New racism suit filed against embattled Fieldston private school

Scandal-plagued Ethical Culture Fieldston School was slammed with yet another lawsuit Thursday alleging discrimination against black students.

Parent Kim Emile — who graduated from the elite Riverdale school — claimed in court papers that two of her children were repeatedly subjected to racial hostility and bias for more than a decade.

Fieldston “proved itself not to be the bastion of educational, racial, and social justice it has long proclaimed itself to be,” according to the Manhattan federal suit.

Emile’s suit accuses Fieldston administrators — including head of school Jessica Bagby — of failing to adequately punish students who engaged in racist behavior and denying black students the same academic opportunities as their white counterparts.

“As a graduate of the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, I wanted to come forward to protect my children, but also to protect other children from enduring trauma by changing the culture of this school,” Emile said during a Thursday press conference.

Her daughter, Arielle, graduated from Fieldston last year and her son is a senior.

She said racial incidents occurred consistently during their time at the school beginning in 2006.

White students who used the n-word and racially insensitive language were routinely shown leniency, the suit states.

In one incident, white males at the school texted in a group chat about a challenge called “No Nut November” that prohibited masturbation for a month, according to the lawsuit.

“To achieve this goal, males partaking in the challenge were instructed to look at photos of different Fieldston Black and Brown female students whose photos were posted to the chat as a way to sexually ‘turn off’ the young men participating in the challenge,” the suit claims.

“This objectification and denigration of Black and Brown young women and their bodies at Fieldston are clearly rooted in racism, sexism, and classism, and serve to continue their oppression dating to the slave era, when Black and Brown women were considered subhuman,” the suit states.

Emile’s case also charges that two white students referred to her son as a “f—ing n—–” during an October 2023 Snapchat conversation and that Bagby was alerted to the slurs this past February.

Rather than sufficiently punishing those students, Bagby instead sought to retaliate against him through an “investigation” into his own behavior, papers state.

Arielle Emile was frequently taunted about her hair and placed into academic groupings beneath her deserved standing, according to the suit.

Fieldston did not immediately return a call for comment on the case.

Emile, who is represented by attorney Derek Sells, is suing for damages while demanding the immediate removal of Bagby and the school’s entire board.

Bagby announced last month that she was leaving her position after next school year.

The private school has been roiled by racially and politically charged incidents for several years.

In January 2023, a teacher at the school was fired for anti-Israel social media posts and for apparently making an obscene gesture at a school assembly.

That controversy stemmed from a prior lecture at the school by a Columbia University Law School adjunct, who argued that Israelis had gone from victims to oppressors.

“That Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and established the State of Israel today — they perpetuate violence against Palestinians that [is] unthinkable,” Kayum Ahmed said.

Fieldston Ethical Culture High school
Several racially and politically charged incidents have taken place at the private school in recent years.
Brigitte Stelzer

Parental opinion was split as to Ahmed’s remarks and the teacher’s termination.

In 2019, students at the $53,000-a-year school staged a dayslong protest inside an administrative building after the surfacing of a video in which students used racist and homophobic language.

Students and some parents ripped Bagby and other administrators for what they felt was a blase reaction to the clip.

In 2018, an interracial couple with a child at the school filed suit, arguing that staffers trumped up child neglect accusations against them after they asserted that Fieldston was allowing kids to self-segregate.

In explaining her departure last month, Bagby obliquely referenced the school’s near-constant internal controversies

“The unique complexities of ECFS and the particular challenges that have consumed my focus and time during my tenure here have pulled me away from this vital connection, and I miss it profoundly,” she wrote. “As I consider a variety of future possibilities, the one that calls me next will be the one in which I believe this connection and lifelong joy and passion can be primary.”

Credit: NYPOST

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