ROCHESTER, N.Y. – A Rochester school board is fending off accusations of racism from residents who claim the district’s new bus stop waiting areas promote segregation.
After months of ignoring complaints about students loitering in neighborhoods across the city, the arrest of three African-American high school student-athletes who were peacefully waiting for a school bus prompted the Rochester City School District to take action.
The three boys – Raliek Redd, 16, Deaquon Carelock, 16, and Wan’Tauhjs Weathers, 17 – were charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing the sidewalk last Wednesday. Their coach, Jacob Scott, who is also a district guidance counselor, insisted they were doing nothing wrong and recalled pleading with the officers to let them go.
“I said, ‘Sir, I’m the adult. I’m their varsity basketball coach. How can you book me? What am I doing wrong? Matter of fact, what are these guys doing wrong?'”
In an effort to avoid similar situations in the future and differentiate between students who are waiting for school transportation and others who might be loitering, the school board voted unanimously to designate a “Wait Safe” zone of approximately ten square feet near each school bus stop.
While students are not required to wait inside the designated areas, the school board said it would help keep them safe from overzealous law enforcement officials and watchful neighbors.
“What each ‘Wait Safe’ area does is let everyone know, ‘Hey, we’re just waiting for the school bus. We’re not here to cause problems for anybody,’ and the authorities will see that they’re different from other kids on the street,” stated Rochester City School Board Member Rachel Quizel.
But parents of Rochester students say they noticed a disturbing trend as classes resumed after the Thanksgiving holiday: African-American students are reportedly the only ones using the “Wait Safe” areas.
“My son comes home crying today, saying he had to wait inside this little area with other black kids, while some kids—white kids—were just horsing around wherever,” recalled Malik Owens, who said he would take his son, Geremy, out of Rochester City Schools if the “Wait Safe” areas aren’t done away with immediately.
“I’m sure [the school board] meant well, but don’t they know that white kids don’t loiter? They can stand wherever they want, so who does that leave for the waiting areas?”
Rochester East Elementary School Principal Shawn Limpus said he fielded dozens of calls from parents furious over the new waiting areas.
“Of course they were angry. They want to know why their kids are being segregated at the bus stop. But believe it or not, I got calls from some white parents worried about why all the black kids were standing in these groups.”
Calls placed to the Rochester City School District’s central office were not returned, but a post on the district’s website said that the school board would release a statement announcing changes to the “Wait Safe” program later this week.