Onondaga School District Protest
By Staff Writer
LAFAYETTE, N.Y. –Parents of school children living in the Onondaga Nation near Syracuse, NY removed their sons and daughters from attending class at the Onondaga Nation School, to express dissent against The Lafayette Board of Education’s hiring choices for a new principal. The nation felt underrepresented by the decision.
A New York Times writer, Kate Taylor, elaborated that this boycott began as early as June 16. It involved the Onondaga Nation’s desired candidate for principal of the Onondaga Nation School, Simone Thornton. The board did not pick Thornton, and rather chose a different candidate– Warren Smith, who opted not to take the principal position.
Some Onondaga leaders challenged this initial appointment, even threatening legal repercussions against the school district, according to Syracuse.com. Moreover, another Syracuse article claims Tadodaho Sidney Hill, the leader of the Onondaga nation, adjourned early the Onondaga school year to underline his opinion that the community gravely needed reform. He echoed the complaints of the nation, saying the board should respect their voices and input on the matter.
The LaFayette School Board website issued a press release to combat “certain incorrect information” which had “spread throughout the community.” This message stated that Ms. Thornton lacked necessary certifications and therefore could not be appointed to the position. To soothe the ramifications of the letter, the board also promised to increase student and community involvement in the board’s enactment of policy. Joseph Heath, an attorney representing the nation received a separate letter from the school board, but did not comment on its contents.
Earlier, in the spring, 40 Onondaga Nation residents stood outside the school to protest the school board’s hire. Another Syracuse.com article revealed in 1971, the Onondaga Nation protested decision-making strategies of the school board. During that year, several schools’ students avoided going to class, voicing against the dull student programs that existed. They criticized the past void in local engagement with the school district’s decisions. Boycotting the schools led to the induction of new courses and curriculum, thanks to a joint meeting between Onondaga Nation leaders and the New York State Education Department, justifying the situation.
The Onondaga Nation’s website explains that the Haudenosaunee, or the Iroquois Confederacy, includes the Onondaga Nation, among many others, such as the Seneca Nation. To represent Onondaga culture, the Onondaga Nation public school focuses partly on providing Onondaga language classes. Syracuse.com stated the Onondaga Nation School’s student population ranged from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, and that eighth-graders successfully graduated from the Onondaga Nation School this year, despite the community’s protest.
More developments may unravel, as Heath asked New York State’s Department of Education to scrutinize the situation with a close eye during their investigation.