cleaned regularly. Students have raised concerns, but little changes have been made. Some meetings have taken place about fixing doors that will not lock, soap dispensers that do not work, and other issues. The pandemic put a lot of this on hold, but now is the time to address these problems.
- Sanitization has become imperative since the beginning of the pandemic, and the safety of students and faculty should be prioritized.
- We hope that you will keep track of the distribution of funds on sanitization, and keep them coming.
More advisors and counselors:
- We need more advisors and counselors to interact with students, especially to address mental and emotional concerns. With the isolation that many students have faced during the pandemic, alongside the lack of interaction with peers and adults for some students, emotional well-being is a constant concern.
- For many of the students at Ramapo High School, it is very difficult to get an appointment with a guidance counselor when you need it - especially given the counselor-to-student ratio.
- We hope that more funding will be provided for the hiring of social workers and guidance counselors. Guidance counselors have their hands quite full with the extremely populated schools, so a larger workforce would be ideal.
New textbooks, books, and literature:
- We are progressively becoming more reliant on technology and the internet, but there are still classrooms that have not adapted to technology. Many of these classrooms lack new textbooks and use outdated materials. Some of the books are falling apart or ripped, tattered, and older in terms of condition. Some classrooms have updated technology and Chromebooks, while other classrooms do not have access to this technology.
- You are in charge of monitoring the distribution of funds, and putting these funds into education should be a focus. The board of education should be watched carefully so that the education of students in ERCSD is equal to that of other districts.
Funding for the arts:
- The arts have not been a priority for the district in quite a while. After music and art were incorporated and summer camps were established, we still do not have proper funding for theatre. Being a part of The Ramapo Players, theatre is a matter of finding joy and family wherever we go. For us, getting on stage and portraying a character is an opportunity for us to make the school community smile, laugh, and learn about new experiences. The Ramapo Players should be provided with financial support in a manner similar to that of physical education and sports.
- We need more forms of art and literature that come from people of various genders, sexual orientations, races, and ethnic backgrounds. Even if this means adjusting the curriculum, more inclusive materials should be introduced (this includes books, plays, posters, paintings, etc.). The Regents recently launched an initiative to advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the classroom. The East Ramapo Central School District should follow.
- When we see a curriculum that mainly consists of works by white people, it makes students of color feel invisible. It feels like there is no one like us that we can learn about. Reading stories about successful white people makes students of color feel like they can’t achieve these same goals. Reading about famous white scientists, politicians and other historical figures is far too common in our district.
- For example, we read To Kill a Mockingbird, where the characters say the N-word, and white students and faculty have been found saying the word in class while reading aloud. We didn’t discuss why this word is an issue when used by white people. Instead, we glanced over it and moved on.
- When we have an inclusive curriculum, we build empathy across the classroom. Students’ stories are heard, identities are discovered and you learn from one another. Our peers can see themselves reflected in the curriculum, perform better in school, get better grades, make more friends, and have a safer school community overall.
Sri Nath Kurup, NYCLU Student Ambassador
Dorien Barthelemy, East Ramapo student
Nimisha Joseph, East Ramapo student
Joel Joseph, East Ramapo student