Message to Niskayuna High School Students from Principal Rickert

Niskayuna High School Principal John Rickert shared the following message with students and staff as part of morning announcements on Thursday, Oct. 25.

It is very important that I address the issues associated with the soccer game earlier this month and the racist comments that were made there. Thank you for your attention to this message.

First, I want to be clear how seriously we are taking what happened as an administration, a school, and a district. This language and these attitudes have no place in our school or in our society. This event served as an unfortunate reminder of the role that we all need to play in confronting this issue.

While this became a very public incident, we also have to acknowledge that it is not an isolated one. We know that racist language and hate speech are used in our community. We have to call it what it is – unacceptable. We know that as a community we need to do a better job of identifying it and addressing it when it occurs.

We know that it should never be minimized. I recognize that some feel my initial remarks about this incident dismissed what occurred, and I am sorry about that. It was not my intent. It is wrong and deeply troubling to treat anyone with a lack of respect due to their skin color – or any reason.

You are all valuable members of our school community. Anything that makes a student or visitor feel less than respected is something that we take very seriously.

I want to be clear that the fact we have not been able to identify the source of these remarks in no way calls into question whether this happened, nor the effort that has gone into trying to find out who is responsible. We know we have a lot of work to do with regard to race, diversity and equity, and we are committed to advancing that work.

Anyone who uses hate speech of any kind at school or at a school event will face consequences. However it’s also important to note that as a school and a district, we believe the real path forward is education, dialogue and restoration. I believe we all have a role in this effort. Over the course of the next two weeks administrators will meet with homerooms to continue this conversation.

As we work to better address these issues, we can also acknowledge that this incident does not tell the full story of who we are as a school and a greater community.

Niskayuna and Schenectady students have stepped forward to say that what happened is not acceptable. They have called for greater cooperation between the two schools and we are taking about ways to bring students together over the short- and long-term. Student leadership is essential to keep moving forward and we are fortunate to have great young people in both communities.

Following our homeroom visits, we are going to be working within our high school to establish opportunities for meaningful conversations about diversity, respect, civility and equity.

Additionally, we have a Student Forum this coming Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. in the media center. This topic is on the agenda and we are prepared to devote the entire meeting to it if needed. Please consider joining us.

One of the many reasons that I am proud to lead our school is because when something doesn’t go right, we always find a way to learn from it that makes us better as a school and as individuals. I know that I am learning from this situation.

Niskayuna High School is a vibrant, successful, positive learning community, but it takes all of us to make sure it stays that way and to make sure everyone feels that way. Thank you for listening and for joining this conversation.