Students’ Letter in Response to Mayor Bill de Blasio


Alexandra Nava-Baltimore

During a sit-in on Friday, January 18, Umoja, the affinity group for students of color, asked students sign posters and write notes about what they wanted to see in the school.

Umoja, the students of color affinity group, and Student Government came together Tuesday, January 22 to address Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent tweet responding to the racist video and the school’s response.

Posted on Sunday, January 20th, the tweet read, “Poly Prep has some real explaining to do. And what’s absolutely clear is that a conversation about racism at the school is long overdue.” Despite the Mayor’s intentions, both groups feel as though this tweet painted an inaccurate picture of Poly.

Due to these feelings of misrepresentation, Student Government and Umoja leaders met to craft a response. Student Body President Michael Licata, Vice President Sacha Weiss, Senior Class Representative Olivia Keany, Senior Class President and Umoja Co-President Talisha Ward, and Umoja Co-President Jeovanna deShong-Connor wrote the letter with help from Student Government faculty advisors History Department Chair Michal Hershkovitz, history teacher Margaret Moslander, and Latin teacher Douglas Wong. The letter, which was sent out on Tuesday, January 22, can be found here.

When asked what prompted the decision to write the letter, Keany said, “We were disappointed at the Mayor’s response to the situation which took place at our school and so we felt that it was our duty to respond to him in the best manner possible.”

These feelings were widespread among the student body. “Throughout the day on Tuesday, I heard our students express disappointment that Mayor de Blasio and the media have disseminated misinformation about Poly,” Hershkovitz said.

Calling the tweet “an oversimplified and inflammatory reaction,” the letter emphasized that the actions of three girls do not overshadow the actions and beliefs of most students at Poly. By focusing on the sit-in and the student response to the video, the letter emphasized that “as a student body, we are absolutely committed to making our school a space where all feel respected and safe. What is absolutely clear is that the recent representation of our school in the media is not accurate and misrepresents the overwhelming majority of us.”

Echoing Keany’s sentiments Ward said, “I hope that de Blasio can recognize that Poly students are a united front.”

The letter concludes by asking the mayor to visit campus and see what being a student here is actually like.
Proud of her students and the letter, Herskovitz said, “As usual, I was impressed by our students’ motivation, maturity, and eloquence. They are truth tellers, and anyone who wants to know about our school should speak with them first.”